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Fresno’s Jake Haener rises up QB power rankings

Each week from here on out during the college football season, we’ll be stacking the quarterbacks with 2022 NFL draft eligibility based on their pro potential — and nothing else.

Some of the players we list below may not enter next year’s draft, but we’ll list anyone who we think has even a remote shot to declare early.

Here’s how we see the NFL QB prospect hierarchy stacking up after the first month of college football.

1. Matt Corral, Ole Miss

(Last week: 1st)

Bye week. (The big test comes Saturday against Alabama.)

2. Sam Howell, North Carolina

(Last week: 4th)

Howell threw for 302 yards, two TDs and no interceptions, and he ran for a 23-yard score against Georgia Tech. That’s the good news. The bad: Howell was sacked eight times, lost two fumbles and struggled to get much going with star WR Josh Downs (53 receiving yards on 14 targets).

It was shades of the opening loss to Virginia Tech, when UNC’s lack of pass protection barely allowed Howell to set up in the pocket but a handful of times. And sadly, it’s likely to continue unless the Tar Heels make some drastic changes in the weeks to come.

Howell needs to speed up his clock more and get rid of the ball faster to do his part. But overall, it’s hard to say he’s been terribly disappointing to this point. There’s only so much Howell can do without more help around him.

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was booed Saturday by his own school's fans. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was booed Saturday by his own school’s fans. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

3. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

(Last week: 2nd)

So now Sooners fans have taken to booing Rattler in the middle of what would be an eventual win over West Virginia. Seems a bit ridiculous, frankly. Has he been special? Looked anything like a no-brainer top-five pick? No and no. But some of the expectations levied on Rattler were pretty wild to begin with.

On Saturday, he completed 26 of 36 passes for 256 yards with a touchdown and an interception (which prompted the boos). Rattler now has completed 70% or higher in all four games this season. Baker Mayfield did that once in three year over a four-game span. Kyler Murray did it twice in his one year as starter, with one six-game streak north of 70. Jalen Hurts did it once, too.

It might not seem like it, but Rattler has been pretty decent on the whole. Not great, mind you, but hardly boo-worthy. The lack of tremendous throws and running effectiveness hasn’t gone unnoticed, and he still makes a few poor decisions per game. But let’s not bury the kid just yet. He started slowly in 2020 before finishing on a serious heat wave.

4. Malik Willis, Liberty

(Last week: 5th)

We’re keeping him in the fourth slot for now despite Willis taking six sacks (some of which were on him) and coughing up a late fumble to lead to a Syracuse win. Overall, despite limited chances, Willis still flashed the borderline elite traits in that game that we’ve been raving about for some time.

Liberty QB Malik Willis had some good and bad moments in a loss at Syracuse on Friday. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Liberty QB Malik Willis had some good and bad moments in a loss at Syracuse on Friday. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That was his first turnover of the season a year after fumbling 17 times. Willis also made some big-boy throws and some hair-raising athletic plays against the Orange, despite limited opportunities. It wasn’t quite the showcase game some hoped for, but Willis didn’t at all seem to hurt his draft standing.

5. Carson Strong, Nevada

(Last week: 3rd)

Bye week.

6. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

(Last week: 6th)

Bye week.

(Last week: 9th)

Granted, Pickett’s huge game on Saturday came against New Hampshire. But he was nearly perfect in the outing, completing 24 of 28passes (85.7%) for 403 yards and five TDs, also running for a score. It was a 56-7 laugher by the time Pickett’s day was done following the first drive of the third quarter.

Pickett has been mostly outstanding this season. He already has a statement victory at Tennessee under his belt and has more opportunities to add feathers to his cap with the meat of the ACC slate upcoming. Don’t overlook him in the 2022 QB picture.

8. JT Daniels, Georgia

(Last week: NR)

Daniels shredded Vanderbilt in a brief appearance, completing 9 of 10 passes for 129 yards and two scores. After a so-so opener against a good Clemson defense, Daniels has been more sharp in the past two.

There’s still some ambivalence about Daniels in the scouting realm, and he hasn’t pushed the ball downfield the way he did down the stretch last season. But there is enough appreciation for his game after we checked around a bit to rise him up the board with some tougher tests upcoming.

9. Jake Haener, Fresno State

(Last week: t-10th)

Another game, another hair-raising comeback. 

Following up on his late-game brilliance at UCLA, Haener started slowly on Saturday against UNLV, and the Bulldogs fell behind 21-9 in the third quarter. But in just over 17 minutes of game time, Haener led Fresno State down the field for four TD drives, all of them caught by emerging star Jalen Cropper. At game’s end, Haener amassed 378 passing yards and five TDs and the Bulldogs pulled it out late, 38-30.

Fresno State quarterbak Jake Haener faced pressure from UNLV and was down two scores in the second half but led another terrific comeback. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

Fresno State quarterbak Jake Haener faced pressure from UNLV and was down two scores in the second half but led another terrific comeback. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

We’re not sure if Haener to Cropper is quite this generation’s Derek Carr to Davante Adams, but it’s hard not to notice what Haener — a former five-star recruit — is doing for this team after transferring from Washington a few years ago. He looks markedly improved over a year ago and is earning a reputation as one of college football’s best comeback artists.

10. Kedon Slovis, USC

(Last week: 9th)

Slovis received a stay of execution as the Trojans’ starter with freshman phenom Jaxson Dart missing time with injury. But it was otherwise a forgettable performance (31 of 49 passing, 355, one TD, three INTs) in a humiliating home loss to Oregon State. Even with four dropped passes by his receivers, it’s hard to say Slovis played well, especially amid pressure.

The program is a mess, and the bloom is off Slovis’ rose somewhat as a prospect. He still has his backers out there, but it’s feeling like a lost final opportunity with the Trojans and all their skill-position talent.

Just missed the cut

Phil Jurkovec, Boston College (injured); Brock Purdy, Iowa State; Jack Coan, Notre Dame; Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina; Brennan Armstrong, Virginia; Malik Cunningham, Louisville; Michael Penix Jr., Indiana; Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA; Jayden Daniels, Arizona State; D’Eriq King, Miami; Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan; Nick Starkel, San Jose State; Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky; Dustin Crum, Kent State; Myles Brennan, LSU (injured)

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