QB Rankings: Action Jackson Primed for Heisman Encore

QB Rankings: Action Jackson Primed for Heisman Encore

This article is part of our Position Rankings series.

Media Days and fall camps are right around the corner, so start your draft prep right here with this year's series of position-by-position previews. Rotowire's season-long projections will also be available in short order, which will allow you to export and customize anything and everything to suit your league.

1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville, Jr.

Last year's Heisman Trophy winner who averaged more than 40 fantasy points per game returns for what could be his final collegiate season. It will be tough for Jackson to match his 51 total touchdowns from last year, but bet against his cannon arm and blazing speed at your own risk. He won't sneak up on opponents this season either, but Jackson's immense talent outweighs most of what defensive coordinators can scheme to stop him. The dual-threat weapon is the consensus top pick in almost any format with elite passing and rushing numbers.

2. Quinton Flowers, South Florida, Sr.

Flowers lost his head coach (Willie Taggart), top running back (Marlon Mack) and top receiver (Rodney Adams), but USF's offense will remain an uptempo attack that asks Flowers to run frequently under new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. Regardless of his supporting cast, Flowers should continue to have both a high floor and high ceiling, thanks to superior rushing skills – 2,521 yards (6.5 YPC) and 30 touchdowns the last two years. Flowers is frightening to almost any defense, and the AAC is not built to slow him.

3. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State, Sr.

It says a lot about a quarterback when a 33-touchdown season is considered a failure, but that was Barrett's scenario last year. The Ohio State offense wasn't as dominant as its usual self – the receiver position especially was a letdown – and Barrett's numbers fell short of his 45-touchdown freshman season in 2014. But Urban Meyer's teams rarely flounder for long, and Barrett is likely to be especially sharp as a senior. The arrival of offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson should also help – Wilson made strong offenses with lesser talent at Indiana.

4. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State, Jr.

Being the quarterback to follow a legend is no small task, but Fitzgerald truly thrived as Dak Prescott's successor last year. He quickly established himself as one of the premier dual-threat playmakers in the game, tossing 21 touchdowns and adding 16 on the ground to go with 1,375 rushing yards. Only Lamar Jackson and Quinton Flowers ran for more yards among quarterbacks. If Fitzgerald takes a step forward as a passer, it'll only add to his vast fantasy upside that already projects for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns on the ground.

5. Luke Falk, Washington State, Sr.

Falk is back at the helm of Washington State's offense for his third full season as the starter. He's already the second quarterback to throw for more than 10,000 yards under coach Mike Leach at WSU and likely will be the school's all-time leading passer by season's end. Falk has thrown for at least 4,400 yards and 38 touchdowns in each of his two full seasons as starter, and even though he's missing some of his top targets from last year, he's still one of the safest quarterback options in the game thanks to his talent and high-volume system.

6. Justin Herbert, Oregon, So.

He wasn't expected to see the field much with touted grad transfer Dakota Prukop at quarterback, but the latter faltered and Oregon turned to Herbert, a true freshman, in hopes of salvaging last season. There was no hope for Oregon, it would turn out, but Herbert proved promising. As the team around him sank, he threw for 1,936 yards, (7.6 YPA), 19 touchdowns and four interceptions in seven starts, and that was while playing tough defenses like Washington, USC, Stanford and Utah. New coach Willie Taggart helped make Quinton Flowers a star at USF, and Herbert should benefit too.

7. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, Sr.

It's easy to argue that Mayfield should be ranked higher after throwing for 3,965 yards (11.1 YPA), 40 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year and adding six more scores on the ground. The senior heads into his third season in a scheme in which he's proved unstoppable. He lost a great deal of surrounding talent, however, with lead wideout Dede Westbrook and the dominant backfield of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon off to the NFL. Mayfield's good enough to overcome that, but the lifting will be heavier this year.

8. Shane Buechele, Texas, So.

It's a lot to ask of a true freshman to run a Baylor-style spread, but Buechele proved promising despite the overwhelming nature of the task. He overcame a weak group of receivers and a rotation with running-specialist QB Tyrone Swoopes to throw for 2,958 yards (7.6 YPA), 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. And now he gets to operate under the tutelage of coach Tom Herman, who made a buzzsaw out of the Houston offenses in recent years, propelling quarterback Greg Ward into stardom. Swoopes' exit assures a bigger rushing workload for Buechele, too.

9. Shea Patterson, Mississippi, So.

Last year's top quarterback recruit, Patterson was expected to redshirt while Chad Kelly served as starter, but a season-ending knee injury to Kelly thrust Patterson into the fire. There were some freshman moments during his three starts, but Patterson showed the arm strength and uncanny improvisational skills that led many to compare him to Johnny Manziel. With a deep group of receivers to target, his dual-threat skills should yield major profits in a system that made fantasy stars out of lesser talents like Kelly and Bo Wallace.

10. Kyle Allen, Houston, Jr.

After sitting out a year due to transfer rules, Allen is ready to take over the Houston offense. Allen won't have the burden of learning a new system, either, as former offensive coordinator Major Applewhite was promoted to head coach. Allen's talent isn't in question as a five-star commit to Texas A&M in 2014-15. He's not the runner that former quarterback Greg Ward was, but Allen brings upside as a passer and Houston has surrounded him with talented wideouts. In a pass-happy AAC offense, Allen is set for success.

11. Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech, Sr.

The Texas Tech program is on the way down with quarterback Pat Mahomes off to the NFL and several leading contributors also leaving the program, including Jonathan Giles, Ian Sadler, Devin Lauderdale and Tony Brown. But fantasy football owners won't care about Shimonek's losing record as long as he throws the ball 50-plus times per game. The Iowa transfer is the presumed starter, so such an outcome is expected. Shimonek is no Mahomes, but he should have the volume to put up excellent passing numbers.

12. Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee, Jr.

It's often a bad look for a coach to make his son the starting quarterback, especially when a solid incumbent gets benched to do it. But the younger Stockstill has made his father and head coach Rick look like a genius. Despite missing about four games with a broken collarbone, Brent threw for 3,233 yards (7.8 YPA), 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. He threw for 4,005 yards (8.2 YPA) and 30 touchdowns the year prior. Heading into his third year as starter, Stockstill is poised to take the next step into fantasy stardom.

13. Jalen Hurts, Alabama, So.

Hurts burst onto the scene in 2016, going from unknown freshman to starter for the national runner-up. He earned SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors by throwing for 2,780 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions while adding 954 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Hurts showed his inexperience against some of the better competition Alabama faced, including a 13-for-31 outing against Clemson. But Hurts reportedly worked to refine his passing skills this offseason, and he'll have plenty of weapons around him with Calvin Ridley and freshman receiver Jerry Jeudy.

14. Riley Ferguson, Memphis, Sr.

Ferguson entered last season with the tough task of following Paxton Lynch, but he managed to produce six more touchdowns than his predecessor while throwing for 3,698 yards. He'll benefit from getting most of Memphis' starters back for another year, including top target Anthony Miller, who caught 95 passes for 1,434 yards and 14 scores in 2016. Ferguson has already proven to be one of the AAC's top quarterbacks, and he should have little trouble replicating 2016's success thanks to his experience in the system and a strong supporting cast.

15. Logan Woodside, Toledo, Sr.

After graciously redshirting the 2015 season so Toledo could avoid a quarterback controversy with Phillip Ely, Woodside returned in 2016 and quickly made up for the lost time. Despite throwing just 418 passes in 13 games, Woodside raced to 4,129 yards (9.9 YPA) and 45 touchdowns while throwing just nine interceptions. He has a talented backfield setting the ground game and two of the nation's best big-play threat wideouts in Cody Thompson and Jon'Vea Johnson. Don't expect Woodside to slow down in his senior season.

16. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, Sr.

Rudolph passed up the chance to be a first- or second-round pick in the NFL Draft to play his senior season at Oklahoma State, and all the pieces are in place for a strong finish. With 8,714 yards (9.1 YPA), 55 touchdowns and 17 interceptions to his name in 29 games, he returns to an offense that brings back star wideout James Washington, as well as a sound complementary crew, including Jalen McCleskey, Chris Lacy and Marcell Ateman. It would be a significant disappointment if Rudolph doesn't breeze past 30 passing touchdowns.

17. Sam Darnold, USC, So.

It might seem like a slight to rank Darnold this low when he's the consensus favorite to be the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but it's solely because USC's offense doesn't play with the tempo of other quarterbacks in this range. Indeed, if these rankings were simply about talent, Darnold would be at the top. But he plays in an offense that averaged just 32.2 passes per game in the regular season, and he doesn't run enough to make up for it. At the least, Darnold will be efficient and nearly matchup-proof after throwing 31 touchdowns on 366 passes last year.

18. Eric Dungey, Syracuse, Sr.

This will be Dungey's second year at the helm of one of college football's most up-tempo and explosive offenses. There were promising returns last season as Dungey took major steps forward as a passer, completing 65 percent of his passes and averaging just less than 300 yards per game while totaling 21 touchdowns (15 passing) in nine games. The only red flag is the concussion issues Dungey had each of the last two seasons, and injuries are the only thing holding him back from being an elite quarterback.

19. Zach Abey, Navy, Jr.

Abey wasn't supposed to see the field last year, but injuries to senior starters Tago Smith and Will Worth opened the opportunity. He was caught off guard as a passer, throwing four interceptions in 35 attempts, but as a runner he was a natural. In rushing for 368 yards and six touchdowns (5.5 YPC) in the last four weeks, Abey proved a strong fit for Navy's triple-option. Running the ball that much makes Abey an injury risk, but the week-to-week upside should be huge. An offseason working as the starter should make him more polished in 2017.

20. Steven Montez, Colorado, So.

Montez this season replaces the graduated Sefo Liufau, who leaves as the school's all-time leading passer. Montez showed promise in a brief stint as the starter last season, leading the Buffs to wins over Oregon and Oregon State before a narrow loss to USC, throwing seven touchdowns in that span.Montez also showed some running ability, torching the Ducks for 135 yards and a score on the ground. Although he is green, he will have an experienced supporting cast around him, particularly in the receiving corps.

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John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 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.
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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