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5 Thoughts on Athlon’s QB rankings

A reaction to Athlon Sports’s ranking of all 130 FBS quarterbacks.

AutoZone Libery Bowl - Georgia v TCU Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

It’s been a while everyone but in the words of His Airness, Michael Jordan...

Jamboogie is back and better than ever and boy does he have some TAEKS for you today. About two weeks ago, released an article that ranked all 130 FBS quarterbacks, prior to spring practice. You can read said piece here:

In the article, they mention that,

“The rankings are compiled by using many factors including career stats so far, 2016 statistics, pro potential, projection for 2017, value to the team, recruiting background and just overall talent.”

The article also mentions how we should view this as an early power ranking for 2017, and should expect changes at the end of spring. Now of course, their intentions weren’t evil, nor did they mean to disrespect anyone. However, they woke the Jamboogie Dragon from his slumber. When one of our people at FoW put this on my desk, I had some immediate takes to air out. So I tore off the sleeves on my button up shirt, put on some Run The Jewels 2, turned the stereo up to 100, and started grinding out my thoughts/reactions. Here are 5 of them, but first I’ll let my good friend Mase (same name, different icon) start us off...

NO DISRESPECT DISCLAIMER: It is not my intent to disrespect any of the people on this list nor any of the people that helped create this list. If you feel that way at the end of the article...well I’m sorry it’s the internet.

#1) Kenny Hill is ranked at 40.

So this is the catalyst from where a ton of my other thoughts stem from in this article. It’s really weird to see the 2017 Heisman winner this low in the rankings. Yes I understand the main knock against Kenny is that he needs to be more consistent in order to reach his true potential. It’s easy to just take a look at the interceptions column and be like, “Oh woah he turned the ball over 13 times, he’s gotta work on that.” And while I agree with that, I think it doesn’t really paint the whole picture. His receivers dropped more passes than any other group in the country. His offensive line was absolute *redacted explicit word* and that really screws up a quarterback’s groove and confidence. Of course he had some bad throws and accuracy issues, but with that being said we’ve seen what Hill is capable of when he’s on. By the way Deshaun Watson threw 15 interceptions during the regular season, and he seems to be doing just fine for himself right now.

Hill threw 1,936 yards in the first 5 games. That’s 311 more yards than Heisman winner Lamar Jackson had through that many games (more than passing yards goes into that award I know, but it’s still interesting to note). I’d also say with confidence that Hill has the best running ability of any of the QB’s in the conference. He was second on the team in total rushing yards as well with 609 yards.

Again, it’s not like I haven’t heard any of these complaints before, but Hill’s potential is way too high for me to say that I’d take 39 other college QBs before him. I’d also go to war for Kenny, so take that into consideration as well.

#2) Shane Buechele is ranked at 34.

C’mon now. Stop drinking the Texas Kool-Aid. I’d understand this more if he had a Dak Prescott-esque first year, but he didn’t. There was only one game this season where he passed for at least 300 yards, and that was against West Virginia. I understand that he had to split time with Swoopes (sort of) this season, but I never saw something from the true freshman that made me believe he was a top 6 QB in his conference. I’ll be the first to admit that the future is bright for Buechele. I really like what he has, and I think Herman can bring the most out of Buechele. BUT TO TAKE HIS ONE YEAR AT TEXAS WHERE THEY LOST 7 GAMES WHEN HE LITERALLY HAD A HEISMAN LEVEL RUNNING BACK AND PUT HIM AT 34!? Above Kenny, who’s had better career stats? Above other proven play makers like Kyle Allen? That’s some Stephen A. Smith saying something just for shock value level of foolishness.

#3) There are 4 SEC quarterbacks in the top 15.

A conference that is infamous for its poor quarterback play some how managed to sneak 4 of them into the top 15 of this list: Jalen Hurts for Alabama (#11), Jarrett Stidham for Auburn (#12), Austin Allen for Arkansas (#14), and Nick Fitzgerald for Mississippi State (#15).

I am totally fine with having two of these quarterbacks in the top 15. Jalen Hurts just wins games, yes he is helped out a lot by the fact that he plays for Alabama, but he won the starting job as a true freshman and that’s no easy feat considering his head coach. He’s also the reigning SEC offensive player of the year...which he a true freshman. Just watch his second half tape against Ole Miss and his last touchdown drive in the National Championship. Hurts is the answer to the age old question, “what if baby Trevone Boykin played for Alabama?”.

I am also fine with Austin Allen being in the top 15. He’s a mature leader and I am in love with his accuracy. He paid his dues for two years and finally got to take on the starting role once his brother graduated. It’s not easy having to step out of that shadow of your older brother, but Allen keeps calm in the pocket and makes the throws he needs to in order to win games... most of the time.

As for Stidham and Fitzgerald...well I think Stidham is going to be successful at Auburn, but that’s just me peeking into the Jamboogie crystal ball. He’s absolutely got the pro potential and he was a highly sought after recruit, but in terms of his career he’s only played 2 good games. To be fair he did only start 3 games in 2015 when Seth Russell broke his neck, but that still counts for something. He has never played against an SEC defense and it’s his first year in Auburn’s offense. Don’t expect him to be Cam Newton next year (watch him end up winning the Heisman). Bottom line, I can’t put him in the top 15 when I’ve seen so little of him.

