Over the past five NFL drafts, there have been a total of 59 QBs selected. Of those 59 QBS selected, 16 of them were from non-power 5 schools. There were also 16 QBs selected in the first round during that time span, of the 16 first rounder’s taken, four of them were from Non-P 5 schools. Out of the past five draft classes, only the 2017 draft class did not have a QB from a non-power 5 school taken. Going into the 2018 NFL season, 10 of the projected 32 starters came from non-power 5 schools. I included Alex Smith and Andy Dalton on this list since Utah and TCU were in smaller conferences at the time they played in college.
Each year the Group of 5 produces solid quarterbacks and this year is no different. As seen by the four first rounder’s taken in the past five years, solid quarterback play can come from any level. If a guy can sling it, he can sling it, regardless of what level or division he competes at in college. So, before week one gets going, let’s take a look at my top 5 Group of 5 QBs heading into the 2018 season. We will rank these guys based off their play at the college level, not necessarily how they project at the NFL .
- McKenzie Milton, UCF – With such a big year last year, not only statistically, but how he led his team to an undefeated record, it was hard not to put Milton at the top of the list. In 2016, Milton started 10 games as a true freshman and helped lead UCF to a bowl game after having a winless season the year before. UCF’s 2017 undefeated season has been well documented and was largely due to Milton’s play at QB. Most people around the program probably projected Milton to have improved play from his freshman to sophomore season, but it is hard to imagine anyone predicted this. Yes, Scott Frost played a huge role in UCF’s success and the rest of the team was stacked, but anytime a QB throws for over 4,000 yards, has a completion percentage over 67 and has a TD to INT ratio of better than 4:1, that is usually going to lead to success for the team. The program is leading a Heisman campaign for Milton going into the 2018 season. While, I think it will be hard for his team to replicate what they did last year, I am looking for Milton to have another big year and stay at the top of this list.
- Justice Hansen, Arkansas State – Hansen is a big QB, with a big arm, who can also move around and make plays with his legs. In 2016, he took over the starting job for the Red Wolves and had a good season with over 2,700 yards passing and 19 passing tds. However, he broke out last season with right under 3,700 yards passing, 37 passing tds, and added 7tds on the ground. He was the SBC Offensive Player of The Year. He did throw 16ints last year and needs to lower that this year, however his team relies on him so much to win games that he is forced to take chances to win. He still seems somewhat unknown to the college football world, but if his 2018 season is similar to last years, that should change.
- Brett Rypien, Boise State – Boise State heads into the 2018 season with hopes of being this years’ UCF and that is largely due to their QB, Rypien. Similar to most QBs on this list, Rypien started under center as a freshman in 2015. Going into the 2018 season, he is already the 2nd all-time leading passer in school history with right under 10,000 yards. Side note; it may be impossible for anyone to ever break Kellen Moore’s record of 14,667 career passing yards. Last year Rypien’s numbers were down a bit due to some struggles early on in the season and because he split some series with former Kansas QB Montell Cozart. Rypien did finish the year strong and still led Boise to 11 wins. We look for Rypien to pick up where he left off at the end of 2017 and have a year like his 2016 season when he threw for close to 3,700 yards with 24 passing tds.
- Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee – Stockstill has been starting since his Redshirt Freshman year in 2015. Going into this 2018 season, his senior year, he is already the schools’ all-time career leader in passing yards with right under 9,000 yards. Last year his season ended early as he was injured and only played in 7 games. If he stays healthy for all of the 2018 season, look for him to come close to 4,000 yards passing and surpass 30 passing tds.
- Mason Fine, North Texas – North Texas fans will want to argue that their QB should be higher on this list, which is fair, but there could be several arguments made about who should be ranked where and each argument has some validity to it. Fine started as a true freshman in the 2016 season. He was having a good season for a freshman, but ended up missing four games due to injury. He blew up in 2017 and surprised the rest of the conference by throwing for over 4,000 yards, 31 passing tds, and was named CUSA Offensive Player of The Year as a sophomore. He did toss 15ints, but similar to Hansen, his team relies on him so much to win that he is forced to take some chances. With UNT’s top 3 receivers coming back, we look for Fine to have just as good of a year if not better in 2018 if he stays healthy.
There are a few other guys that could be argued onto this list. Ben Hicks from SMU deserves to be on this list and he got snubbed by not being put on, but it was tough to take any of those five off. The list should not be the main takeaway, the fact is that the Group of 5 conferences produce gunslingers each year, with several of these guys on the list projecting well at the next level.
**(Others that were in consideration were: Tyree Jackson – Buffalo, Ben Hicks – SMU, Nathan Rourke – Ohio, D’Eriq King – UH)**