One year after an exciting class of quarterbacks stole the NFL draft spotlight, the 2019 crop is short on coveted prospects.
Championships are rarely won without an elite quarterback, and the current cycle is unlikely to produce more than one, or maybe two, stars like a typical draft. This could be the least productive year since the dismal 2013 class.
Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins is the only prospect widely considered a first-round talent. Several others―such as Duke's Daniel Jones and Missouri's Drew Lock―will receive that billing from some analysts, but the assessments will vary immensely as the predraft process plays out.
Put simply, the perception of this group is nowhere close to that of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson last year.
Yet every story has two angles.
The outgoing group of quarterbacks will be leaving an unmistakable imprint on college football―and that goes beyond the top NFL prospects.
Haskins departs after winning a Big Ten crown and leading the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing yards and touchdowns. Oklahoma's Kyler Murray earned a Big 12 title and the Heisman Trophy. Jones, Lock and West Virginia's Will Grier were multiyear starters at their programs.
Jake Browning shattered Washington records and racked up 39 wins, two Pac-12 titles and a College Football Playoff appearance. Despite that experience and production, he's considered the No. 15 draft-eligible QB by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
Trace McSorley guided Penn State back to the national stage, winning a Big Ten championship in 2016 and 31 games over three years. He set program single-season and career records in passing yards and touchdowns, as well as total offense. Miller ranks McSorley 10th in the class.
Brett Rypien started all four years at Boise State with three 10-win years and a conference title. His 13,578 yards and 90 touchdowns are the second-most at the program. Rypien is all the way down at 13 on Miller's latest board.
Several programs must replace players who made them relevant in recent years.
Ryan Finley guided NC State to consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time since 1991-92 and passed for 10,501 yards―second to Philip Rivers. Clayton Thorson helped Northwestern reach its first-ever Big Ten title game, broke career records and was NU's first QB to post multiple 10-win seasons and start four bowl games.
Gardner Minshew set a Washington State record with 4,776 passing yards and guided the Cougars to a school-best 11 wins. Prior to Brent Stockstill's arrival, Middle Tennessee had four FBS bowl appearances; he lifted the Blue Raiders to four straight. Tyree Jackson led Buffalo to its first-ever 10-win season.
Yet none of those five appeared in an early four-round mock draft from Gavino Borquez of Draft Wire. Nor do any of the departing players who were statistical gems for their programs.
Jarrett Stidham is the only Auburn quarterback to ever throw for 2,500 yards and 18 scores in multiple seasons. Kyle Shurmur is Vanderbilt's all-time leader in yards and touchdowns, and Eric Dungey stands atop Syracuse's record book in total offense.
The only Mississippi State quarterback with a more prolific career than Nick Fitzgerald is Dallas Cowboys starter Dak Prescott.
Through scouting eyes, every player mentioned has a defining flaw.
Lock, Thorson and Shurmur often struggled against top competition. Murray's feel for timing is a real concern―and he may play baseball anyway, though the Oakland A's are expecting him to enter the NFL draft, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Grier and Jones are prone to a few horrible decisions per game. Arm strength is a concern for Browning, McSorley and Finley. Fitzgerald and Dungey are better runners than passers.
Consistent production evaded Stidham, while accuracy issues flared with Minshew and Arizona State's Manny Wilkins. Stockstill's injury history is one massive red flag.
NFL teams have understandable pause with these players, especially with a 2020 quarterback class that will include Oregon's Justin Herbert and might add Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, Georgia's Jake Fromm and Washington's Jacob Eason.
But a lack of NFL-bound superstars at the position should not be confused with a lack of talent leaving college football. All of these departing quarterbacks won conference championships, set schools records or pushed their teams to contention.
No matter what their individual futures hold, they won't be easily replaced at the college level.