There has been a lot of high-quality quarterback play this season, but USC's Caleb Williams is the only one who has been immune to the fluctuations of performance.
As the season progresses, CBSSports.com will be tracking each of the top quarterback prospects eligible for the 2024 NFL Draft. Here are how the top five have graded out through four games:
1. Caleb Williams, USC: A
- Stat line: 75 of 101 passes completed (74.3%), 1,200 yards, 15 touchdowns, zero interceptions; 21 carries, 71 yards, three touchdowns
- CBSSports.com rank: No. 1 overall
There is always room for improvement and that thinking prevented Williams from getting the top possible grade. His flawless statistics match the play on the field. Williams looks like he is playing with a Nerf football in the sense that it requires neither time nor space for him to make a play. The Washington D.C. native does a great job of sensing pressure, escaping and keeping his eyes downfield. His level of preparation will be frustrating for NFL defenses because, even when appropriately schemed against, he can make a game-changing play, similar to Patrick Mahomes.
There is confidence projecting Williams as the top quarterback prospect because his case is not solely built on potential, arm strength, mobility, etc., but rather his ability to read defenses and a natural feel for the game, in addition to those other elements.
2. Drake Maye, North Carolina: A-
- Stat line: 96 of 132 passes completed (72.7%), 1,187 yards, five touchdowns, four interceptions; six carries, 62 yards
- CBSSports.com ranking: No. 5 overall
The statistics are a bit misleading in the case of Maye. Through four games, he has taken fewer risks with the football, but the fact of the matter is that Maye is capable of making throws that most quarterbacks are incapable of making. He delivered some strikes downfield when under pressure against Pittsburgh. Late in the first half, he sprinted to the left before throwing a left-handed touchdown pass while stiff-arming a defender.
Williams is the unquestioned top quarterback prospect in my opinion, but Maye has taken the second spot by the horns this season.
3. Sheduer Sanders, Colorado: B+
- Stat line: 130 of 169 passes completed (76.9%), 1,410 yards, 11 touchdowns, one interception; 35 carries, -93 yards, one touchdown
- CBSSports.com rank: No. 18 overall
The Oregon game was the first where Sanders' confidence in the pocket looked a bit shaken. He was holding the ball longer than usual and occasionally double-clutching. The Ducks were able to generate pressure on 35.7% of Colorado's dropbacks despite rushing just four on 69.0% of defensive snaps, according to TruMedia. Sanders was under duress staring down zone coverage in the secondary, but he still did a good job of not putting the football in harm's way. The Buffaloes were outmatched from a personnel standpoint, but Sanders showed a lot of poise and leadership in a convincing loss.
Overall, he has impressed mightily this season. The Jackson State transfer inspires confidence because of his poise in the pocket and there is no question he will bounce back next week against No. 8 USC.
4. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan: B+
- Stat line: 71 of 89 passes completed (79.8%), 915 yards, eight touchdowns, three interceptions; 14 carries, 86 yards
- CBSSports.com rank: No. 19 overall
McCarthy was sensational through the first two games of the season against East Carolina and UNLV. He was not trying to do too much and commonly carving up zone defenses. The Bowling Green State game was awful, however. He was making bad reads and throwing into coverage against a team that just lost to Ohio 38-7. The hope was that McCarthy carried his early season high level of play into the conference, but he did not even make it that far. He was solid in the Rutgers game so it is good that he has a short-term memory, but when looking back on this season, the Bowling Green State game needs to be an exception and not the standard.
The Wolverines travel to Nebraska next week to play a Huskers team against whom Sanders excelled.
5. Quinn Ewers, Texas: B
- Stat line: 72 of 112 passes completed (64.3%), 1,033 yards, nine touchdowns, zero interceptions; 18 carries, 34 yards, three touchdowns
- CBSSports.com rank: No. 35 overall
Ewers is a very talented player, but he is not a finished product. He needs to find another level of consistency. The one-time Ohio State transfer threw with touch and accuracy, but the very first throw of the game was problematic. He threw a swing pass to wide receiver Xavier Worthy, but not only was it behind Worthy, it was a backwards pass, which could have resulted in a turnover had it not been caught, especially since a block was missed on a cornerback charging upfield.
Ewers showed off his legs with a 29-yard rushing touchdown. He has been effective on play-action throws this season completing 71.9% of his attempts, including 13 of 13 for 201 yards Saturday against Baylor.