The work never seems to end in the NFL player evaluation world, which means front offices have already turned their attention toward the upcoming college football season in advance of the 2024 NFL Draft. With that in mind, let's kick off our CBS Sports summer prospect series on the top prospects at key positions in the next draft class with the most valuable one: the quarterbacks. 

Just like a year ago with Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud -- the first two picks of the 2023 NFL Draft who were selected by the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, respectively -- two passers have established a tier of their own early in the 2024 evaluation process: 2022 Heisman Trophy winner and USC quarterback Caleb Williams and North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, the 2022 ACC Offensive Player of the Year. 

"I don't know yet, I know there's two up above [USC's Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye], and then it drops off," former longtime Minnesota Vikings general manager and current CBS Sports HQ NFL analyst Rick Spielman said July 6 on an episode of the "With the First Pick" podcast. 

However, as seen in recent years, quarterbacks can come out of nowhere and vault up the draft boards with electrifying performances. Take what Florida's Anthony Richardson did this past draft cycle (selected fourth overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2023 NFL Draft). There's also been BYU's Zach Wilson (selected second overall by the New York Jets in the 2021 NFL Draft) and LSU's Joe Burrow (selected first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2020 NFL Draft).

This summer series will examine where things stand entering the upcoming 2023 college season, but the order could look a little different come next April, with the exception of Williams being a surefire lock to be the next top overall pick. Here's an in-depth look at the current top five passers with some pro comparisons from Spielman and CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson, plus some names who could rise through the ranks in the season to come. The quarterbacks are ranked by their readiness for the NFL entering the 2023 college football season.

Honorable Mentions: Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), Devin Leary (Kentucky), Spencer Rattler (South Carolina), J.J. McCarthy (Michigan), Tyler Van Dyke (Miami), Joe Milton (Tennessee)

5. Riley Leonard (Duke)

Duke QB Riley Leonard Getty Images
  • Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 209 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: First player in Duke history with 20+ passing touchdowns and 10+ rushing touchdowns in a single season

FBS quarterbacks with 20+ pass TD & 10+ rush TD (2022 season)

Pass TDRush TD

Caleb Williams (USC)



Bo Nix (Oregon)



Stetson Bennett (Georgia)



Michael Pratt (Tulane)



Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA)



Riley Leonard (Duke)



Ryan Wilson's comp: Matt Ryan

"Riley Leonard is an interesting guy because we don't talk much abut Duke football since Daniel Jones left. His athleticism pops out on tape, and he's probably more athletic than Drake Maye, not as athletic as Caleb Williams. He doesn't get through his reads like Drake Maye, he seems to lock onto guys, trying to force the ball into situations where he would be better off checking down or moving to his next progression. He does do things with the football that get your attention. 

"The other thing is when you're playing at Duke, you're not throwing to Ja'Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson. You're throwing to guys who are going to be lawyers and finance guys in a few years, that's something you have to take into consideration. He throws these guys open. He throws with anticipation. He throws the ball well down the field. He layers the football really well into the second level, meaning he gets it over the first wall of defenders and in front of the cornerbacks. You see that all over the place. That's what you get excited about. 

"His footwork is a mess. Sometimes he can be late getting the ball out, he could use more anticipation. Sometimes he waits too long instead of throwing the ball to where the receiver will be. Sometimes he'll fall into the habit of predetermining his throws because of his pre-snap read. He kept throwing this quick outs in a few games, which left defensive backs sitting on it. 

"He has a really good arm. He has a hose. I was surprised at how much fun it was to watch him. He has some things he has to work on. If the draft were today, I'm not sure he would go first round because he has some things to work on, but I'm excited about him. I'm projecting him to have a good season."

  • Games to circle: vs. Clemson (Sept. 4), at North Carolina (Nov. 11)
  • Draft range: First or second round

Final thoughts

The athletic tools are there with Leonard. His deep-passing accuracy and touch are his best skills set. The big knock on him is not having a strong grip on the ability to lead his receivers with anticipation. Leonard doesn't have the rocket launcher arm of a Bo Nix, Drake Maye or Caleb Williams, so becoming better in that area is of the upmost importance for his development. However, 2022 was Leonard's first season as Duke's starting quarterback, and he possesses the size NFL teams look for in the pocket. His arm is enough to be effective, so now it's on Leonard to display more polish in 2023. 

