Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (6-4, 217): All Mariota did was win games. And score touchdowns. The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner led the Ducks to 36 wins in his three seasons. A starter in all three of his seasons, Mariota set an NCAA record by passing for a touchdown in all 41 career starts. He became the first player in Pac-12 history to account for 5,000 yards of total offense in a single season, reaching 5,224 in the loss to Ohio State in the national championship game, and he became the first player in FBS history to finish a season with a plus-50 in touchdowns (58) to turnovers (seven). His 58 total touchdowns destroyed the conference record of 41 held by former USC star Matt Barkley, and his 348 points accounted for were 40 more than for any other player. Mariota became the sixth player in FBS history to pass for more than 9,000 yards and run for over 2,000 yards in a career, and he owns school records for career total offense (13,089), passing yards (10,801), touchdown passes (105), rushing yards by a quarterback (2,237), completion percentage (66.8), total touchdowns (135). His total yards also broke Barkley’s old conference record. In 2014, he led the nation in passing efficiency (181.7), yards per pass attempt (10.17) and points responsible for (348), in addition to ranking third in passing touchdowns (42), third in passing yards (4,454), fifth in total offense (348.3 per game), fifth in completion percentage (68.3), seventh in passing yards per completion (14.7). Mariota tossed 42 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He did all of that while earning his degree (general science) in less than four years with a 3.22 GPA, handing CLIF bars and bottles of water to those in need and making weekly stops at the Boys and Girls Club. Unlike last year’s Heisman winner and the man he might be battling to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Mariota’s “done absolutely everything right since he got here,” in the words of his offensive coordinator, Scott Frost.
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (6-3, 228): Winston had a brilliant two-year career at Florida State, leading the Seminoles to the national championship while winning the Heisman Trophy in 2013 and getting the Seminoles to the four-team playoff this season. He was the youngest Heisman winner and the first to do so as a freshman. He was an incredible 26-1 as a starter, with the lone loss coming to Oregon in this year’s national semifinal game. Despite playing just two seasons, Winston ranks third in school history in passing yards (7,964), second in touchdown passes (65) and sixth in completions (562). His 14 300-yard passing games are tied with Chris Weinke for most in school history. Statistically, he was much better as a freshman (66.9 percent, 4,057 yards, NCAA-best 10.6 yards per attempt, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) than as a sophomore (65.3 percent, 3,907yards, 8.4 yards per attempt, 25 touchdowns, 18 interceptions). A star from the get-go, he completed his first 11 passes and went 25-of-27 against Pittsburgh in his first collegiate game. He came through in the clutch again and again, highlighted by his game-winning touchdown drive that beat Auburn in last year’s championship game and four second-half comeback wins in 2014. In Spring 2014, he had a 1.08 ERA with seven saves while allowing just 18 hits in 33.1 innings. While Mariota is one of the game’s good guys, trouble followed Winston. Or perhaps Winston followed trouble. The NFL’s official biography on Winston, provided to Packer Report and to teams for to aid their evaluations, includes more words on Winston’s off-the-field issues than his accolades at FSU. This from the New York Times sums a lot of it up.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (6-3, 222): In three seasons, Hundley rewrote the UCLA record book, finishing his career ranked first in career touchdown passes (75), completions (837) and total offense (11,713), second in passing yards (9,966) and quarterback rushing (1,747), and seventh in career touchdown rushes (31). He put up 300-plus yards of total offense a school-record 20 times, is second with 10 300-yard passing games and second with 29 wins. Hundley recorded the top three single-season total offense outputs in school history. In 40 career games, he ran or threw for a touchdown in 39 of them (he left this year’s game against Texas with an injury in the first quarter). He threw for at least one touchdown pass 36 times and multiple scores on 25 occasions. In 2014, he ranked fourth nationally with 69.1 percent accuracy while throwing for 22 touchdowns against only five interceptions. Perhaps most importantly, he became the first Bruins quarterback to lead the team to three straight seasons of nine-plus wins. He beat up on rival USC but couldn’t get the Bruins past Oregon. However, he wasn’t quite the savior supporters of the program hoped he would be. He modeled his game after Donovan McNabb after meeting him at a barbershop.
Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (6-3, 230): In two seasons as the starter, Petty helped Baylor win back-to-back Big 12 Championships to become the first quarterback in school history to win two conference crowns. He went 22-4 during that span, including 16-2 in league play. He closed his career by throwing for 550 yards in the Cotton Bowl to extend his school record to 16 career 300-yard games and tie Robert Griffin III’s record with four 400-yard games. As a senior, he completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,855 yards, averaged 9.0 yards per attempt, with 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions, down from his junior numbers of 62.0 percent, 4,200 yards, 32 touchdowns, three interceptions and 9.6 yards per attempt. Petty closed his career No. 1 in the Baylor record books in touchdown-to-interception ratio (6.20), yards per attempt (9.71) and interception percentage (1.18), and No. 2 in passing yards (8,195), completion percentage (62.7), total offense (8,528), total touchdowns (83) and passing touchdowns (62). He graduated in May 2013 with a degree in health science studies and earned a master's degree in sports management in December 2014. A trip to Kenya was a big part of his personal development.
Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State (6-2, 218): Grayson started all 27 games as a junior and senior. In 2014, he completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 4,006 yards with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He ranked fourth nationally in yards and eighth in touchdowns, plus fifth in passing efficiency (166.2). He departs as CSU’s career leader in yards, touchdowns, completions and completion percentage. That’s not a bad resume for a player who received tepid recruiting interest. This summer, he participated in the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana, where he learned some tricks of the trade from Peyton Manning. “Just being around Peyton, you always hear that he tries to perfect everything he does,” Grayson said during CSU’s media day. “Every drill we did, he was doing it with us, and if he messed it up, he made us wait in line and he did it until he got it right.” An uncle, Danny Grayson, played for the Steelers.
Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina (6-2, 218): The American Conference Offensive Player of the Year passed for an AAC and ECU single-season record 4,736 yards, completing 63.5 percent of his passes with 30 touchdowns and 10 intereceptions. His yardage total ranked second nationally. He added six rushing scores and established a new program standard with 4,812 yards of total offense. Carden, who looks quite a bit like Brett Favre, owns ECU career records in completions (1,052), attempts (1,579), touchdown passes (86), passing yards (11,991) and total offense (12,244) and total plays (1,850). His father, a pitcher, played professional baseball for eight years in the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos organizations, his mother was a collegiate volleyball player (first female to earn scholarship at Cal Poly) and track athlete, and two of his brothers played collegiate baseball. That athletic background brought out Carden’s competitive nature.
Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State (6-4, 220): Mannion owns 18 school passing records, with his 13,600 career passing yards not only topping the OSU ledger but ranking No. 1 in Pac-12 history and No. 8 in FBS history. He threw a school-record 83 touchdown passes, a category in which he ranks seventh in league annals. He also ranks No. 1 in school history with a 64.6 career completion percentage. That accuracy showed up when he beat out 40 other college quarterbacks to win the Manning Passing Academy Air-It-Out Challenge this past summer. As a senior, he adapted to life without Brandin Cooks by throwing for 3,164 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His 54 career interceptions is a bit of a black eye. He’s working toward his master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. Once a shy freshman, Mannion blossomed into the first three-time team captain in program history. A student of the game, he learned his high school’s offense while serving as ballboy. Perhaps that’s because he’s the son of a successful coach.
Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada (6-1, 217): Fajardo joined Colin Kaepernick as the only players in FBS history to finish with 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. As a senior, Fajardo, who finished his career as the school’s all-time completions leader, led the team in rushing yards (1,054) and passing yards (2,498) and accounted for 31 touchdowns. He finished his career with 65.5 percent accuracy, 57 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. As a strong-armed passer operating in the pistol, he’s drawn obvious comparisons to Kaepernick, who entered the NFL as a second-round pick. He is tough and was “the biggest competitor on the team. He won’t lost to anybody,” one of his teammates said. Fajardo was a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award, which goes to athletes who excel on the field and in the community.
Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State (6-4, 194): Halliday’s season ended with a broken ankle sustained in the ninth start of his senior season. In all, he played in 35 games (28 starts) and set school career records with 11,304 passing yards, 90 touchdown passes, 1,013 completions, 1,633 pass attempts, 21 300-yard games and a 62.0 completion percentage. He ranks fourth in conference history in passing yards and passing touchdowns. As a senior, he threw for 3,873 yards with 32 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a school-record 67.3 completion percentage. Before the injury, he led FBS in yards and touchdowns, and his 430.3 passing yards per game led the nation. He threw for a FBS-record 734 yards against Cal — a 60-59 loss on a missed 19-yard field goal — and 436 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against eventual national-runner-up Oregon. It took a while but Halliday became the star pupil under pass-happy coach Mike Leach. Leach said Halliday had the best arm in the country. All it meant, however, was a lot of losing. “It’ll be really cool when I’m older to look at all those records,” Halliday says. “But right now it’s kind of a frustrating thing. I’ve always been a guy that’s gonna play hard no matter what, but the toughest thing is to come back after a loss like that and have good body language and good leadership qualities. I feel like I’ve been through the wringer.”