Now Nick Fitzgerald had to fill in the shoes of Dak Prescott, and that’s no easy feat considering he’s probably the best player to ever play at Mississippi State. And you know what happened this year? Fitzgerald did fine. Better than expected even. However, I don’t see him as a passing threat. Yes he did throw for a 2,400 yards, but I can’t convince myself to take him too seriously as a passer. This is the most guilty I feel about critiquing a player on this list. I think he’s a fine quarterback who’s a really good runner, but he’s not the athlete that some of the other guys on this list are, and he hasn’t had the career stats or wins that other QBs below him have. I’d probably have him in the 30’s.

#4) Jake Browning is ranked below JT Barrett.

Depending on who you are, this may or may not be that hot of a take. They have Browning ranked at 5 and Barrett ranked at 4. So they’re clearly showing respect to both signal callers, and this may be nit picking, but I think they got this one wrong.

Barrett’s freshman year was clearly his best year, from both a statistical and overall passer point of view. He had to split time his sophomore year with Cardale Jones, and eventually won the starting job back with 4 games left in the regular season. His 2016 season was a step back from the previous two years. Blame that on the offensive line and decreased production from his running backs, but I think JT failed to keep composure in a lot of games in the second half of the season. Michigan State wasn’t even good this year and Barrett still seemed rattled when the game was close late in the 4th. I know Barrett is very talented, but he hasn’t gotten better each year and just isn’t the passer that Browning is.

Now as for Browning, he should’ve been a Heisman finalist, but suffered from “Pac-12 late night lack of media coverage and you don’t play for a traditional big school” syndrome. *whisper voice* That’s also why Christian McCaffery didn’t win it last year when he really should have. He passed for 3,280 yards, 42 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions last year. This was a great step forward from his freshman year. Browning ranked 7th overall in passer rating, but was 2nd among all power 5 QB’s behind only Mayfield. The guy is a smart signal caller that doesn’t make too many mistakes, who is accurate and just gets better year after year. I would be shocked if in the next two years Washington loses more than 4 total. Browning never costs his team the game and I think he’s got all of the passing ability you want in an NFL QB.

I think Browning should be at #3, behind only Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. Which leads me to my fifth and final thought...

#5) Sam Darnold isn’t ranked at number 1.

Hold on people. I understand the pressure of having to put Lamar Jackson, reigning Heisman winner, at the number one spot. Let me get this out of the way first. I’m not hating on Jackson. I believe that Jackson absolutely should have won the Heisman last year. He was the most outstanding player of the season, contributed a lot to the success of his team, put up video game numbers, and had one of the most impressive individual seasons from a numbers stand point. That being said, I have problems with his game.

From my time spent watching him, he is too predictable when it comes to running the option. I rarely saw him not keep the ball and run up the middle, even when the running back had the better opening. He tries to win with his sheer athleticism, and it worked for 9 wins, not all of them pretty, but wins nonetheless. He made highlight plays that the media loved covering and he was fun to watch for sure. That being said, he’s not a better passer than Darnold, he has the arm strength, but not the accuracy and I haven’t seen him put a game away without needing to use his legs.

That might be an unfair criticism of his game, but I’d compare him to Russell Westbrook. He dominates with his athleticism, and that makes him individually as a player amazing and award worthy, but it puts a hard ceiling on his team that I don’t know can be overcome unless he changes some things about his game. He was predictable and not difficult to plan against later in the season, and as a result he played poorly and lost his last 3 games (one of which was a bowl game). To be fair his offensive line didn’t give him much help, but the losses against Houston and LSU were pretty embarrassing. As of now I’d rank him as the 4th best quarterback behind the aforementioned Darnold, Mayfield, and Browning.

Now I do have to show some love to Darnold. Athlon did rank him at #2 so I’m not calling their ranking of him outrageous or anything. Darnold started in 10 games this season, and only lost in his first one, which was on the road against Utah, where the Utes won on a last minute drive down the field. The Trojans went on to win the next 9 games in a row, destroying just about everyone in their path. Notable wins include road wins against the two Pac-12 teams that played in the conference championship game, Colorado and Washington. Darnold picked both teams apart, but saved his best performance for last. Against the Big 10 champion, Penn State, Sammy D. set a Rose Bowl record for total offense and total touchdowns. He accounted for 473 yards and 5 total touchdowns. He threw for 453 yards, all 5 of his TD’s, and completed 33 of 53 attempts.

Even though the Trojans trailed a very good Nittany Lions team by 14 with a little over 12 minutes to go, Darnold wasn’t phased. Just like in every game, he remained cool and composed in the pocket, only taking off when he needed to, and never crumbled under pressure costing his team the game. This guy could actually be the fist overall pick in the NFL draft in 2018 or 2019. He reminds me a bit of Aaron Rodgers in terms of his sneaky athleticism and ability to pick apart defenses through the air. Simply put, he’s the best and most complete quarterback in all of college football and should be ranked at the top.

That’s it for the takes! Agree with me, disagree with me, feel the need to insult me after reading this? Do so in the comments!