Ranking top QBs from 2020-2024 draft classes: Here's how Caleb Williams, C.J. Stroud and others stack up



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How would C.J. Stroud stack up to Caleb Williams? How about if we threw Jordan Love or Will Levis in the mix? What about Drake Maye, Anthony Richardson, and Jalen Hurts? 

Although these questions relate to the same position, this exercise can be likened to comparing apples to oranges to grapes. There’s no perfect way to rank a collection of players mixed between the NFL and college.

Based on what we’ve seen in the first four years in the NFL from the famed 2020 quarterback group, the first three seasons from the 2021 quarterback class, the down 2022 collection, the rookie seasons from Stroud and Co, and projecting the 2024 class forward, below is how I’d rank the passers from 2020 all the way to 2024.

As for how these rankings are formulated, I’m comparing across levels based on everything we know about each quarterback’s talent today, and what they’ve shown on a field to date. Of course, even an average season in the NFL is much more difficult than an amazing collegiate campaign. But for the sake of this article, the 2024 quarterbacks are ranked mostly due to how much individual success I believe they will have in the pros based on their talent and overall skill sets. These rankings are also largely contingent upon a prediction of future NFL success.

1. Joe Burrow, Bengals

I will not fall victim to recency bias and drop Burrow well down this list just because he didn’t play late in 2023 with a hand injury. However, had Tee Higgins departed in free agency, I probably would have. But, he’s back. So is Ja’Marr Chase, and Cincinnati’s pro personnel department helped re-tool the right side of the offensive line. Out is first-round bust Jonah Williams. In his place is the colossal Trent Brown, bookending the equally as massive Orlando Brown at right tackle. 

While Burrow isn’t the athlete of many of the other quarterbacks on this list, he has ChatGPT processing speed and thread-the-needle accuracy. Plus, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo hasn’t gone anywhere, so the Bengals should still be one of the league’s most balanced clubs. 

2. Jordan Love, Packers

Slowly but surely Love morphed into one of the bright young quarterback stars in the NFL. And take a minute to think about the talent around him. Green Bay is young and loaded, and were a few fluky plays from playing for the NFC title a few months ago. 

Their coach is about as successful as a new head coach as been at his first stop, and the GM has proven capable of drafting well and striking the right chord with a methodical approach to free agency. 

But this high ranking is not simply due to situation alone. Love is a special talent too, and I’m slightly surprised we haven’t gotten more Love comparisons for Caleb Williams in this draft process, because Love did some remarkably creative things at Utah State too. He can find receivers through precarious situation from any arm angle, and it appeared the game slowed for him in 2023 when it came to deciphering coverages. Look out for Love in Green Bay. 

3. C.J. Stroud, Texans

Stroud had a sensational debut season. Runaway offensive rookie of the year. Well deserved. And he would’ve earned that award in any of the last like 10 years if not longer. Remember last draft season when we all wondered if he was athletic enough to be creative when protection collapsed in front of him? Turns out, yeah, he is. And some of Stroud’s most magnificent plays occurred outside the pocket operating in Year 1 of Bobby Slowik’s offense. The surgical precision was there inside the pocket too. 

The only reason Stroud isn’t higher here — he’s aligned to regress in the interception department. His turnover-worthy play rate was 2.9% in the regular season last year, and that equated to just five interceptions. Mahomes had the same rate but had 14 picks. Josh Allen was at 3.0% in the TWP department, and had 18 passes intercepted. 

Beyond that, I’m really looking forward to watching how the rest of the roster-building unfolds around Stroud, especially after witnessing what his presence did for Nico Collins and fellow rookie sensation Tank Dell.  

4. Drake Maye, North Carolina

Maye is a certified baller. Big-time throws. Ad-libbing. Running when needed. Running when it’s simply a way to get the number’s advantage on the defense. Maye can do it all. And while I’ll admit the North Carolina offense appeared straight-forward and simple, what collegiate offense isn’t today? 

This is close to a mega talent at the quarterback spot who will, yes, make a mistake, then come back the next drive and connect on three spectacular throws and dive to get that critical third-down conversion in the red zone. Of course, like all the other rookies, his situation will be vital in projecting his career forward. But I have the least worries about Maye’s acclimation to the NFL. 

5. Justin Herbert, Chargers

If we’re talking pure throwing talent, Herbert is No. 1 on this list. I was enamored by his game in the 2020 pre-draft process, and that adoration has not wavered. But I would lying if I wrote I haven’t wanted to see more from him entering his fifth season in the NFL. 

