2016 College Football Quarterbacks with the Strongest Arms

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystJune 26, 2016

2016 College Football Quarterbacks with the Strongest Arms

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    Arm strength is just one attribute in a huge list of ones that make quarterbacks great, but it's a big-time benefit to have.

    The ability to fire passes all over the field—short and intermediate ones in tight spaces and the long-range missiles that lead to huge touchdowns—can't be overstated. Accuracy is incredibly important, and the ability to read defenses correctly makes it all possible.

    But this countdown is focused solely on the most powerful arms in college football.

    Here are a dozen players who could challenge for the title of the strongest arm in the country during the 2016 season. These selections were based on scouting reports, highlight tapes and stats that track how well quarterbacks deliver the longest and toughest throws on the field.

    Again, this isn't about the best overall quarterbacks in the country, although some on here are among the top all-around passers. This is about being able to sling the ball with more power than anyone else.

Tanner Mangum, BYU

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    It didn't take too long into Tanner Mangum's college career for him to showcase his stunning arm strength. After coming off the bench to replace Taysom Hill in 2015's season opener against Nebraska, Mangum scored on a last-second Hail Mary that traveled more than 50 yards in the air.

    The next week, Mangum launched a game-winning touchdown that was even more impressive—a 40-plus-yard strike on fourth down after slipping between two oncoming Boise State defenders. 

    Mangum's cannon of a right arm had to be completely rebuilt and reloaded when he arrived to Provo as a 21-year-old freshman quarterback last fall. The Cougars passer told Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated he "lost a lot of muscle mass, a lot of strength" during his two-year LDS mission in Chile.

    But Mangum has gotten it all back and then some at BYU, as he posted five 300-yard games as the starting quarterback for the Cougars in 2015. He's got the strength to make all the throws, and he still has room to grow as a quarterback.

Davis Webb, California

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    Tremendous arm strength is a main reason why so many schools across the country were eager to recruit former Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb as a graduate transfer this offseason. He lost his starting job with the Red Raiders to another member of this countdown, but not before wowing coaches and teammates alike.

    "He has a chance to be very special," Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in 2014, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports. "He has one of the quickest releases and strongest arms I've been around. ... I think he’s one of those top-five-pick talents with his arm strength and his mind and his size, and how athletic he is for being 6'5" and 215 pounds."

    After a short commitment to Colorado, Webb is now off to California, where he'll be the projected replacement for the strong-armed No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jared Goff. According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, Webb's NFL-like arm strength was a key reason why the Golden Bears went after his commitment. 

    Webb's arm will be a perfect fit in Cal's Bear Raid attack, and he'll have a great chance to shoot up draft boards this season with his ability to spread the ball all over the field.

Deshaun Watson, Clemson

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    College football's best quarterback heading into the 2016 season has one of the best arms you'll find anywhere. Clemson's Deshaun Watson battled through several injuries as a freshman to deliver a fantastic sophomore season in which he flashed a powerful arm.

    Plenty of highlight-reel plays from Watson's Heisman Trophy-finalist campaign showcased just how strong he is through the air. He delivered a beautiful, deep touchdown ball to Charone Peake that traveled more than 60 yards in an early-season win against Appalachian State. Against Alabama in the national title game, he fired a 40-yard bullet into a tight window for a Hunter Renfrow touchdown.

    "As a deep-ball thrower, Watson shows outstanding arm strength and range on vertical routes," Bucky Brooks of NFL.com wrote. "He easily drops the ball 'down the chute' on throws down the boundary, but also displays the zip and velocity to fire the ball between defenders on seam routes along the hashes."

    Watson is known for his athleticism and awareness in the pocket, and he has the ideal strong arm to complement those skills. He has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback in the pros.

Feleipe Franks, Florida

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    This spot might come as a bit of a surprise, as Feleipe Franks is a true-freshman quarterback who most likely won't start this season for Florida. But this Gators young gun has a powerful arm that made him a coveted prospect in the class of 2016.

