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NFL Draft 2024: Ranking the quarterback prospects based on a college football performance formula

NFL Draft 2024: Ranking the quarterback prospects based on a college football performance formula


I had a brilliant idea in 2012. What if I could create a formula based on a quarterback's production in college that would give us an indication of whether they would be successful at the NFL level?

Well, I failed.

It turns out there is no way to predict a QB's future based on past performance because there is so much more involved with the position than just the player. There is the environment, the surrounding team, the coaching staff and a lot of luck. Although I've never been able to crack the QB code, I've continued to use my formula every year since 2012 for a simple reason: it has done a good job even if it doesn't have all the answers.

In short, the formula rates quarterbacks on throwing ability, not haste. It's broken down into three categories: against top-50 defenses, third-and-long/fourth-down situations, and the red zone. After all these numbers are put into the machine, it spits out a score for each player. That score is then taken and compared to the average score of the quarterback class being rated, which is added to the list of all quarterbacks who have been rated in the past.

Before we dive into the details, let's take a look at the scores for the 2024 class of quarterbacks.


Caleb Williams



3,633 yards, 30 TD, 5 INT


JJ McCarthy



2,991 yards, 22 TD, 4 INT


Jayden Daniels



3,812 yards, 40 TD, 4 INT


Spencer Rattler

South Carolina


3,186 yards, 19 TD, 8 INT


Bo Nix



4,508 yards, 45 TD, 3 INT


Austin Reed

Western Kentucky


3,340 yards, 31 TD, 11 INT


Drake Maye

North Carolina


3,608 yards, 24 TD, 9 INT


Michael Penix



4,903 yards, 36 TD, 11 INT


Sam Hartman

Our lady


2,689 yards, 24 TD, 8 INT


Jordan Travis

State of Florida


2,756 yards, 20 TD, 2 INT


Devin Leary



2,746 yards, 25 TD, 12 INT


Kedon Slovis



1,716 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT


Michael Pratt



2,406 yards, 22 TD, 5 INT


Joe Milton



2,813 yards, 20 TD, 5 INT

The scoring is simple. Caleb Williams checks in with an 8.98% rating, meaning his rating was 8.98% better than the average rating of the 14 quarterbacks listed. Joe Milton's score of -3.38% means he finished 3.38% below average.

Of the 14 quarterbacks graded in this class, Williams and JJ McCarthy are the only two to post scores that surpass the top 20 players from the 2012 class. Here are the top 20.


Tua Tagovailoa



Andrew's luck



Dwayne Haskins



Kyler Murray



Caleb Williams



Johnny Manziel



Robert Griffin



Baker Mayfield



Justin Fields



Mitch Trubisky



JJ McCarthy



James Winston



Sam Darnold



Marcus Mariota



Logan Woodside



Jared Goff



Patrick Mahomes



Jack Coan



D'Eriq King



Blake Bortles


When you look at the top 20, your first reaction is probably something along the lines of, “Okay, there are some decent names in there, but there aren't many big names outside of Patrick Mahomes.”

Well, duh. There aren't many Awesome quarterbacks in the NFL! There are only a handful in the league at any given time. That's why we love them!

The preference here is that there are far more players in the top 20 who have had long NFL careers than there are failures. Even Mitch Trubisky and Marcus Mariota got starts last season, while Sam Darnold himself could be in line for some this season.

Then there's the other end of the spectrum. If history is any indication, you don't want your team to have Michael Penix Jr. or drafts other players with below average scores. The only players with below-average scores who have had exceptional NFL careers are Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. What do they have in common? Both are excellent rushers, and this formula rates players based solely on their passing. The jury is still out on other previous below-average scorers like Anthony Richardson and Will Levis (I'll let the fans pretend it's still out on Daniel Jones, Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder, too).

As for the players in this class, as many as five are expected to end up in the first round. Let's take a look at the six players who were mocked the most in the first round, with an explanation of where they were strongest and weakest and how this affected their scores.

Caleb Williams

The numbers correspond to the band. The way Williams' 2024 season is being discussed, you would think he had a terrible year. But when you look at the numbers, he finished with 30 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Turns out he was doing fine…just the team stunk. Either way, it was a complete achievement for Williams in the formula. His worst score came on third- and fourth-down situations, and it was the second-highest in the league. His performance against top defenses and in the red zone was the best in the class. There's a reason he's going No. 1 overall, but perhaps Bears fans should temper their expectations. After all, while they didn't have top-five scores like Williams, Justin Fields and Mitch Trubisky are always in the top 10. If either had succeeded, the Bears wouldn't be in a position to draft Williams this year.

JJ McCarthy

McCarthy's score is supported by two categories. He ranks second in the league behind Williams against top defenses, and his rating on third- and fourth-down situations is the highest ever in these rankings. It carried a lot of weight and helped offset the fact that his red zone performance ranked only sixth in the league. While not a bad score, the red zone numbers were only slightly above average. That's worth keeping an eye on because McCarthy has a strong arm, but red zone plays best reflect the type of windows these players will face on every snap at the NFL level.

Jayden Daniels

Daniels didn't finish higher than third in any category, but he's one of those players who can slip through the cracks in these ratings. The Heisman Trophy winner's legs are a big part of his game, but again have no influence here. And while Daniels was phenomenal in 2023, his entire career goes into this ranking, and the 2021 season was a bit of an anchor. The main concern is his scoring in the red zone. It ranked ninth in the class and was below the all-time average. He was good at hitting his receivers when there was a lot of field to work with, but as the field got smaller his arm wasn't nearly as effective.

Bo Nix

From an NFL perspective, the knock on Bo Nix will be his arm strength, which was reflected in his scoring. Nix's scores against top-50 defenses – and he had a large sample size thanks to his time in the SEC – ranked third behind Williams and McCarthy, but he ranked fifth in third/fourth downs and on the seventh place in the red zone. Nix threw a lot of short passes in the Oregon offense, allowing his receivers to do work after the catch. The performance suffered when he was forced to use his arm strength to keep the chains moving or place points on the board.

Drake Maye

Maye's score is not complicated. His performance in the red zone was terrible. He finished fifth in the league against top defenses and fourth on third and fourth downs. Both of his scores were well above the all-time average. But his red zone rating ranked 13th — well below average. Maye's accuracy suffered in the red zone and he didn't throw touchdowns at a high rate. His numbers dipped in 2023, but it's not like they were outstanding in 2022.

Michael Penix

It probably comes as a surprise given Penix's raw numbers and the explosiveness of Washington's offense in recent years, but when we looked under the hood, his numbers didn't stack up well against the competition. He ranked eighth against top defenses, sixth in third- and fourth-down situations and 11th in the red zone. Of those three, only his third/fourth down grades finished above all-time average (it was about an inch below average against top defenses). Like Maye, the red zone scoring dragged him down.

Fornelli's Actual QB Big Board

While the scores are a nice piece of data to use, they are ultimately just numbers. My name is on the rating, but my final QB board isn't based solely on these numbers. It's a combination of what we saw from these players in college, how well their games translate to the NFL and their ceiling if they reach their full potential. With all that in mind, here's how my final QB big board looks ahead to the 2024 NFL Draft.

  1. Caleb Williams
  2. Drake Maye
  3. JJ McCarthy
  4. Jayden Daniels
  5. Michael Penix
  6. Spencer Rattler
  7. Bo Nix
  8. Michael Pratt

If we were to line them up, Williams would be on a level unto himself. Then we'd have Maye, McCarthy and Daniels lined up before we got to Nix, Penix, Rattler and the rest.




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