2020 Rankings: Quarterbacks Pt. 1

2020 Rankings: Quarterbacks Pt. 1

This article is part of our 2020 Rankings series.

Welcome to our first batch of player rankings as we start to look ahead to the 2020 season. This particular article will go through quarterbacks No.25 through 11, with the Top 10 to be released in a separate post. This range of the rankings is pretty diverse. We have some well-known and established players on high-profile teams like Trevor Lawrence and Ian Book. We have some players flying under the national radar who have plenty of fantasy upside like Middle Tennessee's Asher O'Hara and Kent State's Dustin Crum. We also have players who haven't even officially won the starting job at their respective schools, so there's some hedging going on here. 

I'm always up for debate so if you have any questions on the rankings or any omissions, feel free to sound off in the comments or on Twitter. 

25.) Brady White, Memphis

White was a member of Arizona State's 2015 recruiting class. Now he's entering his third and final season as Memphis' starting quarterback and projects to be one of the best fantasy signal-callers in the country. 

He took a massive leap from Year 1 to Year 2 with Memphis, bumping up up his yardage from 3,296 to 4,014 and his touchdown count from 26 to 33. His YPA ballooned from 8.4 to 9.6 and his completion rate went from 62.8 percent to 64.0. Even if White doesn't find another level to his play in 2020, a repeat of his 2019 season would still be plenty useful. There's reason to believe in White taking another step, though.

I'm not saying that we have another Joe Burrow on our hands, but it's hard to deny the advantage White is going to have over his peers thanks to his age and experience. White will have major contributors back in Damonte Coxie – who was responsible for 29 percent of the targets and 31 percent of the receiving yards in 2019 – and pass-catching threat Kenneth Gainwell out of the backfield. Gainwell racked up 51 catches for 610 yards and three touchdowns and should help pad White's stats once again with his after-the-catch ability. Everything is in place for White to push for a fringe top-12 finish at his position.

24.) Logan Bonner/Layne Hatcher, Arkansas State

Whoever wins this job will be a legitimate fantasy option in 2020. Bonner won the job to start last year and ripped it up through the first month of the season, throwing 10 touchdowns against just one interception in four games before suffering a season-ending thumb injury. Hatcher then took over and was just as good, averaging 26.7 fantasy points per game over nine starts and tossing 27 touchdowns in that span. 

Bonner is the veteran of the two, though, and he's healthy for the start of spring practice. That likely affords him the upper hand to at least begin the offseason, but Hatcher is clearly no slouch and will keep the pressure on throughout spring and summer. Both have very similar games; neither is much of a runner and both are strong passers, though one could argue that Hatcher is actually the more polished of the two with his 65.8 percent completion rate and 9.5 YPA. This isn't a scenario like the one at Ole Miss where the winner between John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corrall will drastically shape the direction of the offense. The system will be the system regardless.

Either Bonner or Hatcher will be tasked with elevating the offense that will be turning a new page without Omar Bayless or Kirk Merritt, who were basically cheat codes against Sun Belt defenses. Replacing that production makes this a less appealing job than it was entering 2019, but whoever comes out ahead between Bonner and Hatcher will be a plug-and-play option as your QB2.

23.) Bryce Young, Alabama

Of course, this hinges on Young winning the job over Mac Jones. And in fairness, Jones is a totally viable option for the Tide and it's not hard to see him winning this job. But if Young ends up as the starter...look out.

I profiled Young a bit in my Signing Day article, but here's a quick breakdown. Young was the No.1 overall player in the 247 rankings in this recruiting cycle and is already on campus. He has excellent natural passing ability and is electric as a runner, too. The only things standing in Young's way for 2020 are Jones and Young's rather slight frame (5-11, 183) that just might not be ready for a grueling 12-game season yet. Of course, it's not like that type of frame stopped Kyler Murray from dominating in his lone season as Oklahoma's starter in 2018. 

22. ) Dillon Gabriel, UCF

Outside of Sam Howell, no freshman was more effective than Gabriel on a per-game basis in 2019. Gabriel overtook a highly touted graduate transfer, Brandon Wimbush, and tore it up for 3,653 yards and 29 touchdowns with a 9.1 YPA and a 59.3 percent completion rate. 

I'm working under the assumption that he's the starter again this season because while it'd be an amazing story to see McKenzie Milton get back in the fold, it feels like wishful thinking. We'll see. 

If it's Gabriel at quarterback, everything will be in place for him to find success again. He will have Tre Nixon and a host of other playmakers there for him in UCF's explosive offense, which helps lessen the blow of Gabriel Davis' early departure for the NFL. It's tough to envision Gabriel reaching Milton's 2018 heights, but 12 games of Gabriel should prove to be plenty useful in any fantasy league. 

21.) Alan Bowman, Texas Tech

Maybe there's some stubbornness here in ranking Bowman this high given how his first two years have gone at Texas Tech. He's been effective – 68.2 percent completion rate, 23 passing touchdowns (4.8 TD Rate) and 10 picks on 481 attempts – but playing in 11 of a possible 24 games in that sample is...not great. He had a complicated recovery from a collapsed lung as a freshman and had his 2019 cut short with a shoulder injury. So we have legitimate durability questions. But there are things to his game that make him top-20 worthy. 

Bowman will be in his second full season in the Matt Wells system, and it's clear from the admittedly limited sample that Wells wants to turn it loose when Bowman is behind center. He averaged 51.3 pass attempts per game in his starts before getting injured last season. Admittedly the YPA was mediocre (6.6) and the turnover-worthy play (three interceptions, two fumbles) were less than ideal. He also offers next to nothing as a runner with a negative net rushing yardage output his first two years. The deeper dive into Bowman's peripherals has me a little less bullish on him than I was when I sat down to write this article. But in a pass-happy offense that could see Bowman pushing 45-or-more attempts per game to a talented crop of pass-catchers, he's still a viable fantasy commodity. If he stays healthy, Bowman could push for 4,500 yards and 30 passing touchdowns. 

20.) Sam Hartman, Wake Forest

Remember him? Yeah, Jamie Newman beat him out for the job last year, but Newman is clearly no slouch and now he's off to Georgia to play in a more pro-style system. So Hartman, who actually beat out Newman for the starting job when he was a true freshman, now stands to take back over as QB1 in Winston-Salem.

Hartman has 388 pass attempts and 134 rush attempts under his belt through two seasons, with the bulk of those coming in 2018. In total, he's completed 55.7 percent of his passes with a 7.3 YPA, 20 touchdowns and 10 picks. And he's run for 364 yards and three touchdowns on 134 rush attempts. That lags behind what Newman accomplished in 2019, when he completed 60.9 percent of his passes with a 7.9 YPA and 26 touchdowns on 361 attempts. But it's not out of the question that Hartman takes a step forward and replicates Newman's 2019 1:1 or close to it. 

The offense in place sets quarterbacks up for success. The Demon Deacons ran the most plays per game (82.9) in the nation and averaged the 28th-most passing attempts per game. Hartman will also have one of the top receivers in the ACC in Sage Surratt back in the fold, in addition to promising sophomore, Donavon Greene. And with no true standout at running back, Hartman should be tasked with carrying a big part of the Wake Forest run game. Everything is in place for Hartman to re-establish himself and become a force in the fantasy landscape.

19.) Jamie Newman, Georgia

I saw some hand-wringing from the CFF Twittersphere when Newman selected Georgia over other suitors as his destination for 2020. Some of it is understandable, but I think it's mostly overblown. Let's look at what went wrong with Georgia's offense last season and what could be different this year under Newman. 

For one, the setup had very little margin for error. Yes, Jake Fromm was a third-year starter, but he was working under a new offensive coordinator (who has since been hired away by Texas A&M to be a tight ends coach). He was also working with a supporting cast that was replacing its top five pass-catchers from 2018. Not to say that the offense was destined to fail, but it was always going to be very difficult for the passing game to truly take off. 

Enter Newman, who heads to Athens after a wildly successful year-and-a-half run as Wake Forest's starter. He thrived in the up-tempo system and completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 3,951 yards, 35 touchdowns and 15 picks with a 7.9 YPA over the 18-game sample from 2018 through 2019. He also racked up 821 yards and 10 scores on the ground. And, contextually, he had to make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what down the stretch in 2019 after Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington both went down with injuries. 

As with any graduate transfer, there are questions that need to be answered on both sides. How will Georgia adjust its offense to fit Newman's strengths and how will Newman adjust to learning a new system with a new supporting cast? The answer to Question A is pivotal. Georgia can say all the right things and use all the right buzz words about being more multiple and up-tempo, but until those things are actually enacted, they're just empty gestures.

