College football quarterbacks: Top 10 QBs who passed on 2023 NFL Draft, from Michael Penix to Michael Pratt

Quarterback C.J. Stroud gave Ohio State fans fleeting yet unrealistic hope that he may pass on the NFL Draft and return to Ohio State. On the final day before the deadline to declare for the draft, Stroud wisely decided his Buckeyes days were behind him and he would throw his next meaningful pass in the NFL.

There were other fan bases, however, that will see a quarterback who put off professional aspirations for a year to play another season of college football. None of these players projected as first-round picks, but they would have been evaluated and some possibly drafted.

The opportunity to put another year of play on video, in addition to the chance to earn significant money through Name, Image and Likeness resulted in a strong group of QBs who passed on the draft and will play on Saturdays next fall.

MORE: “Too-early” Top 25 | Seven questions for 2023

Here are the top 10 QBs who were draft eligible but decided not to declare.

1. Michael Penix Jr., Washington

2022 stats: 362-for-554, 65.3 percent, 4,641 yards, 31 TDs, 8 INTs, 92 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs, 5 sacks

Years as a starter: Three

Analysis: Penix would have been drafted this spring, but he decided on one more year at Washington after a stunning 2022 season that saw the Huskies go from 4-8 to 11-2 upon his arrival. Penix started in 2019 and 2020 at Indiana, but he lost his job to injury and ineffectiveness in 2021. He transferred to Washington, won the job and had a brilliant season under new coach Kalen DeBoer. With two 1,000-yard receivers returning in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, the Huskies may even eclipse their 370 yards passing per game from this season, which led the nation.

2. Bo Nix, Oregon

2022 stats: 294-for-409, 71.9 percent, 3,593 yards, 29 TDs, 7 INTs, 510 rushing yards, 14 rushing TDs, 5 sacks

Years as a starter: Four

Analysis: Nix had a solid but unspectacular three years as a starter at Auburn, compiling a 20-13 record with 39 TDs and 16 INTs, but he was re-born in Oregon with first-year coach Dan Lanning. Nix was in the Heisman conversation and had the Ducks in the Playoff conversation for much of the season. Nix led all QBs in rushing TDs with 14 (and he caught one) and was the driving force of Oregon’s sixth-ranked offense. Look for more of the same in his fifth year as a starter.

3. Jordan Travis, Florida State

2022 stats: 226-for-353, 64 percent, 3,214 yards, 24 TDs, 5 INTs, 417 rushing yards, 7 TDs, 15 sacks

Years as a starter: Three

Analysis: Travis had his best season as FSU won 10 games for the first time since 2016. He briefly shared starts with Tate Rodemaker in 2020 and McKenzie Milton in 2021, but this year he was in charge from start to finish and Florida State responded. He is a productive runner and efficient passer with career-highs in yards per attempt (9.1), touchdowns and passer rating (160.1) and was All-ACC second-team behind Drake Maye.

4. Jayden Daniels, LSU

2022 stats: 266-for-388, 68.6 percent, 2,913 yards, 17 TDs, 3 INTs, 885 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs, 43 sacks

Years as a starter: Four

Analysis: Daniels, like Pennix and Nix, took advantage of a change of scenery and revived his career. Daniels had an outstanding freshman season at Arizona State, but regressed the next two years before he transferred to LSU. His passing numbers under Brian Kelly were remarkably similar to his freshman year stats, but he nearly doubled his rushing output (good for second in the nation among QBs) and led LSU to the SEC West title. His fifth college season could be his best yet and set him up well for the 2024 NFL Draft.

5. Sam Hartman, Notre Dame

2022 stats: 270-for-428, 63.1 percent, 3,701 yards, 38 TDs, 12 INTs, 129 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 34 sacks

Years as a starter: Four

Analysis: Hartman set the ACC career touchdown passes record (108) and is No. 2 in career passing yards (12,967) during his five seasons at Wake Forest. He decided to transfer to Notre Dame, where he will open the 2023 season with the longest active streak of games with a touchdown pass at 30. Hartman will be 24 years old when the season starts and will play behind an experienced line and in front of a solid group of running backs. His new WR room is still a work in progress, and he has had some turnover and sack issues during his career, but Hartman could be in line for a big season for the Irish.

6. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

2022 stats: 207-for-297, 69.7 percent, 2,700 yards, 24 TDs, 2 INTs, 195 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 19 sacks

Years as a starter: Three

Analysis: McCall put his name in the transfer portal after coach Jamie Chadwell left for Liberty, but he decided to stay put and will return to play for Tim Beck. McCall was not surrounded by the same talent in 2022 as he was the previous two seasons, but he still finished third in the nation in passer rating with his stellar 24-2 TD-INT ratio. It is surprising that McCall did not land at a Power 5 school with two years of eligibility remaining, but he should again be one of the Group of 5’s most effective QBs and will have the Chanticleers in the hunt for the Sun Belt title.

7. Cam Rising, Utah

2022 stats: 249-for-385, 64.7 percent, 3,034 yards, 26 TDs, 8 INTs, 465 yards rushing, 6 rushing TDs, 9 sacks

Years as a starter: Two

Analysis: Rising has led Utah to back-to-back Pac-12 titles and Rose Bowl appearances. He takes care of the ball, has a good arm and can run when necessary. He’s been durable despite getting knocked out of both Rose Bowl games. In Utah’s biggest games the past two years (vs. USC, Oregon and the Rose Bowls), Rising had 12 TD passes, six rushing TDs and six INTs as the Utes went 5-3 in those games. Another strong season will have Rising in the mix to be a mid- to late-round pick in the 2024 draft.

8. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma

2022 stats: 230-for-367, 62.7 percent, 3,168 yards, 25 TDs, 6 INTs, 315 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 25 sacks

Years as a starter: Three

Analysis: Gabriel put up some good numbers in his first year with the Sooners, but he lost six of his final nine starts and sat out the 49-0 loss to Texas with an injury. He was certainly one of the positives in Brent Venables’ first season, finishing second in the Big 12 in passer rating, TDs and yards. Gabriel’s second season in Norman with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby should be another productive one, provided Lebby doesn’t head to Alabama.

9. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

2022 stats: 264-for-399, 66.2 percent, 3,026 yards, 18 TDs, 12 INTs, 46 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 31 sacks

Years as a starter: One

Analysis: It took Rattler some time to find his legs at his new home, but by the end of his first season in South Carolina, there were flashes of his five-star high school rating. Rattler played a near-perfect game in an upset of Tennessee in November, going 30-for-37 for 438 yards and six TDs. But he had just 12 TDs with 12 interceptions in his other 12 games. With almost his entire receiving corps back, including the SEC’s second-leading receiver in Antwane Wells, Rattler should be more consistent in his second year in the SEC and could spark some NFL Draft talk.

10. Michael Pratt, Tulane

2022 stats: 215-for-338, 63.6 percent, 3,010 yards, 27 TDs, 5 INTs, 478 rushing yards, 10 TDs, 27 sacks

Years as a starter: Three

Analysis: After two pedestrian seasons, Pratt, like the rest of the Green Wave, broke out in 2022. He was a big part of Tulane’s run to the Cotton Bowl, where he hit several big plays in Tulane’s 46-45 upset of USC. Pratt has the fourth-highest passer rating in the fourth quarter in the nation. He decided not to look for a Power 5 school but return to New Orleans for his senior season, where Tulane will look to repeat as AAC champs. With Cincinnati, UCF and Houston departing the league, Tulane should be among the favorites to repeat if Pratt can continue to play at his elevated level, which was good enough for No. 10 in the nation in passer rating.


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