There’s been a lot of talk recently about the coming class of quarterbacks and how good they might be. It seems to be a perpetual exercise each year. We get hyped up about how great the young guys look and start fantasizing about finding the next Mahomes or Brady. They are shiny new toys with unlimited possibilities. Who knows how good they could be in the NFL!

The reality is usually far more stark. The really good QB’s only come along once every few years, and it’s much more difficult to tell who is going to be great ahead of time. Looking back it’s easy to convince ourselves that the choice was obvious, but that is by no means true at the time. If it was obvious, then Mahomes wouldn’t have lasted until pick 10 (after being widely projected to go in the late 1st or early 2nd round) and Brady wouldn’t have lasted all the way to the 6th round.

However, it’s not a total crapshoot as some might have you believe. There is an art to scouting quarterbacks. A friend of mine (and the best QB scout on the planet), RC Fischer, recently asked me to take an early look at the possible QB's available in the 2024 draft. He has a theory that the league is being flooded by solid, starting caliber quarterbacks. If this is true, the implications for real and fantasy football are massive.

It's simple economics. If supply goes up then demand naturally goes down. More good QB's means teams don't necessarily need to sell their souls to find a starter and they don't have to pay them quite so much money.

For fantasy it means the same. The past few years, leagues have been dominated by a small handful of elite guys. If you didn't have Mahomes or Allen or Hurts you were probably facing a large point deficit each week. But if more high quality starters are entering the league then it becomes less urgent to reach for one of those guys that will cost you a 2nd or 3rd round redraft pick. Ditto dynasty.

This is already an exercise I particularly look forward to each spring, scouting the upcoming class of draft entrants, so why not get a jump start on it now that the NFL season is settling into a rhythm of who is actually good and who is pretending? I list each player, a brief description and thoughts about that player, and a comparison to a current or former NFL player. A note on the comparisons: I try to match each player to someone that visually reminds me of their skillset and overall talent level. This does not mean I believe the younger player will necessarily have a similar career to their comparison. There are too many other factors that go into that to try and predict. This is simply my way of thinking about how effective a player might be and what style they play the game with.

Here's what I found in my brief preview of the 13 consensus top 100 quarterbacks for the 2024 NFL draft.

Caleb Williams, USC (Scouting Preview Grade: A)

I'd love to bash Williams but I can't. He's really good and perfectly suited for the modern NFL. Stylistically similar to Mahomes with similar accuracy and field vision but he's a better scrambler than Pat and his arm is a tiny bit weaker I think. Of course Mahomes was fortunate enough to land with a very good head coach and organization. Will Williams be that fortunate? Unlikely. No matter how easy it is to think that talent always wins out, that's simply not true and Williams absolutely needs help at the next level to maximize his talent just like every other player out there. If he gets it, his ceiling is as high as anyone, but, if he lands with Chicago for example, it might be a bumpier ride than many expect.

NFL Comp = Patrick Mahomes

Jayden Daniels, LSU (Scouting Preview Grade: B+)

I was NOT expecting this. Maybe it's just the history buff in me that instantly recalls all the terrible LSU QB’s over the years, but I was not prepared for how good Daniels is. Wow. Good height but a little skinny (which is fixable), plenty of arm with very polished mechanics and excellent accuracy, very mobile runner with enough speed to actually hurt NFL defenses although he's definitely a passer first, handles pressure well either stepping up in the pocket, ducking a defender to take off running, or giving a little shake to evade pressure and delivering a dart, willing and able to attack over the middle unlike so many other college QB’s. I am highly impressed with my first look here. Daniels looks like a very good QB but also specifically a great fantasy option because of his mobility. This guy could be one of those out-of-nowhere rookie stars in 4-pt leagues. Currently considered a late 2nd round pick for the 2024 NFL draft but at this juncture I'll bet he goes top 10 after Williams and Maye. If you have some way of acquiring him in dynasty now before the mainstream catches on, I would say Daniels is easily the most undervalued QB of the class.

NFL Comp = Deshaun/Lamar hybrid, better runner than Deshaun, better passer than Lamar

Drake Maye, North Carolina (Scouting Preview Grade: B)

Maye is a bit overrated in my opinion, but he's not bad. He's hard to nitpick if you're just looking at traits on paper. Good size, mobility, strong enough arm, excellent at running a modern quick passing game but can attack deeper down the field when given time. The problems come as they do with so many other QB’s when you put pressure on him. He's very rarely pressured and is given plenty of time to survey the field, but good teams like Clemson can get to him and disrupt his rhythm. When that happens he generally stays pretty calm but he has a tendency to not pull the trigger and will instead hold onto the ball in an attempt to prevent turnovers. I'm not saying he's bad by any means, but I think this one weakness is the difference between a good QB and a great one.

