Next Up: Comparing QB recruits to college and NFL stars
Comparisons are always a part of recruiting coverage so over the next two weeks in our The Next … series, we take a look position-by-position on who could be one of the next superstars in college football by comparing them to a current college or NFL player. We start with quarterbacks.
STING FACTOR: Christian Brathwaite flips from Baylor to LSU
CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals100
Avery Johnson is the next Max Duggan
Johnson is going to have a real shot to move up to the top-rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2023 class and there are so many similarities to Duggan, who has done such a phenomenal job this season both throwing the ball, escaping pressure and gaining big yards on the ground. That dual-threat capability is something both Johnson and Duggan share without a doubt.
Through eight games, Johnson has thrown for 2,057 yards with 22 touchdowns and one pick along with 591 yards and 11 touchdowns on 64 carries. There are also some videos of the Maize, Kan., four-star standout dunking a basketball which makes us think Johnson, who’s committed to Kansas State, might even be a better athlete than Duggan at the same stage.
The TCU quarterback has very similar stats, is second on the Horned Frogs in carries and does an excellent job escaping pressure and then finding receivers down the field or picking up yards on the ground.
Julian Lewis is the next Bryce Young
Lewis is already taller than Young by an inch and he’s only a freshman in high school so a comparison to one of the best quarterbacks college football has seen in a long time could be a step too far but there are similarities that cannot be ignored.
It’s nearly impossible to find a quarterback as special as Young with his accuracy, decision-making and freak ability to prolong plays, escape pressure, dance around and play the quarterback position like Stephen Curry on a basketball court. But Lewis has incredible timing and a knack to see what’s happening on the field before it actually happens.
As a freshman, Lewis has thrown for 31 touchdowns at Carrollton, Ga., so far this season and while he does have eight picks unlike Young at any point in his career, it’s because Lewis is just trusting in his ability a little too much early in his career.
Lewis trains with the best of the best, he’s improving all the time and there’s very much the feel around him like he’s the Next Big Thing, just like it was for Young at Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and now at Alabama.
Arch Manning is the next Joe Burrow
Manning plays the position with an advanced skillset and ability to dissect defenses, make the right decisions and then he has all the ability to make the toughest throws look easy. Just like Burrow at LSU and into the NFL. There is also a unique coolness to both of them and how they play the position where there is an ultra-competitiveness and confidence in their game but they’re not outwardly emotional when conducting themselves on the field.
Physically, Manning and Burrow are built similarly and are both listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. Maybe two of the only things that make Manning and Burrow opposites is that Manning is the current No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class and Burrow was an anonymous three-star who flew under the recruiting radar for long stretches before picking Ohio State and then transferring to LSU, where he had incredible success.
Burrow ended up as the No. 1 NFL Draft pick in 2020. Could Manning follow Burrow’s lead there in a few years?
Malachi Nelson is the next CJ Stroud
The recruitments of Stroud and Nelson could not have been much different. Stroud emerged late as high-profile national programs didn’t get involved until late in his junior year and into his senior season. Nelson has been hearing from all the top teams for years, committed to Oklahoma early and then flipped to USC once coach Lincoln Riley went from the Sooners to the Trojans.
In terms of play style and talent level, though, there are so many similarities. Both Southern California quarterbacks throw an effortless ball that looks so pretty coming off their hand, a catchable ball for all their receivers and they can strike with an instant if given an inch to make a play. Both Stroud and Nelson run an offense so smoothly and then when a receiver breaks free – and both have played with elite talent – they can deliver the ball on the money for a big play.
Nelson is already a five-star and Stroud should have been one considering his performance at Ohio State and the expectation that he’ll be an early first-round draft pick.
Dylan Raiola is the next Patrick Mahomes
The similarities between Raiola and Mahomes are uncanny - and not when Mahomes was a high school prospect who flew under the radar before starring at Texas Tech and then in the NFL - but now. Mahomes weighs about five pounds more than the 2024 No. 1 prospect from Chandler, Ariz., but their playing style and leadership capabilities are mirror images of each other.
Raiola can easily sit in the pocket and dissect defenses, he has great vision and a phenomenal feel for pressure and escaping from it and still making a play downfield. But the five-star quarterback loves being off-platform, likes to throw side arm or from different arm angles and his accuracy doesn’t struggle.
Is it maybe a little ridiculous to compare a high school junior quarterback to one of the NFL greats? Yes. But the two play in such a similar fashion it’s impossible to ignore.