I will update these power rankings as we go along. It’s a bit of fun — but also a review of how the players with first round potential are progressing through the season. It’s also not a ranking. This isn’t necessarily the order I expect them to be drafted (and it’d be too early to make any predictions anyway).
I will add names to the list if needed as we go along. It will only ever be the players I expect to garner first round interest, though.
#1 C.J. Stroud (Ohio State)
This week I had Stroud and Richardson swap places. That’s how contrasting their fortunes were. Admittedly Stroud had the luxury of playing an overmatched Arkansas State team but what he showed was exciting, complex throws that get you out of your seat. His throwing base was textbook in this game (a stark difference to former Buckeye Justin Fields) and from that base he was able to deliver some of the prettiest passes you’ll see all season. An inch-perfect 34-yard throw — so on target it was virtually handed to the receiver. A 50-yard bomb — flashing plus arm strength and sensational downfield ball-placement. A near 40-yard toss to the front left corner of the end-zone, placed perfectly despite tight coverage and safety help for a touchdown. This was Stroud flexing and showing what he’s capable of. Now we need to see it consistently along with improved intermediate accuracy and processing in close games.
#2 Will Levis (Kentucky)
We don’t need to see quarterback perfection in every game. Sometimes it’s about avoiding mistakes, doing what you need to do and leading your team to a big road win in a hostile environment against an opponent with momentum. Levis didn’t do enough against Florida to go from #1 to #2 but he certainly didn’t do anything to harm his stock either. He flashed the traits we all know he has — showing easy arm strength on a +60-yard downfield throw for a touchdown. He’s mastered the play-action offense Kentucky has been using since he transferred to the team. When he was getting absolutely hammered in the first half and had zero support from the running game, he still put points on the board. He kept Kentucky in it until they finally established the run — and then all he had to do was avoid errors. The “interception” he had was really a sack-fumble. Put him on an offense with a good O-line and give him some weapons and he can have a lot of success in the NFL. Quick stat for you — he is now 12-3 as a starter at Kentucky. In their previous 10 seasons, Kentucky averaged 5.6 wins a season.
#3 Bryce Young (Alabama)
After three quarters against Texas, Young was having the kind of day Anthony Richardson was having. He should’ve been picked off after a horrendous decision to throw across the middle after sensing moderate interior pressure. He should’ve conceded a safety after sitting in his own end-zone for five seconds, getting hammered and being bailed out by some weirdness from the refs. He toiled and struggled and appeared set to lose the game and Alabama’s #1 ranking. Yet in the hour of the need, he got his act together and dragged his team to victory. In the fourth quarter all of the customary poise returned. He was creative as a runner and accurate as a thrower. He scored one of the touchdowns of the season on a scramble in the red zone. Sometimes you have to give credit to a QB for getting the job done on an off-day. That is what Young did on Saturday.
#4 Tyler Van Dyke (Miami)
Watching Miami’s game against Southern Miss was like a trip to the dentist. Within 10 minutes of the ordeal starting, you just wanted it to be over. The Hurricanes decided to try and bore Southern Miss into submission and congratulations to them, they pulled it off. TVD captured the imagination a year ago when he took over the starting job. He galvanised Miami and turned them into a formidable force — defeating Kenny Pickett and eventual ACC Champions Pittsburgh in their own backyard along the way. They showed off their quarterback as he sprayed the ball around the field. Now he has to resort to dump-offs, extended hand-offs, running the ball +40 times and a few slants. He’s double-clutching in the pocket and throwing late (see: horrible interception). I want to see them unleash TVD against a very beatable Texas A&M this weekend. Will they? Probably not. I fear the Mario Cristobal offense is going to do to Van Dyke what it did to Justin Herbert at Oregon.
#5 Anthony Richardson (Florida)
There’s not much more to say that wasn’t said already in Saturday’s piece. Richardson had a total clunker. All of the poise, processing and excitement of the Utah game disappeared. He wasn’t a running threat at all. His passes were mainly a series of 100mph fast-balls thrown with reckless abandon. He had one unlucky interception and a pick-six he’ll have nightmares about all week. Richardson looked like a player with three college starts and he deserves an opportunity to develop and learn without the pressure of the NFL draft lurking in the background. This might be the last time I include him in the power rankings because he looks like a young player who needs time. Truth be told, more time than is probably permitted in the remainder of the 2022 college season.
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