I could absolutely see some dumb NFL team preferring the non-risk taker between him and Williams, the polished guy that always sticks to the script. Give me Caleb Williams and his occasional dumb turnover trying to make a play over the guy that avoids risky situations at all costs. Williams will make the play far more often than he messes up, but if you don't attempt the pass it's always going to be a sack.

NFL Comp = Trevor Lawrence

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Cameron Ward, Washington State (Scouting Preview Grade: B-)

I endorsed Ward two years ago after I ran across him when he played for tiny Incarnate Word college, and my opinion of him hasn't changed much after seeing him again now. Ward has a future in the NFL for sure, whether that's as a very good backup or a mid-to-low end starter I don't know. What I know is he's good enough to play. Last time I looked at him he was still quite raw coming from such a tiny college but the ability was clear. I thought that if he built upon his natural gifts he could be one of the best QB’s in his class, a potential Mahomes-level passer. Sadly that is off the table at this point. Ward hasn't progressed like that, but he is still quite a good quarterback. He runs the modern quick passing game as well as anyone, but the separator between these guys is how well they deal with chaos and pressure in the pocket. Ward is one of the best at coming off his first read and also not panicking when the defense gets to him. He generally makes good decisions and puts the ball where it needs to go. He's not a runner but does have enough mobility to move around as needed and scramble for the occasional nice 1st down.

Ward is almost certainly going to be a mid-round pick in the draft, but he's one of the few that I believe might actually have a future as a starter. Put him on the Lions and there wouldn't be much drop off if Goff got hurt. Put him on the Cardinals and pray for him. Ward won't elevate a team but he won't tank it either which leads to my comp for him...

NFL Comp = Dak Prescott

Michael Penix, Washington (Scouting Preview Grade: B-)

I have to admit Penix is better than I thought he would be. I was expecting to see a smaller, noodle-armed QB just distributing the ball to wide open receivers with a ton of time to throw but what I got was a decently sized QB with a solid arm distributing the ball to wide open receivers with a ton of time to throw. At Washington, Penix is afforded incredible blocking and a wide open quick passing game where he just needs to make the correct decision pre-snap and put the ball in a spot. Pac 10 defenses are a joke and he can just sit back there and pick teams apart, but he won't have such great surroundings in the NFL and I think he's going to look a lot more normal when everything isn't going his way.

Don't think I need to go into too much detail on this one. Penix is decent. Give him Mike McDaniel and Tyreek Hill and he can pull off a respectable season in the NFL. Put him on the Patriots with bad blocking and...whoever the hell is the top receiver for NE...and he's going to suck out loud. He'll go as far as his surroundings allow him. Quick decisions, accurate, more than enough arm...there are tools to work with, but he's not the next great NFL QB and his significant injury history definitely has to be taken into consideration.

NFL Comp = Tua with a better arm

Shedeur Sanders, Colorado (Scouting Preview Grade: C+)

This is a tricky one to scout. I'm not joking when I say Colorado might not have won a game this year if they didn't have Sanders. He deserves better than the team around him, particularly his blockers and the defense. The kid is taking an absolute pounding every game but just gets back up and keeps firing. He is willing his team to simply outscore their opponents because that's the only way Colorado can win. I'm very impressed from that point of view. Because of how bad his team is though it's very difficult to tell just how good Sanders might be with more help.

I like a lot of what I see here. Excellent mechanics, decent mobility and is able to throw accurately on the move, good arm, very accurate, makes good decisions, doesn't crumble under pressure and keeps his eyes down the field. There are some negatives though that drag him down a little. First he looks a little smaller than I'd like. Not saying he can't play in the league, there are plenty of smaller QB’s flooding in these days, but ideally you want your QB to look more like Justin Herbert than Kyler Murray. The size thing always has more to do with potential for injuries than anything else. Bigger guys can take a beating better in general. It also leaves him in that no-mans-land of...what's your superpower? He's not a speedster runner, his arm is fine, he's accurate but not elite. It just feels like there's a cap on his ceiling that someone like Williams doesn't have. I could definitely see Sanders being better than this. I like his game and his moxie, but right this second I'm looking for “it” as my friend would say and I don't see it...yet.

NFL Comp = Actually good Johnny Manziel

JJ McCarthy, Michigan (Scouting Preview Grade: C)

McCarthy is tracking as a mid-1st round pick for the 2024 draft, and boy would that be a massive mistake for some franchise. I cannot for the life of me see that happening however. Surely, surely even the NFL will figure out this guy is nothing but a game manager...right? Right now there's a clear vacuum behind the top two guys for mainstream scouts that don't know what they are looking at and McCarthy is just filling that void by being on arguably the best college team in the country. He benefits from having an outstanding defense and solid run game to protect him. McCarthy is not out there winning games on his own. He's just trying not to lose them.