    At last year's Elite 11 competition, Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country wrote the 6'6" Franks showed the "arm strength to throw 80 yards." At the Quarterback Retreat camp late last month in San Diego, Luke Stampini of 247Sports reported Franks threw the ball 78 yards, beating out a list of counselors that included Brad Kaaya, Josh Rosen and Deshaun Watson. 

    "He's a passer," Elite 11 coach Trent Dilfer said last year, per Paul Myerberg of USA Today. "I'm going to freak out if anybody calls him a dual-threat athlete. This kid can freaking pass. I think he could be as good as anybody."

    Franks wasn't the most polished quarterback out of high school, so Florida will probably wait a season or two before unleashing his massive arm on the rest of the SEC. But when his time comes, watch out.

Wes Lunt, Illinois

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    Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt might not be a household name when it comes to Power Five quarterbacks, but he has a great chance of becoming popular among NFL franchises this, season thanks to his strong right arm.

    Lunt started his career at Oklahoma State, appearing in seven games and throwing for 1,108 yards before transferring to Illinois. In 2014, Lunt threw for 1,763 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions with the Illini despite playing only five complete games. Through the ups and downs of injury and coaching turmoil at Illinois, Lunt's rocket arm has been a constant for the program.

    "He has a lot of strength," former Illinois offensive coordinator and head coach Bill Cubit told Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. "He's the best I've had as far as throwing the ball in the hole and taking shots downfield. Wes can make every throw in the book."

    Lunt has had some incredible performances at Illinois, and the new coaching staff headed by Lovie Smith will rely on him to lead the Illini into a new era as a senior starter. If the staff can find the right formula to show off Lunt's arm strength, he could be a rising draft-eligible star in 2016.

Brady Gustafson, Montana

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    Former North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz came out of obscurity to become the No. 2 overall NFL draft pick earlier this year. Another small-school standout, Montana's Brady Gustafson, has the arm for a similar rise.

    "The 6'7" gunslinger isn't afraid to pull the trigger on 50-50 balls or throw into tight windows," Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski wrote earlier this month. "He will take chances and displays the arm strength to complete difficult downfield passes."

    Gustafson started grabbing national attention last August, when he threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns in a thrilling win over Wentz's North Dakota State team. He converted a huge fourth down with less than 30 seconds remaining on a powerful throw that will become synonymous with his draft stock.

    The Griz QB isn't the most consistent quarterback around, but he has all the physical tools, especially a fantastic arm that can do it all in head coach Bob Stitt's exciting offensive attack. Although he's an FCS star, Gustafson's arm strength deserves recognition among his FBS brethren. 

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

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    DeShone Kizer is a powerhouse of a quarterback in every sense of the word. The 6'5", 220-pound Notre Dame signal-caller burst onto the college football scene last season with his hard running and strong passing, which make him a strong candidate to retain the starting job over Malik Zaire this fall.

    Kizer immediately showed off his big arm when he came off the bench last season against Virginia for an injured Zaire. He threw a bomb off his back foot to Will Fuller for a game-winning touchdown that traveled nearly 50 yards in the air.

    The Fighting Irish quarterback zips the ball to his receivers in a hurry, and he's not afraid to take chances with his powerful arm. He completed three passes of 70 or more yards last season, showing great distance and touch on his deep ball.

    Kizer still has a battle to win over Zaire before the offseason comes to a close. But whenever he steps out onto the field for Notre Dame again, defenses will be sure of one thing: Kizer is going to pack a lot of power in his arsenal of throws all over the field.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

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    Although he started his college football career as a walk-on, fans all over the country know about the powerful arm of Oklahoma star Baker Mayfield. Last season, Mayfield led the Sooners to a Big 12 title and the College Football Playoff with his ability to make incredible plays anywhere on the field.

    Mayfield's arm strength is evident in the type of huge completions he had last season. He was first among all Power Five quarterbacks with six completions of 60 or more yards. By season's end, he was the only player in the country to have four completions of at least 70 yards.

    As John Breitenbach of Pro Football Focus wrote, Mayfield connected on nearly two-thirds of his intermediate passes last season, "showing the ability to drive the football into tight windows."

    No longer an overlooked high school recruit, Mayfield will contend for the Heisman Trophy again this season with his incredible awareness, mobility and quick-strike power as the star of offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's Air Raid attack in Norman.

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

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    Bleacher Report's NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller wasted no time with breaking down the class of 2017 after this year's draft, and the arm strength of Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph has already made a big impression.

    In his 2017 early big board, Miller listed Rudolph as the quarterback with the best arm. In his first mock draft, Miller had Rudolph going No. 21 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs, and he raved about how he can fire the ball all over the field.

    "A big (6'5", 235 lbs) quarterback in his junior season, Rudolph has impressed with his athleticism and arm strength," Miller wrote. "He's able to execute half and full rollouts—a staple of the Andy Reid offense—and has the traits to improve into a top-tier prospect."

    According to Dan Parr of NFL.com, Rudolph tied for the Power Five lead last season with "40 completions on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield." The player he tied was none other than No. 1 overall 2016 pick Jared Goff, so he's in fantastic strong-arm company.

Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

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    Chad Kelly wasted absolutely no time in proving to his new Ole Miss teammates that he can chuck the ball a long way. Good things happened for the Rebels when he did that, as he went 10-3 in his first full season in Oxford filled with plenty of bombs deep down the field and outside the numbers.

    Kelly recently wowed social media with a practice throw that covered an absurd 76 yards. That kind of arm strength is incredible to watch on the field, where Kelly can hurt teams deep or frustrate them with the quick passes he can seemingly put anywhere.

    "Kelly's arm strength might be even more valuable in 2016 as young burners like Quincy Adeboyejo and DaMarkus Lodge become more involved and big Damore'ea Stringfellow takes on much of [Laquon] Treadwell's role," Ian Boyd of SB Nation wrote.

    Kelly has a legitimate claim as the strongest arm in college football, and it should be able to rifle the Rebels to great offensive success this fall, even after the departure of several star players. He brings a lot to the table as a quarterback, but arm strength might be the best asset of them all.

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

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    Sometimes the best feats of arm strength are the ones that are the most absurd in action. Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes showed that earlier this month when a friend tweeted a video of him throwing a football 65 yards from his knees. 

    That's right—Mahomes delivered a ball from a completely unnatural position that plenty of quarterbacks would love to be able to throw period. 

    Texas Tech fans got to see all that arm strength in action last fall as Mahomes led the way for one of the nation's most prolific passing attacks. While other Air Raid quarterbacks are known more for their precision and quick strikes, Mahomes gets it done with pure power to the Red Raiders' host of receivers.

    According to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, Mahomes ends warm-ups before Texas Tech games by throwing a ball from the 20-yard line into the opposite end zone. For those who may be mathematically challenged, that's an 80-plus-yard pass. Few in the country can challenge Mahomes' level of arm strength.

Josh Rosen, UCLA

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    It didn't take long for Josh Rosen to show he was worth all the hype as a true-freshman starter at UCLA. Rosen was slinging powerful passes from the first start of the season, and he finished the year with an impressive 60 percent completion percentage and a rate of 7.5 yards per attempt.

    Rosen showed all the tools that would make him a highly valued NFL draft prospect down the road after establishing more consistency, and arm strength was one of his best attributes. As the Michigan site MGoBlog tweeted last year, "Josh Rosen doesn't throw off his back foot, he throws off his other front foot."

    Before he even arrived on the scene at UCLA, recruiting analysts at Scout wrote Rosen had "NFL arm strength right now and [he] makes it look effortless with his smooth delivery." His ability to make any throw necessary was a huge reason why he won the starting job with the Bruins fresh out of high school.

    What's even scarier for future opponents is that Rosen has at least two more full seasons to grow as a stronger quarterback before he heads to the NFL. By this time next year, he could be the undisputed strongest arm in all of college football.

    Stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

    Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.


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