For much of the 2023 football season, there was a clear 1-2 punch at the top of the list of 2024 draft eligible quarterbacks. It was also widely believed that this year’s crop would provide a good bit of depth throughout all stages of the draft. Both of those opinions appear to be up for debate now as depth issues and the projected 2025 class have teams thinking twice about how long they can wait for a young project passer this April.
The clarity at the top of the draft has been muddied a bit by the meteoric rise of LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, who has pushed North Carolina’s Drake Maye for the honor of QB2 behind Caleb Williams from USC. For some time, it was thought that the first-round considerations ended there, but all of the sudden, three other college passers have entered the conversation of Day 1 draft candidates.
Initially, quarterbacks like Michigan national champ J.J. McCarthy, national championship runner-up Michael Penix Jr. out of Washington, and Oregon’s Bo Nix were considered strong contributors to the depth of the draft’s quarterback class, slotting in as likely Day 2 picks. The depth behind them, though, began to slim down as fringe Day 2-3 passers saw the allure of returning to the NIL-potential of college ball and a chance to better their stock for the subsequent year’s draft.
This migration of 2024 depth pieces to the 2025 class has also done little to improve the projection of next year’s quarterback crop. It improves the depth of the 2025 quarterback class, but the group of passers in college next year remains bottom-heavy. Early class headliners like Texas passer Quinn Ewers, Georgia’s Carson Beck, and the prodigal son at Colorado, Shedeur Sanders, all give reasons to excite, but none have cemented themselves as first-rounders and, beyond them, the cupboard is quite bare for top talent.
A few veterans who once sought Day 1 acclaim have disappointed in recent years to the point where they have left for greener college pastures in an attempt to rejuvenate their potential draft status. Journeyman Dillon Gabriel, who has spent three years at UCF and two years at Oklahoma, will spend his final year of eligibility replacing Nix in Eugene. Once promising Duke passer Riley Leonard will try to replace Sam Hartman as the next leader at Notre Dame. A former freshman phenom at Miami (FL), Tyler Van Dyke will try to reestablish his passing prowess at Wisconsin. The Hurricanes will replace Van Dyke with former Washington State passer Cameron Ward, who backed off an earlier declaration for this year’s draft in order to announce his transfer to Coral Gables. After an injury-ruined 2023, Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels, one of a few talented passers who returned to their college home instead of transferring, is on the shortlist of Heisman Trophy contenders after impressing in 2022.
A number of sophomore passers will hope to have breakout years that help them rise like Daniels has this offseason. Penn State’s Drew Allar has impressed early with his efficiency, throwing for 29 touchdowns to just two interceptions in his first two years, but has a tendency to disappear from a gameplan far too easily. Conner Weigman has done little to inspire much confidence in College Station, but the former five-star recruit will hope to rebound for new head coach Mike Elko. Lastly, SMU redshirt sophomore Preston Stone will look to take the next step this year under Rhett Lashlee, who coached the earlier-mentioned Van Dyke to his best season in south Florida.
There are several other names that could be added to the previous few paragraphs, but the inability of any of these players, like Florida State’s transfer addition D.J. Uiagalelei, new Ohio State passer Will Howard, new Huskies quarterback Will Rogers, or any of the players above, to separate themselves above the rest of the batch is a testament to the lack of true top talent in next year’s class. The potential depth is real, but if none of these names can establish themselves as potential Day 1 or 2 picks, the 2025 class faces the same dangers as this year’s group as any passers with remaining eligibility will turn back to NIL money if the NFL has yet to warm up to them.
Because of this lack of excitement in the 2025 crop, there’s belief that teams this year may be a bit more eager to take a quarterback, according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel. This sentiment was echoed today by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network, who stated his belief that four to five teams could be looking to move up for a passer leading up to the draft due to the lack of top talent in next year’s group. This hasn’t changed the status much of the established Day 1 picks for this year, though it could push likely mid-first-rounders like Daniels and Maye up closer to the draft position of Williams. The real effect has been attributed to the likely Day 2 picks, Penix, McCarthy, and Nix.
The increased interest in this year’s fringe group can already be seen on the big board of Trevor Sikkema at Pro Football Focus. Sikkema has ranked Penix and Nix at 20th and 22nd overall, respectively, on his 2024 NFL Draft big board, placing them securely in the first round, if his rankings at all reflect NFL interest. McCarthy trails a bit, ranked at 57th, while Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt provides the only decent depth at 75th overall.
Since it’s becoming more and more likely that the Bears will keep their No. 1 overall draft slot, it falls to the Commanders (No. 2) and Patriots (No. 3) to decide how valuable Maye and Daniels will be. Both teams are likely to be interested in adding a quarterback this offseason themselves, but if they decide to stick with young passers Sam Howell or Bailey Zappe or address their needs through free agency, they could potentially cash in on a team more desperate to add a top passing prospect.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes the Raiders (No. 13) and the Vikings (No. 11) as potential teams to move up for a quarterback. Las Vegas is set to head into 2024 with their two veterans, Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Hoyer, and second-year passer Aidan O’Connell, who took over as the starter for much of last year. Minnesota, on the other hand, is set to watch Kirk Cousins and Joshua Dobbs head to free agency, leaving only Nick Mullens and second-year quarterback Jaren Hall on the roster.
While those two teams could prove to be contenders for Maye or Daniels, the possibilities are far more numerous for new potential Day 1 picks like Penix and Nix. They could end up falling anywhere in the first round, getting selected in the late-teens or seeing teams trade up at the end of the first night to guarantee that fifth-year option granted to first-round picks. Regardless, teams are being forced to do their homework on future draft classes in order to determine their quarterback needs for this year. The result could see up to five or six passers hearing their names called on the night of April 25th.