So what does McCarthy have going for him? Decent height and able to run a little bit, he's no statue, a stronger arm than I anticipated but it falls off when he doesn't have time to step into the throw and drive it. Plays a very controlled game and limits mistakes...classic game manager running his coach's tightly controlled offense. McCarthy is not nothing let's be clear. He could probably play a couple of relief games in the NFL and not embarrass himself. But he's not a long-term NFL starter. He's going to get Purdy comps (and I agree) but I think that's a head fake of sorts because Purdy has ideal circumstances around him and McCarthy is unlikely to land in a spot as good as SF. They might be similar players, but it’s unlikely McCarthy gets the same results and that’s no fault of his own.

NFL Comp = Brock Purdy

Spencer Rattler (Scouting Preview Grade: C-/D+)

I previewed Rattler back in 2021 when he was at Oklahoma and being hyped as the next #1 overall pick for the draft. RC and I, as usual, were alone against the rest of the football world in our opinion that Rattler was nowhere close to that lofty projection. We both thought he had some game but also obvious physical limitations that would hold him back. Two years later I think it's safe to say once again that we were on the right side of this evaluation.

So has anything changed since Rattler transferred to South Carolina? No. He looks exactly the same except for one thing...his confidence has clearly taken at least somewhat of a hit. At Oklahoma he waddled around like he knew he was the #1 overall pick because...well everyone was telling him he was. Now though the tune has changed. He was forced out of Oklahoma by Caleb Williams and hasn't been able to regain his former (undeserved) glory and he knows it. I still say he's not a zero for the NFL. He's confident, keeps his eyes downfield and has better vision than many college QB’s, a decent enough arm up to about 20 yards, your typical modern up-tempo spread QB. Not bad but also not great either. Looks like a career backup at the next level.

NFL Comp = Lesser Bryce Young (not a compliment, Bryce was my QB4 last year)

KJ Jefferson, Arkansas (Scouting Preview Grade: D+)

I was hoping to see more development from KJ this year, but sadly he hasn't progressed much from the last time I studied him. His passing skills are improved in that he isn't totally avoiding the middle of the field anymore (he used to be just a screens and bombs passer), but I thought he had the ability to be a Dak level passer and that just hasn't happened. He's not reading defenses and carving things up with a bunch of quick passes. It's still just one or two reads, very simplified concepts. If, and it's a big if, KJ could ever develop that part of his game he could be a nice solid B quarterback at the NFL level. After three years at Arkansas though I still see no signs that he'll get there. He's got some chops, throws a nice ball with accuracy, obviously is a load to bring down when he takes off running, but at the end of the day he isn't a Cam Newton or Anthony Richardson type threat as a runner and he's still a mediocre passer. There's untapped potential here as a developmental QB but that's all.

NFL Comp = Slower Cam Newton or maybe like a gigantic PJ Walker

Bo Nix, Oregon (Scouting Preview Grade: D+)

Decent college QB but not much more than that. Nix has ok size and a serviceable arm but his mechanics leave a lot to be desired and he doesn't seem capable of more than running a simplified spread offense. His mobility is the best thing he's got going for him but it's not enough of a weapon to salvage his passing game. He does at least have some raw tools to work with so maybe he gets molded into something a bit more.

NFL Comp = Trace McSorley

Tyler Van Dyke, Miami (Scouting Preview Grade: D+)

15 years ago Van Dyke would have been a top 10 pick in the draft. These days he's a dinosaur, a product of a bygone era. Don't get me wrong, he can play QB, but it's a style of QB not well-suited for the modern game. Van Dyke is a big guy with an above-average arm that is looking to attack down the field. He's not very mobile at a time where almost every decent QB can at least move around if not run as an actual weapon. I just don't think that style is going to work very well these days. Maybe he proves me wrong and is good enough to bring back that type of game, but I'm betting against it.

NFL Comp = Mike Glennon

Riley Leonard, Duke (Scouting Preview Grade: D)

Sometimes in scouting we can default to certain comparisons for dumb reasons. Two guys are the exact same size, or look similar, or move similar, or went to the same school...tack a couple of these things together and the narrative just writes itself. It's precisely those kinds of lazy stories that RC and I try to fight against, to dig underneath the easy comparison to find the truth. It's very difficult because we as humans are programmed to work that way. It's just how our brains are wired, pattern recognition at the core. The mainstream simply doesn't bother to combat their own biases, but we actively work to not make those types of mistakes...

