USC's Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye are asserting themselves as the top two quarterbacks eligible for the 2024 NFL Draft. It gets interesting when trying to handicap the race to be the third quarterback drafted. Throughout the season, CBSSports.com will be breaking down how the top quarterback prospects have fared:
1. Caleb Williams, USC
Stat line: Bye
Williams and the Trojans were on a bye this week and they return next week against Arizona State. The Washington D.C. area native has shown his ability to make impromptu plays while throwing with touch and accuracy. He is difficult to rattle and it is easy seeing his game translate to the next level.
2. Drake Maye, North Carolina
Stat line: 29-of-40 passes completed for 414 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in a 13-31 win over Minnesota
Maye looked to be in control most of the day against Minnesota. He was calm in the pocket distributing the football to all three levels. His air yards per target jumped up to 11.3, according to TruMedia, which represented a substantial increase. Maye was largely accurate on downfield attempts but ball placement could have been better on a few of them.
He did have one bad interception where he either did not see the linebacker sitting underneath or simply underthrew his intended target. Overall, his play this season has been encouraging.
3. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
Stat line: 8-of-13 passes completed for 143 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in a 6-31 win against Bowling Green
McCarthy had been surgical through the first two games, completing 87.3% of his passes. He never tried to do too much and was delivering the ball with great touch and accuracy. Saturday against Bowling Green was a departure from what had been seen to this point. He attempted just 13 passes and three of those were intercepted. On the first interception, McCarthy did not see the linebacker underneath his intended target streaking across the back of the end zone. On the second interception, it was a really bad throw. It may have had a chance if he had led his receiver but it was underthrown. He honestly should have had a fourth interception on the touchdown pass to Cornelius Johnson but the defender could not reel it in.
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To his credit, McCarthy displayed a short-term memory by continuing to sling it even after those interceptions. He needs to bounce back in a big way against Rutgers.
4. Shedeur Sanders, Colorado
Stat line: 38-of-47 passes completed for 348 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception in a 35-43 overtime win over Colorado State
Colorado State had its rival sweating for a while but the Sanders-led Buffaloes were able to overcome. The Rams blitzed on just 7.1% of his dropbacks, according to TruMedia, opting to drop more defenders into coverage. Sanders was picking apart their defense 6.1 air yards at a time. He does a fantastic job of throwing with touch and placing the ball only where his pass catcher can get it.
Through three games, he has completed 78.7% of his passes, which is the fourth best in the nation. On his lone interception, his wide receiver had his hands on the ball but could not haul it in; the defender was able to wrangle it away as the player was balling backwards.
The most impressive element to the quarterback's game has been his poise. He rarely looks panicked in the pocket and even when the team fell behind 11 points early in the fourth quarter, Sanders never faded. He rose to the challenge in overtime and kept Colorado undefeated.
5. Riley Leonard, Duke
Stat line: 15-of-20 passes completed for 219 yards in a 38-14 win against Northwestern
Leonard showed off his speed and acceleration against the Wildcats. He had 13 carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to his accomplishments through the air. As a passer, he showed a bit of creativity with pressure bearing down on him. He was able to wrap the throw around the lineman and the engaged defender for a 24-yard gain over the middle. It is odd that Leonard has just one passing touchdown in his three wins.
Others of note
Quinn Ewers, Texas: After leading the Longhorns to a convincing two-score win over No. 3 Alabama, Ewers struggled against Wyoming. He completed just 52.4% of his passes against the Cowboys. He had happy feet in the pocket too often and ball placement pales in comparison to the other top quarterback prospects. There are moments where he flashes his arm strength and it is easy to buy into the best version of Ewers as a prospect. In today's NFL, the quarterbacks having the most success are calm and consistent. The Texas native is still having to fight that inconsistent label. There are some throws where the decision-making is really questioned.
Spencer Rattler, South Carolina: Rattler and the Gamecocks jumped out to a 14-3 lead over No. 1 Georgia as the Oklahoma transfer completed his first 10 passes. He was operating with confidence as a second-year player in Shane Beamer's program. Ball placement is still a bit sporadic but Rattler is calm and he rarely tries to do too much. Ratter and the Gamecocks would run into a brick wall, however. After constructing the lead, the Bulldogs scored 21 unanswered points to win and Rattler completed just 37.5% of his next 32 pass attempts.