By this time next year, NFL teams at the very top of the draft may be weighing the merits of Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, two potential franchise passers set to dominate the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2022.
A list of the nation’s top quarterbacks for this coming season begins with the second-year starters headlining two of the best teams in the country.
Among those coming in behind Young and Stroud are new Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and a trio of starters in the ACC: Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman, Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke and North Carolina State’s Devin Leary.
While there is a possible underdog lurking just off the list — maybe it’s Utah’s Cameron Rising or South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler — these quarterbacks represent the best the FBS has to offer.
1. Bryce Young, Alabama
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will look to gobble up another shelf full of postseason hardware. He’ll need to be better protected, however, and last year’s offensive line was atypically abysmal in pass protection — and that was with all-everything tackle Evan Neal manning the blind side. A banner 2021 season ended with a thud against Georgia, possibly giving Young the motivation he needs to take his game to an even more impressive level.
2. CJ Stroud, Ohio State
With Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave off to the NFL, with both possibly landing in the first round of the draft, Stroud won’t have the luxury of throwing to the country’s best receiver corps. He’ll have to settle for just one of the best, with a group headlined by superstar Jaxson Smith-Njigba and holdovers Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr., Jayden Ballard and Julian Fleming. His numbers shouldn’t drop after a hugely productive redshirt freshman season.
3. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
A fifth-year junior with the remaining eligibility to make a run at the FBS career yardage record, Hartman is the centerpiece of an offense that will again rank among the nation’s best. With the Demon Deacons expected to remain in the Top 25 and contend for the New Year’s Six, look for Hartman to build on his terrific 2021 season — he went for 4,228 yards and 39 scores — and be a real factor in the race for national accolades .
4. Tyler Van Dyke, Miami (Fla.)
Only a sophomore, Van Dyke has brought swagger back to a program that has failed to develop this sort of big-time pass in decades. After tossing three interceptions in a painful loss to North Carolina on Oct. 16, Van Dyke threw for at least 316 yards and three scores in each of his final six games and finished second nationally among FBS freshmen with 25 touchdowns overall.
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5. Caleb Williams, Southern California
His familiarity with coach Lincoln Riley’s system should help Williams make a seamless transition into the Pac-12. While the talent is off the charts, keep in mind that he’s only a sophomore with fairly limited starting experience — Williams barely played at all until last October and had a dreadful November before rebounding in Oklahoma’s bowl win against Oregon. When talent meets experience, however, there will be no better quarterback in the conference.
6. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
Bringing back McCall in 2022 will make Coastal one of the Group of Five teams to beat in the race for the automatic bid into the New Year’s Six bowl slate. Keeping him healthy is a priority: McCall missed two games last season, including one of the Chanticleers’ two losses, but was productive on a record-setting scale when in the lineup — he averaged at least 10.5 yards per throw in all but one start and finished with the best single-season efficiency rating (207.7) in FBS history.
7. Devin Leary, North Carolina State
Leary is the face of a team soaring up preseason Top 25 lists as the biggest threat to Clemson in the ACC. He was overshadowed last season by Hartman and former Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and only earned honorable mention all-conference honors after throwing 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Surrounded by an even better team and with another year of experience, Leary sits on the periphery of the Heisman race.
8. Jake Haener, Fresno State
Haener will spend his final season at Fresno State after briefly popping into the transfer portal in December. Rather than follow Kalen DeBoer to Washington, the senior will reconnect with former and current Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford, who initially recruited Haener into the program. Given Tedford’s track record with the position, Haener has the potential to land in the first round of next year’s draft.
9. Hendon Hooker, TN
The biggest success story in last year’s SEC, Hooker finished with 31 touchdowns against just three interceptions after opening the season as the backup. The former Virginia Tech transfer also averaged 9.7 yards per throw, second-best in the conference, and finished third nationally in efficiency rating.
10. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma
After playing in just three games last season due to a broken collarbone, Gabriel reunites with former Central Florida coordinator Jeff Lebby as the Sooners’ replacement for Williams. Gabriel has thrown for 70 touchdowns against only 14 interceptions in 26 career games, with multiple scores in all but four appearances. He’s been even better against Power Five competition, with 13 touchdowns and an average of 9.1 yards per attempt in four such games in his three years with the Knights.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg