Ranking all 134 FBS QB situations into tiers ahead of the 2024 season

Illustration by ESPN

This is a strange year for quarterbacks in college football.

In 2023, Caleb Williams and Drake Maye headlined our annual tiered rankings, which came as no surprise. One had a Heisman Trophy. The other projected as a top-five NFL draft pick. They were established stars with real cachet, even among casual college football fans.

Before Williams and Maye there was Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud; before them Stetson Bennett; before them Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence; before them Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson and Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel.

Since 2012, there has been only one other season that didn't open with at least two quarterbacks who finished in the top 10 in Heisman balloting or won a national championship the previous season -- and that was the COVID year of 2020 (which was followed by a season of big-time recruits with serious name recognition such as Young and DJ Uiagalelei taking over as starting quarterbacks and, because of new NIL rules, doing national ad campaigns). In 2013, 2014, 2017, 2022 and 2023, the defending Heisman winner returned. In 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2022, the quarterback of the defending champ returned.

In 2024, we have Jalen Milroe. That's it. He's the only quarterback to finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting (sixth) and return for 2024, the most accomplished of a QB class the year after six quarterbacks were selected among the first 12 picks of the NFL draft.

That's not to say there aren't some big names. Quinn Ewers graces the cover of the new EA Sports College Football 25 game, but perhaps ironically, he garnered more attention during his recruitment and early struggles than when he finally moved into the upper echelon of quarterbacks last season. Shedeur Sanders is a genuine star, but in a unique twist, he may be more famous among people with only a casual appreciation of college football. He is as much a brand as he is a talent (though he has got plenty of both). Carson Beck is widely projected to be the top NFL prospect in this group, and yet, ask the average fan of a team not named Georgia what they most remember about Beck and odds are it'll be the photo of him buying a Lamborghini with his NIL money.

Going through our rankings, you'll find some genuine talent and a ton of potential. And yet, as the kids say, the vibes are all wrong. There's steak, but is there sizzle?

Go back in time to 2012 when we last faced something akin to this quandary. From the ashes emerged Manziel, arguably the most famous -- or infamous -- quarterback of the social media era of college football.

This is our Tier 1 for now, but where a fame vacuum exists in college football, it stands to reason someone -- perhaps someone entirely unexpected -- will step up to fill it. Nonetheless, let's break down all 134 FBS programs' QB situations by tiers.