3B. Bo Nix (Oregon)

Oregon QB Bo Nix Getty Images
  • Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 225 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Set Oregon's single-season completion percentage record in 2022 (71.9%)

Bo Nix's 2022 season (FBS ranks)


Completion Percentage



Passer Rating



Rush TD



Total TD



Rick Spielman's comp: A better-passing Max Duggan

"I don't think he's a first-round pick. I think he's a Day 2 guy right now. I think you got a better version of Bo Nix [last season at Oregon] than what you got at Auburn. If you watch his Georgia or Stanford film, you're going to hate him. Although at Stanford, he did have the 80-yard touchdown run which shows his athleticism and speed. 

"He played his best game, in my opinion, against UCLA [ a 45-30 Oregon win]. That's the game that really caught my attention. You see all the athletic traits, the arm talent, he can make all the throws. He plays off-schedule. Everything you want in a quarterback you saw against UCLA. 

"There was a two-play sequence that summed up Bo Nix versus Utah in the fourth quarter. One play, he rolls to the right and makes a great throw downfield on second-and-10 with a lead in the fourth quarter. The next play, he makes the worst decision I've ever seen: he throws an out across the field, and he gets picked off. There was a great throw and then he throws a dumb interception. Teams are going to have to figure out not so much his physical talent, but his decision-making with some of the decisions he makes leaving me scratching my head sometimes. My comp is a much-better passer but similar athlete to Max Duggan at TCU. I went with the athleticism, but Nix is a more accurate passer than Max Duggan."

Ryan Wilson's comp: Baker Mayfield

"I think he has a chance to improve upon what he did last season and move from a top-100 pick to a top-75 or top-50 draft pick. He's a good athlete, and he throws with anticipation and accuracy down the field. Those are things that translate [to the NFL]. He's gotten better for sure. His athleticism shows up inside the pocket and out in space. He'll show toughness by putting his head down and moving the pile on short-yardage situations. His teammates seem to like him. Baker Mayfield isn't the athlete Bo Nix is but similar size. They do some of the things behind the pocket similarly. Baker did go first overall, Nix certainly will not. I see the Max Duggan comp, but I'm going Baker for his size."

  • Games to circle: at Washington (Oct. 14), vs. USC (Nov. 11)
  • Draft range: Late first to third round

Final thoughts

Nix might have the most to gain of any quarterback on this list by coming back to school for the 2023 season instead of making the leap to the NFL. His ability to move with the football in his hands, both as a runner and as a passer, are strong. 

However, he didn't quite have the same ability to lift his team to victory late in the fourth quarters of games down the stretch of the 2022 season like Spielman's comparison for Nix, Max Duggan. Oregon didn't score a touchdown in the fourth quarter of any of its last three regular-season games: a 37-34 home loss against then-No. 25 Washington (a loss that knocked them out of College Football Playoff contention), a 20-17 win against then-No. 10 Utah, and a 38-34 loss at then-No. 21 Oregon State (a loss that cost them a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game). 

Besides the decision-making questions, Nix just doesn't have the same it-factor as the quarterbacks ahead of him on this list. Perhaps he changes that notion in 2023, but the athletic skills without the decision-making and moxie make him an incomplete quarterback prospect at the moment.

3A. Quinn Ewers (Texas)

Texas QB Quinn Ewers Getty Images
  • Height: 6-2 | Weight: 204 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 honorable mention Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year

Rick Spielman's comp: Kenny Pickett

"Quinn has very good size, and I think he's a good enough athlete. He's not near the Caleb Williams', the Bo Nix's, or the Drake Maye's of the world athletically, but he's good enough. He's not going to beat you with his feet, but he can move in the pocket. He has good enough arm talent, but I don't think he has an exceptionally strong arm. He has a good enough arm, something you can see against Alabama and Oklahoma. He was very poor versus TCU. He sees the field. He makes quick decisions and gets through his progressions. I think he needs to improve his throwing mechanics, which will improve his accuracy. He does have some accuracy and deep-ball accuracy issues down the field. He doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but when he's in rhythm with his timing, he's pretty good. He'll force throws into coverage.