But sometimes the easy explanation is the truth, and I believe that's the case with Riley Leonard. He's built like, moves like, plays like, looks like a baby Daniel Jones and they even went to the same school. It's easy but it's truth. Leonard is an underrated athlete and a good runner, polished mechanics, throws a solid ball, knows how to run the offense. He also doesn't do well under pressure, makes some baffling decisions, and generally plays a very safe, controlled style. On paper they can sound like a high draft choice, they check a lot of boxes...but when you watch them play throw after throw it doesn't take a genius to see that something just doesn't add up, the results aren't what you would expect, the whole is less than the sum of the parts...almost like the anti-Tom Brady.

Some dumb team is going to get sucked in by Leonard and take him in the 3rd or 4th round hoping he turns into the next Kirk Cousins but that's usually a fool's errand. It happens every year and there's a very long list of failed attempts at this kind of thing, guys that aren't clearly bad enough to just be labeled as backups and play 15 years before going into coaching, but they also are just good enough that 2-3 teams will take a shot at “fixing” them before they finally wash out of the league without fanfare. That's the path I see coming from Leonard.

NFL Comp = Lesser Daniel Jones

Quinn Ewers, Texas (Scouting Preview Grade: D)

Eww. This is what mainstream scouts think a 2nd round QB looks like? Spare me.

I'm not even sure what to say good about Ewers. He's not a terrible college QB I guess, but I don't see much about his game that translates to the next level. He knows how to play the position, clearly a good student of scheme but just doesn't have the tools to hang. One weird thing I noticed though, he's not exactly jumpy around pressure but he does tend to immediately ditch the ball the second anyone gets near him. It's in a controlled manner and he clearly knows where his outlets are, but something about it feels like he's ditching a hot potato even though he stays calm while doing it. Odd dichotomy.

NFL Comp = Case Keenum

Conclusion: This is a very solid class overall. I see as many as 5 starting caliber QB's here although in reality there will likely only be 2-3 that last to a 2nd contract. One note, I did not include Cameron Rising from Utah in this preview because he has been out the entire year with an injury. The last I saw of him I thought he had a chance to be a mid-round pick and low end starter in the NFL, but his chances are getting slimmer by the day. At this point he's probably headed for a Gardner Minshew path at best.

Caleb Williams is the crown jewel if you were running an actual NFL franchise. The other 4, Daniels, Maye, Ward, and Penix are respectable hopefuls that likely need the right situation to hit their peak. Each one could bust if dropped onto the wrong team. I don't think Williams ever busts but he could be held back from his absolute best.

For fantasy purposes the guy I want 1000% is Daniels, especially in 4-pt passing leagues. He's the stat producer and the best runner of the bunch. Like it or not rushing QB’s have an advantage in those leagues. Daniels is the guy most likely to put up monster numbers even if it doesn't necessarily lead to team wins. He's also the single most undervalued QB in this draft class right now as the consensus 8th QB off the board behind the likes of McCarthy, Sanders, Ewers, and Nix. There is no world where that holds in my opinion. I think he has top-10 written all over him and for sure a 1st round pick. At the end of the day Sanders is small, McCarthy is boring, Penix has a significant injury history, Ewers isn't a real prospect and neither is Nix (in my opinion, my friend may argue but we'll see next spring). Daniels is going to fly past each one of these guys once things settle down and everyone starts debating them.

Overall, I don't think this class holds up to the 2020 class with Burrow, Herbert, Hurts, and Tua but I think it's similar or better than last year's crop.

Will Levis is a good QB. Stroud is very good. Richardson is dangerous and has room to grow. But do you really have to reach for these guys when there are just-as-good or potentially better options on the horizon?

Williams is a potential Mahomes-level producer. Daniels is a fantasy nuclear bomb on par with Deshaun (at his peak), Hurts, Lamar, and Anthony Richardson. Maye is solid and can run a little (think Prescott/Herbert/Lawrence for fantasy purposes). Ward could have some moments of Kirk Cousins level numbers (and Kirk was a top 5 producer in 6-pt leagues this year before he got hurt). Penix is on par with Tua (who also can be a top-10 option in 6-pt leagues).

That's a lot more talent about to be dropped into the league. Where are all these guys going to even start? The Raiders, Patriots, Broncos, and Bears are the only obvious landing spots and that still requires Russell Wilson and Justin Fields to land somewhere else. Sure, we might get a surprise change out of the Falcons, Bucs, Vikings, Cardinals, or Giants, but again some of those players (Cousins and Kyler) would just change teams and still require a starting spot. It is very likely that 2-3-4 of the rookies are not even starting day 1.

RC is right. The league is being absolutely flooded with QB talent, and you can safely bet that more is on the way. The days of there only being 2-3 elite fantasy QB’s are over. The trick now will be the same as it is for every other position...attempting to correctly value situation and opportunity over raw talent.

To read more of Ross Jacobs articles, visit Ross's The Football Skeptic Substack page.