In the end, Georgia's offense isn't suddenly going to look like Wake Forest's warp-speed, 84-play-per-game attack. That inherently lowers his ceiling. He also won't likely be leaned upon as a runner as much as he was at Wake Forest given Georgia's backfield options. But Newman will be playing behind an elite offensive line with promising receivers like George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock, provided his ACL rehab goes according to plan. He should be one of the SEC's top fantasy quarterbacks when it's said and done. 

18.)  Adrian Martinez, Nebraska

Martinez is a tough rank right now. Outside of D'Eriq King, who shut things down to preserve a year of eligibility, it's hard to think of a player who provided less of a return on draft-day investment than Martinez in 2019. We probably should've sensed something was off after he turned in a whopping 6.7 fantasy points against South Alabama in the season opener, but it wasn't until he bottomed out with 15.4 combined points against Ohio State and Northwestern that his backers started to run out of excuses. 

Nebraska in general being one of the biggest flops in all of college football likely doesn't help Martinez's perception, either. A 5-7 season when you were supposed to make the Big Ten Championship will do that. But I'm buying the dip on Martinez. 

In the end, Martinez still managed to average a respectable 24.7 fantasy points per game, which was better than Justin Herbert, Kedon Slovis and Zac Thomas. 2020 will mark his third year in Scott Frost's system and he's still got an electric supporting cast with JD Spielman and Wan'Dale Robinson. The schedule won't do him many favors this year with trips to Columbus and Madison along with a home matchup against Penn State. Maybe Martinez will never reach the heights most were expecting, but he's still an athletic player in a system conducive to quarterback production. 

17.) Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

There's not much I can add to the Trevor Lawrence discussion that you don't already know. He's the most talented quarterback in college football and plays for arguably the most talented team in college football. He might be the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, or even Peyton Manning. 

Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jalen Hurts stole most of the headlines for much of the year among the big-name quarterbacks while Lawrence quietly – at least relative to where it could have been –put together a strong season. He threw for 385 more yards on just 10 more attempts and completed over 65.0 percent of his passes once again. Lawrence also took a major leap in terms of his rushing; he took 103 attempts for 563 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. That all added up to Lawrence finishing 15th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game. The issue with Lawrence comes with the volume cap. 

It's a conundrum DFS players face every week with deciding whether or not to stack Lawrence and the Clemson studs. Are they going to play all four quarters? Will I max out my points per dollar? That issue compounds when you're viewing Lawrence through a season-long lens. Lawrence played 15 games last season – the most possible games in a college football season. He threw 31 passes in fourth quarters. 31. Yes Lawrence dominates when he's on the field, but we have to acknowledge that Clemson has its sights set higher than having its once-in-a-generation quarterback on the field pad his stats with a 42-point lead. 

Basically, determining Lawrence's draft day value is striking the balance between acknowledging his per-play upside while also being realistic about his low playing time ceiling. Lawrence ranked 66th in pass attempts per game last season, and there's also the chance that Clemson urges him to maybe run a bit less than he did in 2019. So while there's no denying Lawrence's billing as the top quarterback prospect in college football, his utility as a fantasy asset doesn't quite match that. 

16.) Dustin Crum, Kent State

Crumdog Millionaire. Crum Daddy. The top returning quarterback in the MAC. There's a lot to like about Crum's game and how it projects for the upcoming season. 

Leading things off, Crum has excellent dual-threat capability. Crum led the conference in completion rate (69.2 percent) and was second in YPA (8.4) and tied for second in passing touchdowns (20). He also had more rushing attempts (168) than Nathan Rourke's 154. Yes, Rourke was the more effective rusher (5.6 YPC, 13 TD) but Crum was no slouch with 707 yards and six scores. Only eight non-option quarterbacks had more rushing yardage than Crum. 

Crum also gets his best receiver in Isaiah McKoy back for another year, along with promising slot specialist Antwan Dixon. It's hard not to like the direction this Kent program is going under coach Sean Lewis with Crum at the helm. 

15.) John Rhys Plumlee, Mississippi

This is contingent on Plumlee winning the starting job over Matt Corral in what figures to be one of the most fantasy-relevant quarterback battles in the entire country this offseason. Coach Lane Kiffin figures to start both off with a clean slate this spring. An interesting caveat is that Plumlee is also on Mississippi's baseball team, so his time will be split up while Corral will be able to dedicate all his time to football.

Will that have any long-term impact on the competition? It could, especially with the new offense being installed. Time will tell. Whoever wins the job will be worth of a top-20 ranking at the position, but Plumlee's rushing ability gives him a higher ceiling for our purposes, so he gets the nod here. Running for over 1,000 yards in nine games is no small feat, especially in the SEC West.