"He missed time with a clavicle injury in the Alabama game. Before the injury against Alabama in the first quarter, he was lights out: 9-for-12, 134 yards in the first quarter. He needs to build off the flashes he showed last season, but he's still too inconsistent to consider in the first round. He has to have a very good year to get into the first-round conversation. I did not see him as a first-round talent [off of last year's play]. He reminded of watching Kenny Pickett his junior year. I think Ewers did enough, but he reminded me of just good enough athlete, just good enough arm, and then Kenny Pickett lit it up his senior year and ended up being the only first-round pick in his class. I think Ewers reminded a bit of Pickett. Hopefully, he can make a leap this year like Pickett did."

  • Games to circle: at Alabama (Sept. 9), at TCU (Nov. 11)
  • Draft range: Late first to early second round  

Final thoughts

Ewers displayed great touch and accuracy at times last year, but while dealing with playing through a clavicle injury, those flashes weren't frequent enough. Alabama (9-for-12, 134 yards) and Oklahoma (21-for-31, 289 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, one interception) showcased his ability to get hot and dominate an opposing secondary with great timing and anticipation on his throws. However, poor showings against TCU (17-for-39, 171 passing yards, and one interception) and at Oklahoma State (19-for-49, 319 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and three interceptions) highlighted his penchant to force throws by lobbing them a little too high when evading pressure in the pocket. If Ewers can find high-level consistency, something that could come with a better health situation in 2023, his stock could rise dramatically. 

2. Drake Maye (North Carolina)

UNC QB Drake Maye Getty Images
  • Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 225 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: Won four ACC individual awards in 2022 (Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year. Second player in ACC history to accomplish the feat, joining 2013 Heisman Trophy Winner and national championship-winning FSU QB Jameis Winston); led FBS in total yards (5,019)

Drake Maye's 2022 season (FBS ranks)

FBS Rank

Pass Yards



Pass TD



Total Yards



Total TD



*North Carolina single-season record

Rick Spielman's comps: Poor man's Trevor Lawrence, Daniel Jones

"I love his size, and I love his athleticism for his size. He's not Caleb Williams level of athletic, but he's more than athletic enough. He can buy a second chance in the pocket. He has excellent vision downfield and can see over the offensive linemen. He has top arm talent, can make all the throws at the next level. He can squeeze the football through tight windows. He played very, very well in the bowl game against Oregon [18-for-35, 206 passing yards, three passing touchdowns; 45 rushing yards on 12 carries]. That was one of his better games. I saw him play live in Miami where he did throw his interceptions, but you can see the command of the game. He was different than everyone else on the field. Both of those interceptions were where he forced the throws down the field. I also saw deep-ball accuracy. He makes game-changing plays and impact throws.

"I think this guy is number two [QB prospect] and the only one close to number one. I don't think he's better than Caleb [Williams] yet, but it will be interesting to see how the race develops from today through draft day. I think he's a franchise quarterback as well. He's a not-quite-as-good Trevor Lawrence. I also see some Daniel Jones in him. Maye's movement skills, length and arm talent remind me of Lawrence."

Ryan Wilson's comp: Daniel Jones

"One thing that concerns me about Drake is his footwork -- it's all over the place -- but I don't know if that's a function of his offense. One things coaches mention about the UNC system is it's pretty simplified, so it can be hard to get a read on how that's going to translate. That's not Drake Maye's fault, but it's something to keep an eye on. I think he gets through his reads better than anyone else in this class. It's hard not to like what he's done and what he has the possibility of doing."

