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Next men up: Top QB talents in the CFB pipeline


There was talk leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft that teams were so willing to trade up for quarterbacks this year because future classes at the position were less than stellar.

» Five schools that could be next to dominate draft

However, in reviewing the talents in the pipeline at the position, I found plenty of players to be excited about. I've grouped the top passers in talent tiers to differentiate their abilities, though all of them have a chance to make it at the next level.


Draft coverage:


» Deshaun Watson, junior, Clemson (6-foot-2, 210 pounds)
» Josh Rosen, sophomore, UCLA (6-4, 210)

Watson and Rosen are quite different in some ways, but very similar in others. Both will beat defenses from the pocket, and have the mobility to find a receiver from outside the pocket as well. Watson is a year older and has better arm strength -- but Rosen will get there. Watson's explosiveness as a runner combined with his passing skills make him the No. 1 college football player in the country in my top 100 rankings. Rosen will miss some of his favorite targets (Jordan Payton, Thomas Duarte) after they went to the NFL, but his intelligence, accuracy and ability to move within the pocket make him one of the top passers in the country.

Potential for Greatness

» Joshua Dobbs, senior, Tennessee (6-3, 207)
» Brad Kaaya, junior, Miami (Fla.) (6-4, 210)

Dobbs can sling it from the pocket, and is extremely dangerous on the run-pass option. His accuracy throwing on the run is impressive, and continued growth as a pocket passer makes him a player worth watching every week. Kaaya's grown as a quarterback over the past two years, examining multiple targets from the pocket and pinpointing passes to his speedy receivers down the seam or sideline.

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Worth the price of admission

» C.J. Beathard, senior, Iowa (6-2, 209)
» Chad Kelly, senior, Ole Miss (6-2, 209)
» Baker Mayfield, senior, Oklahoma (6-1, 212)
» Greg Ward, Jr., senior, Houston (5-11, 185)

Beathard -- the grandson of former NFL executive Bobby Beathard -- is one of my favorite players in the senior class. He's a leader, and has the arm strength and mobility to be an effective NFL starter. Kelly's a fiery competitor with plenty of arm strength -- he's a guy you want on your team. Mayfield's arm isn't on par with Kelly's, and he and Ward don't have prototypical size. But you can't count out either playmaker until the whistle blows, or they'll make you pay with their feet or a long pass over the top. Ward could play receiver in the pros, but he'll join Mayfield as a Heisman candidate at quarterback this season.

Underrated ... for now

» J.T. Barrett, redshirt junior, Ohio State (6-2, 225)
» Luke Falk, redshirt junior, Washington State (6-4, 214)
» DeShone Kizer, redshirt sophomore, Notre Dame (6-4, 230)
» Patrick Mahomes, junior, Texas Tech (6-3, 219)
» Mason Rudolph, junior, Oklahoma State (6-5, 235)
» Seth Russell, senior, Baylor (6-3, 220)

It's not difficult to imagine Barrett getting back to his redshirt freshman year form in 2016 now that Cardale Jones is in the NFL. Running the offense at a more efficient level, as well as making plays with his feet, will make him rise up this list. Kizer showed glimpses of greatness in his redshirt freshman season, both as a runner and passer; he's my darkhorse Heisman candidate -- if he beats out Malik Zaire for the starting job. Falk, Mahomes and Russell, who's returning from a neck injury, don't get as much credit as they deserve because people are used to spread offenses putting up big numbers. Even in those wide-open offenses, though, it's no easy thing to hit receivers with accuracy.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.



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