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Drew Lock, Will Grier lead top QB talents in CFB pipeline for 2018

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Heading into the 2017 college football season, the conventional wisdom suggested we would witness big years from "The Big Three" quarterbacks -- Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen -- and they would battle it out to be the first pick of the 2018 draft. Instead, all three of those QBs came up a little short of expectations during the season, while Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy and rocketed to the top of the 2018 draft.

We won't see the same ballyhoo about the top quarterback prospects heading into the 2018 CFB season, but there's always going to be high interest from scouts in the position, and there are certainly some intriguing players that deserve their attention.

As we take a look at the some of the top talents in the pipeline, I've created a few different categories to indicate my initial take on these players heading into the summer. There will probably be some QBs missing from this list that others feel are deserving of a spot in one of the categories, but these are the guys I have my eyes on right now based on what I've seen on tape and heard from scouting sources.

The main attractions

Drew Lock, Missouri: Lock has prototype size and the ability to get the ball out quickly. His plus arm strength and below-average completion percentage (54.5 for his career) feels familiar (Josh Allen). Still, his physical traits and tools will make him one of the most talked-about QBs heading into the season. He considered entering the 2018 draft before electing to return to Missouri for his senior season.

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn: Stidham flashed his potential in big games against Georgia and Alabama last season. He could stand to add more weight to his frame, but he's tall with a solid arm and plus accuracy. I expect Stidham to take a substantial leap forward if the Tigers' offensive line can protect him.

Will Grier, West Virginia: Grier is extremely confident with a good feel for when and where to go with the football. He doesn't have ideal size, but makes up for that by getting outside of the pocket while still finding open targets with good touch. Grier can work quickly, but there are times when it feels like he rushes plays that don't need to be rushed.

Firmly on the radar

Clayton Thorson, Northwestern: It was a disappointing 2017 for Thorson, as he failed to build on his promising sophomore campaign. He has great size and good arm strength, but accuracy issues and a propensity for staring down targets were issues he struggled to overcome. Now, he's working his way back from an ACL tear he suffered in the Wildcats' Music City Bowl victory.

Justin Herbert, Oregon: Herbert's a very intriguing junior quarterback with a long frame and plus athletic ability to threaten teams outside of the pocket. He showed improvement with accuracy and his recognition of matchups last year. He still takes too many chances in challenging underneath coverage, but he has the profile of a prospect ready to make a big move.

Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State: Fitzgerald's accuracy can accurately be described as scattershot, and he's clearly not ready to take over a NFL passing attack. However, he is a capable dual-threat QB with great size, a strong arm, and the athletic ability to punish defenses on the ground. A solid senior season will push him up the draft boards.

Trace McSorley, Penn State: NFL scouts might try to discard McSorley due to his lack of size, but we shouldn't just throw away his results and production. McSorley improved his accuracy last year and he does an adequate job of taking care of the football while still taking shots down the field when the opportunity presents itself.

Ryan Finley, N.C. State: Finley is entering his third season as a starter for the Wolfpack and he will need to elevate his game if he wants to make scouts really take notice. He's a little lanky and lacks mobility -- not a good combination. He does have a good feel for where he wants to go with the ball, but his lack of arm strength ends up creating too many contested catches for his wideouts. His accuracy is a plus.

Shea Patterson, Michigan: Patterson has been cleared by the NCAA to play at Michigan in 2018 after transferring from Ole Miss. He has average size, but can extend plays with his legs and should become a more accomplished passer in Jim Harbaugh's pro-style passing attack. One knock on Patterson's 2017 season was that he pummeled lesser opponents, but came up short against the top competition he faced.

Others to watch: Jake Browning, Washington; Kelly Bryant, Clemson; Khalil Tate, Arizona.

The youngsters

Jake Fromm, Georgia: Talented sophomore who was asked and allowed to do more as 2017 unfolded. He has good size and arm strength. He also flashes natural accuracy that should help him take another big leap forward in 2018. He's already looking off safeties and making back-shoulder throws like a veteran.

James Blackman, Florida State: Blackman, a sophomore, is a gangly pocket passer with loads of upside. He clearly needs to grow into his thin frame, but he has time to do so. He's already throwing with decent anticipation, which helps to minimize his windup. He has flashed an ability to challenge and defeat safeties with NFL-caliber throws down the field.

Others to watch: Josh Jackson, Virginia Tech; Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama; K.J. Costello, Stanford.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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