A new era of college football is here as the nation's top programs look to replace some of the most talented quarterback prospects in the past decade.
The 2021 NFL Draft class featured a number of intriguing, highly regarded QBs, including Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance, who were all drafted in the first round.
But who will be the next accomplished college quarterback to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Here are some of the top QBs NFL fans should keep an eye on heading into CFB Week 1:
1. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
2020 stats: 214-317, 3,031 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions
After redshirting his freshman season in 2019, serving as the Jalen Hurts' successor at Oklahoma in 2020 proved to be a bit tough at first for the former five-star prospect from Arizona.
However, after a shaky start to the season, the Sooners were able to rally behind Spencer Rattler and win eight straight games en route to another Big 12 title, capping it all off with a 55-20 drubbing of Florida in the Cotton Bowl.
Rattler enters the 2021 season as the clear front runner to follow in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray's footsteps as the next Oklahoma QB to win the Heisman Trophy. If Rattler is able to play consistently throughout the season and impress NFL scouts, the Sooners might have their third No. 1 overall QB in five years.
Rattler and Oklahoma will have their first test of the year against Tulane on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 12 p.m. ET.
2. Sam Howell, North Carolina
2020 stats: 237-348, 3,586 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions
Howell enters the 2021 season as a two-year starter for the North Carolina Tar Heels. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound QB has put up some dazzling stats and many project him to battle with Rattler throughout the year for the Heisman Trophy.
However, one feat Howell hasn't been able to accomplish yet is lead the Tar Heels to an ACC Championship game. That might change this year as Lawrence's departure from Death Valley leaves the door open for another team to finally compete.
Howell looks up to the task as he nearly defeated Dabo Swinney's squad as a freshman in 2019. But he will have to overcome the loss of some talented weapons around him, including Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome as well as the vaunted running back tandem of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter.
If Howell can put together a solid season and lead North Carolina to double-digit wins, he could be the highest drafted quarterback from Chapel Hill since Mitch Trubisky in 2017.
Howell and the Tar Heels will kick off their season in a highly anticipated ACC showdown with Virginia Tech on Friday, Sept. 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET.
3. Malik Willis, Liberty
2020 stats: 170-265, 2,250 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, six interceptions; 994 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns
Each year, there is one quarterback prospect that captures the attention of the nation despite not being from a big-name school.
Enter Malik Willis. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound transfer from Auburn burst onto the scene in 2020, leading Hugh Freeze's Liberty squad to a 10-1 record, culminated by a 37-34 upset victory over Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl. Willis has been called one of the most electrifying QBs in college football with impressive arm talent and the ability to make plays with his legs.
While Willis struggles with inconsistency at times, his upside is undeniable. If he can lead the Flames to another strong season, he could hear his name being called early in this year's draft as well.
Willis and the Flames will start the 2021 campaign against Campbell University on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m. ET.
4. Matt Corral, Ole Miss
2020 stats: 231-326, 3,337 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 14 interceptions; 506 rushing yards, four touchdowns
Lane Kiffin unleashed Ole Miss signal-caller Matt Corral to the world in 2020. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound QB put up some big numbers as a result, showcasing all of the physical tools to succeed at the next level.
There have been some worries about his inconsistency with the alarming 14 interceptions he threw throughout the season, but 11 of those picks came against two teams (LSU and Arkansas).
Corral still completed over 70% of his passes in 2020 while flashing plenty of great running ability. If Corral can cut down on the errors in the passing game, he could become one of the elite QBs in college football this fall and prove he deserves to be taken in the first round of the 2022 draft.
Corral and the Rebels kick off the 2021 season against Louisville on Labor Day at 8 p.m. ET.
5. D'Eriq King, Miami
2020 stats: 211-329, 2,686 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions; 538 rushing yards, four touchdowns
D' Eriq King has been making waves on the college football scene since his days as a heralded quarterback for the Houston Cougars. King's transfer to Miami proved to be extremely successful as the dynamic dual-threat produced in a big way, despite a change in scenery and increase in competition.
King remains in the Heisman conversation for now, but it remains to be seen if he can overcome the torn ACL he suffered in the Cheeze-It Bowl last year.
King will have the opportunity to answer all the questions surrounding his heath when Miami faces the defending champs, No. 1 Alabama, on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 3:30 p.m. ET.
6. Kedon Slovis, USC
2020 stats: 177-264, 1,921 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, seven interceptions
Kedon Slovis didn’t put up the best numbers in 2020, but he only played in six games. The junior QB thrived in USC’s air raid offense as a freshman, completing 71.9 percent of his passes with 30 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
While Slovis can have trouble with his release at times, he is technically sound. He has impressive ball placement, routinely allowing his receivers to make plays from all areas of the field.
USC will have to find a way to replace Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns, but the Trojans are known for always having a plethora of talented receivers on their roster, including preseason All-American Drake London.
