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Next men up: Top QB talents in CFB pipeline for 2017

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While three quarterbacks ended up coming off the board within the first 12 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, there was plenty of talk this spring about how teams were much more excited by the prospects who could be in the 2018 draft class than they were about this year's group.

Indeed, there is plenty to be excited about. However, much can change in a year. A year ago, the conventional wisdom was that Deshaun Watson would be the 2017 NFL Draft's No. 1 overall pick. He, of course, ended up going 12th overall to the Texans as the third QB picked.

With an eye on the future, I've grouped the top college passers in talent tiers to differentiate their abilities, though all of them have a chance to make it at the next level.

Elite

» Lamar Jackson, junior, Louisville (6-foot-3, 200 pounds)
» Sam Darnold, redshirt sophomore, USC (6-4, 225)
» Josh Allen, junior, Wyoming (6-5, 233)
» Josh Rosen, junior, UCLA (6-4, 220)

Allen has the attention of NFL teams due to his arm strength, attitude and athleticism. Rosen can bounce back from an injury-plagued season to battle Darnold for NFL scouts' eyes and the Pac-12 crown. Of course, scouts are concerned about Jackson's slight build and decline late in the 2016 season, but for now, his rocket arm, toughness and playmaking skills keep the Heisman Trophy winner in this category.

Potential for greatness

» Baker Mayfield, senior, Oklahoma (6-1, 218)
» Luke Falk, senior, Washington State (6-4, 225)

Mayfield's lack of size might hinder him in scouts' minds. However, if he continues to operate the Sooners' offense in an efficient manner, it will gain him fans among NFL teams and potentially earn him comparisons to Russell Wilson. Falk's an "Air Raid" offense quarterback, but he has the ability to do more at the line of scrimmage.

2017 NFL DRAFT

Worth the price of admission

» Mason Rudolph, senior, Oklahoma State (6-5, 230)
» Trace McSorley, junior, Penn State (6-0, 205)
» Jake Browning, junior, Washington (6-2, 205)

All three of these passers have a shot to become NFL starters someday. McSorley and Browning should have great seasons in 2017 as leaders of their their teams. Rudolph and his top target, receiver James Washington, returned for their seniors years to make a run at the Big 12 title and increase their value to NFL scouts.

Underrated, for now

» Jalen Hurts, sophomore, Alabama (6-2, 214)
» Deondre Francois, redshirt sophomore, Florida State (6-2, 205)

Hurts has to grow as a pocket passer to be considered a top NFL prospect, but he has time to do so. Francois also has the tools to succeed at the next level, and should become more consistent as he matures. Their progression in 2017 will be fun to watch.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

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