We'll be keeping a close eye on Oxford throughout the offseason. 

14.) Ian Book, Notre Dame

Book isn't the upside pick. But he's consistent, and sometimes well-known but "boring" commodities can be had at a discount while more volatile and less proven players get pushed up the board. 

Put another way, you probably at least entertained the idea of going with Bo Nix over Book once Nix won the job at Auburn. I'm not making any direct accusations here. I would never. 

Book's 2019 is tough to fully process. His completion percentage plummeted from 68.2 percent to 60.2 and his YPA dropped from 8.4 in 2018 to 7.6. And yet his touchdown rate ballooned from 6.0 percent to a likely unsustainable 8.5 percent, which led to him nearly doubling his touchdown count as he went from 19 to 34 TD passes. He also nearly doubled his rushing production – from 280 yards to 546 yards – on just 17 more carries. 

There's also the issue of the lost production. Notre Dame's top four pass-catchers, who accounted for 27 receiving touchdowns, 2,276 yards and 64 percent of the total targets. 

The potential regression that comes with losing that much of his supporting cast along with the unsustainable jump in touchdown rate from 2018 to 2019 makes me wary of moving Book into the top ten. But he's still a solid player with experience and rushing upside to the point where he's a strong QB2 or fringe QB1 in deeper formats. 

13.) Micale Cunningham, Louisville

Maybe this is a high ranking but I'm a Cunningham believer. Once he took over in Week 4, he was a game-changer for the Cardinals. He averaged 24.2 fantasy points per game in that span and his 11.7 YPA that ranked first among non-option quarterbacks from Week 4 through the end of the season. He completed 62.2 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and just five picks in that stretch and he added 363 rush yards and five touchdowns. The numbers are impressive in their own right. But when you compare them to what we were expecting from Louisville in 2019, they reach another level. 

2019 was supposed to be, as Bill Connelly calls it, a Year Zero for Louisville in the wake of the mess left behind by Bobby Petrino. Last year's Louisville squad was coming off a year in which it ranked 122nd in scoring offense (19.8 PPG), 98th in yards per play (5.31), 114th in total yards and 125th in turnover margin with a minus 12! Showing even a pulse would have been considered a success in 2019. Instead, Cunningham helped make Louisville's offense a strength. The Cardinals ranked 30th in scoring offense, 12th in yards per play (6.68), 27th in total yards, and middle of the pack in turnovers (19). With that as the Year Zero baseline, what can 2020 look like with Cunningham in a mostly wide-open ACC? 

Cunnigham has already proved that he's skilled enough to be a fantasy force. He'll have mastery of the system in Year 2 under Scott Satterfield as well. Plus he has one of college football's most dynamic playmakers at his disposal in TuTu Atwell, who ranked eighth in the nation in yards per target (12.13) among players with at least 50 targets. 

12.) Holton Ahlers, East Carolina

I was skeptical of Ahlers' ADP last year as a high third-round selection. He was entering a new system after posting somewhat fluky production in 2018 in a gimmicky offense. Ahlers shut me up for the most part, though. He was more polished as a passer than I expected, throwing for 3,387 yards and 21 touchdowns while still adding a threat as a rusher with six scores.  

Ahlers throws a ton of passes (36.8 per game in 2019, 8th in the nation) and has a strong group of returning receivers in C.J. Johnson and Tyler Snead. In fact, East Carolina ranks 8th in returning offensive production, per ESPN's Bill Connelly. Toss in Ahlers' rushing ability and we have a player with a strong floor and a fairly high ceiling, too. 

11. ) Asher O'Hara, Middle Tennessee

O'Hara's 2019 didn't get enough attention. The first-year starter accounted for 29 total touchdowns and 3,674 yards from scrimmage. Only Malcolm Perry, Lynn Bowden, and Jalen Hurts had more rushing yards than O'Hara's 1,058 yards among quarterbacks. Only Justin Fields averaged more fantasy points per game among sophomores. 

So O'Hara already has the rushing component seemingly locked in, and there's a chance that he takes a step forward as a passer this year. He completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 2,616 yards and 20 touchdowns on 7.8 YPA in his first year as a starter. There's natural accuracy there, and if he can bump up his YPA, there's a non-zero chance that O'Hara ends the year as a member of the 3,000/1,000-yard club. Only three quarterbacks since 2017 have accomplished that feat. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John McKechnie
John is the 2016 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
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