And he’s in a weird spot. New GM Joe Hortiz hails from the ultra-steady Ravens organization. He’ll add quality pieces to the roster. Jim Harbaugh’s won everywhere he’s been. But do I love ground-and-pound Greg Roman as Herbert’s offensive coordinator? I do not. It feels like we’re drifting toward Joe Lombardi territory again, when the epically strong arm of Herbert was the Ferrari kept in the garage thanks to a litany of play-action rollouts and two-yard tosses into the flat. 

I still believe Herbert has transcendent talent. So there’s certainly a world in which the awkward scheme fit doesn’t matter because Herbert is so good, and the organization is now headed in the right direction. But he’s a bit lower on this list than my pre-draft crush wants him to be because I’m not sure all those pieces come together for a net positive in Los Angeles.  

6. Caleb Williams, USC

Williams is going to be drafted by the Bears. If he’s not, it’ll be one of, if not the biggest shock in modern NFL Draft history. And I like what Chicago has done building the roster around a quarterback. Everything advertised with Williams is legit. Strong arm. Quick release. High-level accuracy. Amazing improviser. 

I have him lower than Maye on this list for that last reason. For as jaw-dropping as he can be creating outside the pocket as a runner and a how-did-he-find-that-receiver thrower, I’m slightly worried about him resorting to that backyard style a bit too much in the NFL and how sustainable it will be. 

Now, sure, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are the two best at generating something out of nothing, but they are established pocket passers, totally willing to dice from between the tackles, and are next to impossible to sack. Williams’ 2023 featured a clear regression against pressure, and despite his nimble feet, he did get sacked quite often in the Pac-12. 

7. Jayden Daniels, LSU

Daniels is an supreme quarterback prospect all for except his propensity to run when it’s unnecessary and take too many sacks. He’ll instantly be one of the most explosive athletes at the position in the NFL, demonstrated uncanny downfield accuracy in the SEC, and has plenty of arm to make essentially every throw needed. 

After Bo Nix, Daniels is the most situation-dependent quarterback in this draft. And by situation, I mean, how is the offensive line? Because Daniels could terrorize the SEC with his legs, and against shoddy, slower defenses in the NFL, he’ll be able to do the same. But the lack of calmness under pressure and a high pressure-to-sack rate — over 20% — scares me, especially if he lands with a team not sufficiently stocked up front. There is so much talent with Daniels though, he might just be able to overcome a porous blocking unit early in his career. 

8. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins

Tagovailoa led the NFL in quarterback rating a year ago and then followed with a 101.1 rating in 2023, and it’s like everyone knows, or just can see, that he isn’t the true driver of the Dolphins high-powered offense. 

That’s been the book on Tagovailoa, and similar to how I felt about him as a prospect. With a ridiculous, electric group of skill-position talent around him, he’ll deliver the football accordingly and everything can be fine and dandy when there’s no pressure or inclement weather. 

But because Tagovailoa didn’t have much on-field adversity at Alabama, and doesn’t have a big arm nor dynamic movement skills, when the stingy defenses arrive and the weather gets colder with more wind, he’s a different quarterback. I do trust the imaginative genius of Mike McDaniel, wholeheartedly. And Tyreek Hill, a healthy Jaylen Waddle, and Devon Achane in Year 2 represents the scariest big-play trio in football. But do I feel like Tagovailoa will ever be “that guy” at the quarterback spot in this NFL? Not really. 

9. Will Levis, Titans

I’m all in on Levis, especially based on the brilliantly bright flashes he demonstrated in Year 1 on a Titans team that had one of the worst rosters in the league, top to bottom. DeAndre Hopkins was a godsend for the offense — and Levis — but it was him and Derrick Henry. Nothing else. No blocking. No consistent secondary threat at receiver or tight end. 

And, sure, Levis took too many hits — his sack rate of 9.9% was high, but those high sack rates for rookies are common in the NFL. As the game slows for him, it’ll come down. Plus, this is borderline elite-level athletic talent at the quarterback position. And we all know how vital possessing those physical skills has become at quarterback in the modern-era. 

GM Ran Carthon hasn’t been shy about spending in free agency with the additions of center Lloyd Cushenberry, running back Tony Pollard, wide receiver Calvin Ridley, and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Tennessee still has room to grow as a roster, however, they do have the No. 7 overall pick and a new head coach technically a distant branch on the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree who just so happens to have brought over his dad, legendary offensive line coach, Bill Callahan. The arrow is pointing up for Levis and the atmosphere around him in Nashville. 