Brandon Bridge, QB, South Alabama (6-5, 233): The native of Mississauga, Ontario, calls himself “Air_Canada_7” on Twitter. After two seasons at Alcorn State, Bridge followed his coach and moved on to South Alabama. As a senior, he completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 1,927 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He added 297 yards and four scores on the ground. “I want to be the next best thing coming out of Canada . . . The only players (from Canada) who really get a shot are offensive and defensive linemen, not really the skilled positions. I want to kind of break that barrier like Mark Rypien and Jesse Palmer did,” said Bridge, referring to the only two Canadians who’ve ever started at quarterback in the NFL. Phil Savage, the executive director of the Senior Bowl and a former NFL general manager, called Bridge “baby Kaepernick” because of Bridge’s arm strength, mobility and build.
Bryan Bennett, QB, Southeastern Louisiana (6-2, 205): Bennett started his career at Oregon but, with Marcus Mariota entrenched as the starter and on his way to stardom, Bennett transferred. As a junior in 2013, he was named the Southland Conference’s Player of the Year as he threw for 3,165 yards, rushed for 1,046 yards and accumulated a total of 37 touchdowns while helping the team to its first-ever playoff berth. As a senior, he threw for 2,357 yards, rushed for 669 yards and piled up 33 total touchdowns. In just two seasons, he set the school record with 70 total touchdowns and 31 rushing touchdowns. He impressed at the Senior Bowl, where he earned comparisons to Mariota and Colin Kaepernick. He landed at SLU on the advice of Archie Manning.
Blake Sims, QB, Alabama (6-0, 212): At his height, Sims might be making a position change – he played running back as a redshirt freshman. Then again, he wasn’t supposed to be the Crimson Tide’s starter in 2014, either, but he beat out Florida State transfer Jacob Coker. In his only season as the starting quarterback, he completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, plus rushed for 479 yards and seven more scores, to be named a finalist for the Manning Award. It was a happy ending for a player who could have transferred but hung in there and got rewarded. "The maturation of Blake Sims has been something special to watch," said Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who recruited Sims out of high school. "It will always be, wherever I'm a coach at, a speaking point to the team."
Jerry Lovelocke, QB, Prairie View A&M (6-4, 244): In 10 games as a senior, Lovelocke completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 2,473 yards, with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He added 217 yards and 10 scores on the ground. He came on strong down the stretch with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions to help the team go 5-1. During his final two seasons, he accounted for 58 touchdowns. Lovelocke hopes to be the first Panther to complete a pass in an NFL game. The only quarterback ever drafted from the university was Charlie Brackins, a 16th-round selection by the Green Bay Packers in 1955. He appeared in seven games that season, but failed to connect on his only two pass attempts as a professional. Lovelocke entered his senior season as the most underrated pro-style quarterback in the collegiate ranks, according to the NFL’s scouting department.
Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn (6-2, 207): Marshall is listed at quarterback but should have a busy Scouting Combine because he’s a talented man without a position. The junior-college transfer led Auburn to the national title game as a junior (59.4 percent, 1,976 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions passing, and 1,068 rushing yards and 13 more scores) and was even better as a senior (60.8 percent, 2,532 yards, 20 touchdowns, seven interceptions; 798 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing). He worked hard to improve as a passer. Marshall is ranked No. 22 at cornerback and No. 173 overall by the NFL’s scouting department, and also could get a look at quarterback, running back or wide receiver. At the Senior Bowl, Marshall started the week at quarterback but switched to cornerback. “He’s a great athlete and a great competitor. He can play a lot of different positions. I think he could be very successful at the NFL (level) at quarterback especially. You see where that league’s going with all the read zone stuff,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said at the Senior Bowl. UPDATE: Marshall's agent told Packer Report that Marshall will only do defensive back drills.
Anthony Boone, QB, Duke (6-0, 225): Boone helped lead a renaissance at Duke. As a senior, the Blue Devils finished 9-4 and earned their third consecutive bowl appearance. Guiding the Blue Devils’ no-huddle offense, Boone completed 56.3 percent of his passes for 2,700 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He added 375 rushing yards and five more scores to be named the team’s MVP and honorable mention all-ACC. He holds or shares 12 Duke single season or career records, including most wins as a starting QB in a career (19), most wins as a starting QB in a season (nine in 2013 and 2014) and best pass completion-to-interception ratio in a career (22.50-1). Under coach David Cutcliffe, Boone mastered the art of playing the position with intelligence but not overthinking it. “I know everything. I know what I’m going to get,” Boone said. “I know every look under the moon that I may get. Now it’s just like, don’t overcomplicate it; whatever I call, just know the answers to it and do it instead of trying to fix it to be the perfect play.”