Back in June, Robby Kalland and I rated the top 20 running backs in college football as if there was still an 'NCAA Football 17' video game. We had such a good time with it -- and enough readers got #madonline about it -- that we thought we'd do the same thing for quarterbacks.

It's been three years since EA Sports last released the 'NCAA Football' game. Though a day may come when college athletes are properly compensated for the use of their likenesses, imagining what the game would look like is the best we can do for now.

Methodology: This year's quarterback group has clear star power at the top, but isn't as deep overall as the running back group we rated earlier this summer. Obviously, there are more than 15 good quarterbacks in college football, but you have to draw the line somewhere. For this, we excluded first-year players and those still entrenched in position battles. Apologies to Texas' Shane Buechele, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer and anyone else who didn't make the cut.

As you'll see, our rating process differed greatly from what the video game used to do. Basically, our method is much simpler. 'NCAA Football' had an extensive algorithm that valued skills like "power moves" and "tackling." Building a similar model would have been too time consuming and ultimately a fruitless mission. Besides, does anyone really care how well Deshaun Watson tackles or blocks?

Our formula was broken down into six categories: arm strength, accuracy, speed, escapability/pocket mobility, vision and awareness/decision-making. The scores were then averaged for an overall rating. You'll notice quickly that quarterbacks with greater speed and/or mobility (i.e. dual-threats) typically rated higher. This was a similar trend to our running back ratings in which faster players usually received higher marks.

In 'NCAA Football,' speed kills.

With the help of, I watched upwards of three game films on the quarterbacks listed below. In the event a quarterback lacked film, other highlights were used as a supplement. Here's how our top 15 quarterbacks rated if 'NCAA Football' still existed.


Deshaun Watson, Clemson, Overall Rating: 95 -- Alabama coach Nick Saban recently praised Watson as the "most significantly dominant player we played against since Cam Newton." There's a good reason. Actually, there are a few.

Watson is arguably the most NFL-ready quarterback entering the 2016 season. He has a strong arm, excellent straight-line speed combined with make-y0u-miss agility, and he developed nice medium-to-long-range touch on his passes last season. From his head to his legs, Watson is the most complete quarterback in college football. As far as we're concerned, he's the most important player in the college game, too.


Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech, Overall Rating: 93 -- Two quarterbacks in and we already have our first surprise. Oklahoma fans aren't going to happy that Mahomes is rated higher than Baker Mayfield, even if it's by a single point.

However, the Texas Tech signal-caller is made for the 'NCAA Football' franchise, a la Bo Jackson and Tecmo Bowl. Mahomes is a freak of nature who has straight-line burners, a nasty spin move in and around the pocket, and one of the most powerful arms in college football. That's why physically he rates out as high as he does. He's productive, too. Last season, Mahomes led the FBS with 393 total yards per game. Mayfield gets the preseason accolades, but Mahomes is, pound-for-pound, more physically dominating.


Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, Overall Rating: 92 -- From a current Red Raider to a former one, we switch from Mahomes to Mayfield. Playing as Mayfield in 'NCAA Football' would conjure up memories of playing as Johnny Manziel -- or Michael Vick in Madden, if you go further back. Hit the juke stick or tap the B button as Mayfield and you'll clown your opponent every time.

Mayfield can sling it deep or beat defenders on a scramble. He's improved his decision-making from his days in Lubbock, Texas, but he still loves to play as if the turbo button is pressed down at all times. That can lead to an unnecessary sack or an overthrown ball here and there. Such is life when you're playing with a classic gunslinger.


J.T. Barrett, Ohio State, Overall Rating: 91 -- Barrett is one of those players who does everything well. He doesn't have the single strongest arm, nor is he the fastest player in this group, but there aren't many weaknesses to his game. His consistency across our six categories helped him to be one of five players to achieve a 90+ rating.

Barrett is also a perfect fit for Ohio State's offense -- now that it has an identity. He can beat defenders on the zone read, which is always a fun option in the 'NCAA Football' game if you have the right player, but let's not forget he amassed a school-record 3,772 total yards as a redshirt freshman in 2014. Healthy and assured the starting job, it's Barrett's time to shine again.


Chad Kelly, Ole Miss, Overall Rating: 90 -- Kelly probably the strongest arm of anyone in our rankings. If you're all about that four-verts life, Kelly is your boy. The senior also has speed to burn -- perhaps more than you'd expect -- so his overall tangibles give him an extra boost in the ratings. There aren't many quarterbacks in the SEC who are household names yet, but Kelly should be at the tip of everyone's tongue this college football season.


C.J. Beathard, Iowa, Overall Rating: 89 -- Beathard was by far the biggest winner in our ratings, and the biggest surprise next to Mahomes. However, there's every reason to believe he's one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten entering the 2016 season. Beathard, in fact, has the highest passer rating of any returning quarterback in the conference.

Beathard can fly under the radar a bit -- not unlike Iowa itself -- but he's shown off a nice arm (see the video below) and he has more mobility than one would think. While Iowa's offense doesn't feature the most potent passing attack, Beathard is consistent and scored well in our categories.


Josh Rosen, UCLA, Overall Rating: 89 -- The "Rosen One" lived up to lofty expectations his freshman season, throwing for nearly 3,700 yards and 23 touchdowns. He's a physical spectacle along the likes of Mahomes and Kelly thanks to a huge arm -- one of the biggest in our top 15 -- and decent wheels for a guy listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

The thing keeping Rosen from cracking the top five is his decision-making and consistency, but that's to be expected from someone who just finished his first year of college ball. Sometimes Rosen would look like the next No. 1 overall pick; sometimes he'd look like a freshman. On occasion, that'd happen in back-to-back plays. But there's no denying his pure skill, and in a year or two, Rosen could be at the top of our hypothetical ratings.


Seth Russell, Baylor, Overall Rating: 88 -- Russell missed half of last season due to a neck injury, but he's back to 100 percent and ready to put up video game-like numbers again. Though I'm an unabashed fan of Lynx Hawthorne and the single-wing offense, I'm level-headed enough to know Russell is what makes Baylor's offense go.

Russell is one of our fastest quarterbacks, making him a lethal choice if you want to run anything from the zone-read to the option. He's used to making throws on his first reads because Baylor's receivers are usually wide open, but he also displayed some nice ball placement on deeper throws. If you're looking for a fun quarterback to run the offense, you can do a lot worse than Russell.


Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee, Overall Rating: 87 -- Dobbs is the most exciting quarterback in the SEC because of his ability to evade tackles and hurt defenses with his feet. If the Vols' offense is sputtering, which it was known to do during inopportune times last season, a dual-threat like Dobbs is the perfect remedy.

He was hampered a bit on awareness due to some ball security problems and the Vols' passing attack was shaky at times last year. However, plenty of gamers would take the risk-reward factor with Dobbs, who is one of the better individual playmakers in this group.


Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, Overall Rating: 87 -- Next to Mahomes, Rudolph has arguably the best arm among Big 12 quarterbacks. If 'NCAA Football' was still alive, you can bet a Rudolph-to-James Washington tandem would set all kinds of passing records.

Rudolph can scoot, too. He's not as mobile as former Cowboys quarterback J.W. Walsh, but at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Rudolph has better movement than you'd think -- just enough to pick up a first down if needed, for example. His development from Year 2 to Year 3 could launch him into the highest echelon of the quarterback conversation.


Greg Ward Jr., Houston, Overall Rating: 87 -- Good luck trying to tackle Ward. It's no fun and you're probably going to look ridiculous in the process. Ward is small for his position, but his arm is more than sufficient and his spin move causes hearts to skip a beat. Seriously, how did Ward escape this?

If you want to infuriate your opponent, just play as Ward, reverse field a couple of times and buy time for a good, oh, I don't know, 10 seconds. You'll have a lot of fun doing it.


Luke Falk, Washington State, Overall Rating: 86 -- If your goal in 'NCAA Football' is to throw for 5,000 yards in a season, there are few better quarterbacks to play as than Falk. In real football, Falk is one of the best passers in the game, but not many people outside the West Coast area fully know what he's capable of producing. Falk has a big arm and excellent ball placement, and while he's not going to take off and run, he has a good feel for stepping up in the pocket and creating space for himself. In that sense, he actually has some "mobility" for a true pocket passer.


Lamar Jackson, Louisville, Overall Rating: 85 -- Jackson ranks near the bottom of our group, but his ceiling is sky high. Right now, Jackson is a more prolific runner than passer. He rated as our fastest player and there aren't many defenders who are going to catch him when he hits the second level. He's still learning how to read defenses, but he has the arm strength to push the ball down the field and there aren't many better quarterback coaches than Bobby Petrino. If he rounds out his game, Jackson will be unstoppable.


Brad Kaaya, Miami (FL), Overall Rating: 83 -- Don't fret about the score too much, 'Canes fans. This is a good example in which a player is probably better in actual football than in a video game.

What hurt Kaaya more than anything were the speed and escapability categories. That's just not his game, but I like Kaaya's arm and ability to go through his reads. With a new, quarterback-friendly head coach (Mark Richt) along with a reliable receiver (Stacy Coley), Kaaya can put up big passing numbers in 2016. He'd be a fine option for anyone who values a potent passing attack from the pocket in their offense.


Mitch Leidner, Minnesota, Overall Rating: 82 -- A big player with an equally big arm, Leidner can hurt defenses with either a bruising running attack or down the field. Minnesota's offense wasn't known for explosive plays in 2015, but when Leidner is paired with the right playmakers around him (see: former Gophers tight end Maxx Williams in 2014) he has the potential to be a do-it-all quarterback.