10. Jalen Hurts, Eagles

Hurts has never quite done it for me compared to the consensus opinion of him. Maybe it’s because I watched and graded every throw he made during his first full season as the starter in 2021, and it was a real challenge almost every week finding a difficult throw he even attempted in that luxurious situation with the Eagles. 

Sure, 2022 was awesome, but ironically until the Super Bowl, when Hurts had what I still believe is his best game as a pro, it felt like Hurts was carried by his team more than an MVP candidate should. Without stellar play up front and at receiver in 2023, Hurts wasn’t nearly as efficient throwing the ball nor rushing with it. 

He’s a deceptive athlete and has grown as a passer. Unquestionably. I still don’t think he’s to the level of the league’s best when he has to drop back 40 times and let it rip. I will not doubt Howie Roseman, but the Eagles are very close to entering a new phase with some of the old guard either retiring — Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox — or getting well into their 30s — Brandon Graham and Lane Johnson. So the future doesn’t feel quite as bright for Hurts as it did literally one year ago. 

11. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars

Draft status is undefeated, and Lawrence is drifting toward being another example of that. While I won’t suggest the Jaguars should be ready to move on from him after his season, if they don’t see a noticeable jump in his production, not signing him to a long-term, exorbitant extension should absolutely be considered. 

But because he was the golden prospect and went No. 1 overall in 2021, chances are, Lawrence will be given more than just ample opportunity to prove himself. And while that’s probably a bit unfair to, say, the random third-rounder who’s given a few reps in training camp before a team gives up on him, there is some justification there because with Lawrence it was always about his polish and his upside as an athletic, strong-armed passer with mature quarterback qualities he demonstrated as a 19-year-old at Clemson. 

But everything dipped for Lawrence in what was supposed to be a potentially MVP-caliber 2023 that followed a breakout Year 2 in 2022. And while the draft can absolutely change a narrative, the receiver group of Gabe Davis, Zay Jones, and Christian Kirk — along with Evan Engram — is good, not great. 

12. Anthony Richardson, Colts

I’ll admit, Richardson probably gets an artificial boost because he hasn’t played, and sometimes not playing is better than playing for the reputation of NFL quarterbacks. But this was my QB1 in the 2023 draft, ever-so-slightly ahead of C.J. Stroud. We saw Richardson for 2.5 games, and, after his season-ending shoulder injury, his head coach Shane Steichen nearly got a Gardner Minshew-led Colts club to the playoffs. 

Imagine what the coach who’s worked with Herbert and Hurts can do with a 6-foot-4, 244-pound quarterback with Richardson’s athleticism. Richardson is actually lower on this list than where I had him in my head when I started to compile these rankings, because I’ve felt so blah about the Colts receiver group for years now, and beyond Josh Downs, not much has changed there. The right first-round receiver could flip that idea on its head. 

13. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Can’t put McCarthy above Hurts, yet, despite the fact I’m more of the belief that Hurts is overrated as opposed to underrated. Same goes for Lawrence, and I loved Richardson too much as a prospect for this Michigan alum to be ranked above him. Truth is, I like McCarthy as a prospect. I don’t love him. I can see beyond his hyper-insulated situation at Michigan, because there were many times when he made an awesome play out of nowhere or fired a long, NFL-caliber throw when the Wolverines needed it most. I also love how experienced he is relative to his age. 

But is he ready to deal with the hyper-speed at which even bad NFL defenses operates and handle pressure and react accordingly on a regular basis? I’m not so sure. Just like the rest of the “second tier” of quarterback prospects in this class — Nix and Penix — McCarthy’s success is very situation dependent? Is he in New England in September? Minnesota? Denver? Impossible to predict right now. 

14. Justin Fields, Steelers

Fields is the one of the most enigmatic quarterbacks in the NFL today. There’s a contingent that believes, in the right situation, he can be a Top 10 quarterback in football, a dynamic dual-threat monster. Then there’s a recently growing group that believes he simply doesn’t see “it” well enough or fast enough to ever be effective enough as a passer to lead a team deep into the playoffs. I certainly was willing to give Fields a shot, seeing as though the likes of Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Josh Allen, leaned on their legs early in their NFL careers. 

But in 2023, with a workable environment in Chicago, Fields really wasn’t much different than 2022 as a passer. Nearly the same across the board statistically. There is some wiggle room for him to be the starter in Pittsburgh given Russell Wilson’s age and declining play. That’d place Fields in a spot where he wouldn’t have to be a 40-attempt per game quarterback and, in theory, could see his confidence build by stacking 20-17 type wins. However, I can’t genuinely place him any higher than this because what he’s shown on nearly 1,000 NFL pass attempts to date. 

15. Bo Nix, Oregon

Nix and Penix are interchangeable. Both had college revitalizations after transferring in gimmick-y offenses, are older prospects, and flashed inside the Pac-12 over the past two seasons. Nix gets the higher nod because I have a hunch he’ll get more of a longer leash at the NFL level. He can be an extension of the offensive coordinator on the field, doing exactly what’s asked of him, particularly in the high-percentage, schemed-up game. 

Yes, flashed creativity with his legs. His arm leaves some to be desired, and in watching his film, he wasn’t nearly as accurate beyond 10 yards than I thought he’d be, given his nearly 80% completion rate. 

16. Michael Penix, Washington

If I could peak into a crystal ball and it’d place Penix on the Vikings, he’d skyrocket these rankings based on future NFL success alone, because that will be one dandy of a landing spot for any quarterback. However, without that knowledge, Penix is pretty low here. I love his arm that’s coupled with his unshakeable willingness to let it rip through tight windows. I’m a believer in that skill separating the good from the great and the great from the elite quarterbacks in the NFL today. 

His immobility concerns me. As does his age to a certain degree and injury history. And while the NFL will continue to borrow concepts from the collegiate ranks, will his next OC call as many vertical shots as Penix got at Washington? And will his receivers come down with like three out of every four contested catches like it seemed as though the Huskies receivers did? 

17. Mac Jones, Jaguars

Jones isn’t as talented as the quarterback immediately below him, but I will give him credit for having a better season — as a rookie — than Pickett ever had as essentially the most classic example of a game manager on a team with a stout defense. And Doug Pedersen is in the group of QB-friendly coaches, who conceivably, could get the most out of Jones if ever has to step onto the field in Jacksonville. Lots of screens, RPOs, etc. Either way, Jones has been relegated to backup role after being a first-round pick three years ago. He doesn’t have high-caliber arm strength, accuracy, or athleticism. Bad combination. 

18. Kenny Pickett, Eagles

Pickett has always been an early-pocket leaver, meaning even at Pittsburgh he escaped at the first sign of an oncoming defender. In the ACC, he was athletic enough with a strong enough arm in which that anxious wrinkle to his game didn’t matter. In the NFL, it certainly has. 

And now he’s moved east in Philadelphia, and the fascinating aspect of the intrastate trade, as noted to me by Pittsburgh’s beloved son, Dave Dameshek, the Steelers turned on Pickett fast, even by NFL standards. Maybe because he’s relatively inexperienced, just 713 NFL attempts to his name, there’s a glimmer of hope Pickett eventually rebounds. But his play vs. pressure, and tentative style don’t mix well with what’s asked of the top quarterbacks in the game today. 

19. Zach Wilson, Jets

Wilson may not be on the Jets once this article is published. And given how recent first-round quarterback busts have been shopped and moved this offseason, it’s surprising Wilson isn’t on a new team yet entering his fourth professional season, isn’t it? While there have been flashes from Wilson, but it’s felt like they’ve come as often as a solar eclipse. By now, with nearly 1,000 NFL attempts on his resume, he’s relegated to backup-only duties. While we shouldn’t ever rule out a Ryan Tannehill or Baker Mayfieldian later-career resurgence, Wilson’s seemingly inherent panic against pressure and bad decision-making will be hard to shake in any environment. 

20. Bryce Young, Panthers

Until he gives me reason to admit I’m wrong, I’m going to remain someone who’s not a Young believer. His first season was a nightmare, and while the Panthers didn’t exactly field a dynamic offensive unit around Young, I saw essentially zero flashes from the former Heisman winner. You like to see even a glimmer of potential in Year 1, especially from the No. 1 overall pick. That didn’t happen with Young in 2023. And his skill set is not tantalizing enough to have faith that eventually, his physical traits will be able to carry him in the NFL. 

21. Trey Lance, Cowboys

As the clear backup in Dallas and a quarterback with 102 NFL pass attempts to his name, Lance defaults to the bottom of this list. Even after just one season at North Dakota State, the pro hype for Lance was justified. Huge arm, sizable explosive athlete. He’s just so far behind the eight-ball in terms of development, and he’s behind Dak Prescott with the Cowboys, it’d be a lie to project future success here. 





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