There’s been much made about USC’s track record of quarterback success in the NFL, but Slovis has the tools to potentially break that streak heading into the 2022 draft.
7. Carson Strong, Nevada
2020 Stats: 249-355, 2,858 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, four interceptions
Nevada’s Carson Strong is just the latest Mountain West standout QB with first-round potential. Like Josh Allen before him, The 6-foot-4, 215-pound signal-caller has NFL size and superior arm strength, exemplified by his breakout 2020 season with the Wolfpack.
He threw 27 touchdowns with just four interceptions while completing 70.1 percent of his passes, good enough to win the Mountain West’s Offensive Player of the Year.
As a two-year starter, Strong showcased a level of execution that goes beyond the exceptional traits he already possesses. He understandably has some flaws and is not a finished product by any means.
Strong fits the mold of the prototypical pocket passer with the ability to overcome his lack of athleticism. While the archetype of the modern NFL quarterback is constantly changing with a solid 2021 season, there’s little stopping Strong from having success at the next level.
Strong and the Wolfpack will take on Cal on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 10:30 p.m. ET.
8. J.T. Daniels, Georgia
2020 Stats: 80-119, 1,231 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions
Three years ago, J.T. Daniels was a freshman sensation lighting up the field for the USC Trojans in the Pac-12. Then, during the season opener at the Coliseum in 2019, the former five-star QB tore multiple ligaments in his knee, ending his sophomore season before it really began.
After Slovis stepped in and took over the reins at USC, Daniels transferred to Georgia and found himself backing up Stetson Bennett for the first five games of the 2020 season. Daniels finally got his opportunity to shine, leading the Bulldogs to three straight wins and a Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati.
Daniels could be primed to take Georgia to new heights in Todd Monken’s offense. Of course, like most QB’s of the Kirby Smart era, he does have some areas for improvement.
At times he holds on to the ball too long while making decisions in the pocket. He has decent size but suffered from a large number of batted passes during the games he played. It’s clear he needs a clean pocket and clear line of scrimmage to accurately deliver passes. Daniels has solid arm strength but could clean up his deep ball accuracy this season.
With Jones, Kyle Trask and Kellen Mond all in the NFL, the path is clear for Daniels to become one of the best QBs in the SEC alongside Alabama sophomore phenom Bryce Young. If there was ever a time for Georgia to finally supplant the Crimson Tide, it would be now, and Daniels could see his name rising up NFL draft boards as a result.
Daniels and the Georgia Bulldogs will get their first test against Clemson in the Duke's Mayo Classic on Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
9. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
2020 Stats: 49-84, 701 passing yards, five touchdowns, one interception
Jayden Daniels is possibly one of the most intriguing prospects of the 2022 NFL Draft class. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound QB had a promising freshman campaign in 2019, but he suffered from a dramatically shortened sophomore season, playing only four games in 2020. Daniels has all of the pieces to emerge as a top prospect but has some areas for development if he wants to ascend to the top of the class.
Daniels is one of the best dual-threat QBs in college football. As Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson have built upon the groundwork laid by Michael Vick to redefine the quarterback position in the NFL, Daniels’ greatest strength is his ability to create and extend plays outside of the pocket. His play isn’t as flashy as Willis', but his deceptive elusiveness combined with solid zip on short and intermediate level throws makes him a great candidate for any West Coast system in the NFL.
One of the only things holding Daniels back is his frame. At 185 pounds, he might be too skinny to survive the brutal hits that NFL QBs take at the next level and would be wise to bulk up in anticipation. Also, with such a short amount of playing time in his sophomore season, it wouldn't be surprising to see Daniels stay in school for his senior season to work on his build and lead the Sun Devils to their best season under Herm Edwards in the process.
Daniels and Arizona kick off their season Thursday against Southern Utah at 10:30 p.m. ET.
10. Brock Purdy, Iowa State
2020 Stats: 243-365 2,750 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, nine interceptions
Brock Purdy has played an integral role in the Iowa State Cyclones' development into a legitimate contender in the Big 12 over the past three years. Over that span, Purdy has showcased the ability to be the quintessential, good college quarterback.
He has all the traits to excel from a physical standpoint at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. Purdy displayed above-average athleticism and proficient arm strength that helps him generate plays in off-script situations. However, since his breakout freshman campaign in 2018, he’s struggled with accuracy on the middle to deep range throws and tends to force plays while under pressure.
Like in years past, the Cyclones will most likely be dueling with Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma for Big 12 supremacy again and with Purdy leading the way as the most experienced signal-caller in the conference, Iowa State could be on the road to its first Big 12 title of the Matt Campbell era. If he can post a productive year he could be considered as a mid-round pick in the 2022 draft.
Purdy and the Cyclones will take on Northern Iowa on Sept. 4 at 4:30 p.m. ET.