2016 Preseason All-American Projections: Quarterbacks

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2016 college football season WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises and the stars of next fall could be the headlining prospects next May in the 2017 NFL Draft.

First-Team Quarterback: Deshaun Watson, Clemson

There was a lot of hype for Watson as the heir apparent to Tajh Boyd in 2015, and Watson proved worthy of the excitement during the 2015 when he tore up college football leading Clemson to the National Championship. For the season, the sophomore completed 68 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. On the ground, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry for 1,105 yards with 12 scores. Watson concluded the season with a huge performance against Alabama, completing 30-of-47 passes for 405 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 73 yards on 20 carries.

There is no reason to think that Watson won’t be just as good in 2016. Clemson has recruited a lot of talent around him, and he gets wide receiver Mike Williams back. Williams is a big, fast wideout with early round talent who was going to be Watson’s No. 1 receiver in 2015. However, Williams went out for the season in Week 1 with a neck injury after catching a touchdown pass and falling into the goal post. With other good talent at tight end, running back and the offensive line, Watson should lead a prolific offense this fall.

Playing in the ACC, Watson will have plenty of easy opponents to cruise over. However, there are a few good teams that will test Watson with a lot of NFL talent. On the road at Florida State on October 29th is the toughest game on Clemson’s schedule. Opening the season at Auburn won’t be easy, and South Carolina could be a quality test to close out the season, but Watson should be in store for another season of video game-like statistics. He already is adored by the media and college voters, so it would be a shock if he isn’t picked as an All-American.

Second-Team Quarterback: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Mayfield went on a tear late in the 2015 season as he turned the Sooners’ offense into a point machine. He was a Heisman finalist as he completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,700 yards with 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Mayfield also ran for 405 yards with seven scores. His effectiveness arried Oklahoma into the college playoff.

Mayfield needs to continue to develop his pocket passing for the NFL, but the 6-foot-2, 214-pounder should produce a massive 2016 season. He has a quality supporting cast and plays in college football’s Arena League. The Big XII lacks quality defenses, and Mayfield should dominate his conference slate again. It would be surprising if Mayfield didn’t have a 2016 season comparable to last year.

Third-Team Quarterback: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

This was a tough choice because I think other quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes and Luke Faulk will produce huge stat lines playing in their college offenses. However, I went with Barrett because in Ohio State’s offense with the talent around him, Barrett should have a huge season. He was the Buckeyes starter for the majority of the 2014 season and completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,834 yards with 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 938 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Barrett is a perfect fit in the Buckeyes’ read-option spread offense, and I think he could produce or surpass that total. With Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller in the NFL, Barrett should be the leader of Ohio State’s offense and put together a massive season. The media and voters also pay closer attention to Ohio State than Texas Tech and Washington State. Thus, I think Barrett could easily get an All-American spot.

Honorable Mentions: UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes, Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, Miami’s Brad Kaaya, Washington State’s Luke Faulk, Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs, Boston College’s Patrick Towles, Cinncinati’s Gunner Kiel and BYU’s Taysom Hill.

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