  • Games to circle: vs. Duke (Nov. 11), at Clemson (Nov. 18)
  • Draft range: Top 5-10 

Final thoughts

Maye is special. He became just the seventh college football quarterback in the 21st Century to throw for more than 4,000 passing yards (4,321) and run for more than 650 rushing yards (698). Three of the previous six won the Heisman Trophy in their seasons to do so: Oklahoma's Kyler Murray in 2018, Oregon's Marcus Mariota in 2014, and Baylor's Robert Griffin III in 2011. Clemson's Deshaun Watson in 2015 and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in 2013 also make up the elite club Maye put himself in with his 2022 on-field production. Maye will have to tighten up his decision-making when it comes to forcing throws to even come close to threatening Caleb Williams for the 2024 NFL Draft's QB1 spot, but he too has the clear potential to be a franchise-changing NFL quarterback. 

1. Caleb Williams (USC)

USC QB Caleb Williams Getty Images
  • Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 220 pounds
  • Accolades/notable statistics: 2022 Heisman Trophy winner; 2022 Walter Camp Player of the Year; 2022 Maxwell Award winner; consensus All-American; led FBS in total TD (52) and pass TD (42) in 2022

Caleb Williams' 2022 season (FBS ranks)

FBS Rank

Pass Yards



Pass TD



Total Yards



Total TD



Passer Rating168.5*5th

*USC all-time single-season record

Rick Spielman's comp: Patrick Mahomes/Bryce Young

"His size, his athleticism, and he's a dynamic playmaker. Defenses are going to have to account for his ability to make plays with his legs. Very strong arm, you see him roll to the left and right, off-schedule throws while throwing 60 yards down the field. He can make all the NFL's throws plus more. Excellent off-schedule thrower.

"The two areas he needs to improve are cutting down the turnovers; he does get careless with the ball and throw it up for grabs like in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Like Bryce Young in his junior year, Williams has a tendency to kind of hold the ball and let things happen instead of quickly getting through his progressions and reads. He's a little bit of a Rodeo Joe at times. There's also some footwork and technique he can work on while in the pocket. He's so great torquing his body to the left or right off-balance, but he needs to just work on some in-the-pocket mechanics.

"There's no question about his release, the quickness, the arm strength, it's everything you need. He's going to be the next No. 1 pick at this point, but he does have some things he needs to work on. He's ahead of where Patrick Mahomes was at this stage of the draft process. I also compared him to a Bryce Young-like playmaker down the field. He's the No. 1 pick right now."

Ryan Wilson's comp: Patrick Mahomes

"His footwork is a little messy, but he's such a great athlete. I don't know if this is a Lincoln Riley thing. I don't remember Kyler Murray's or Jalen Hurts' footwork off the top of my head, but he is incredibly athletic. He held the ball a little too long because his receivers struggled to get open, but he always tried to make the big play. He doesn't need to force the ball as much. Sometimes he comes off his first read when it's open because he's looking for the big play, and sometimes that ends up in plays ending in sacks of five-yard gains that could have been seven-or-eight-yard gains.

"The athleticism is insane in the open field. Some subtle movements in the pocket could be tweaked, and he could hit his first read more often, but everything else to me says Patrick Mahomes. Caleb Williams' deep ball touch feels like Russell Wilson in his prime where it just falls out of the sky and hits the wide receiver in their hands. It has enough air under it. He's so good at doing that, especially on off-platform throws. He doesn't cower from pressure; he'll take a hit if it means completing a pass. A lot would have to happen for him not to be the QB1. He's special. He's going first overall."

  • Games to circle: vs. Utah (Oct. 21), at Oregon (Nov. 11)
  • Draft range: First overall

Final thoughts

It's essentially impossible to tank in the NFL because of how few games there are relative to other sports. Plus, if a player dials their effort level below all-out, an injury is likely to occur. That being said, Williams is a tankworthy quarterback prospect. The comparison to reigning NFL and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes gets thrown around a little too lightly in casual conversation these days, but Williams is a passing prospect who warrants such praise. There are always things that can be nitpicked about quarterback prospects, but Williams has all the tools and traits desired in a modern-day NFL quarterback. His potential ceiling is dominant franchise cornerstone.