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Devy Outlook: Freshman QBs

The Freshman class has several quarterbacks projected to go early in the 2026 NFL Draft. Which passers should you be targeting in your devy drafts?

The incoming freshman quarterback class is exciting, with a few players destined to be NFL starters and players worth targeting in your devy drafts. At the top, we have famous names and signal-callers headed to high-profile programs. But which ones should you target in your devy drafts? 

Malachi Nelson, USC

Nelson, the crown jewel in this loaded class, will spend a year behind Caleb Williams but will be learning Lincoln Riley’s system. He will be poised to lead the Trojans in 2023 and is your top devy target in this devy quarterback class. 

As far as what makes him the top passer, Nelson is an advanced prospect and will fit seamlessly into the offense Riley runs. Nelson understands where to place the ball and throws with anticipation. He can progress through reads; if a play breaks down, he’s a dangerous runner. He’s got a great arm and throws to all levels with varying arm angles, Nelson is always a threat to throw as he maneuvers through traffic. 

In Superflex devy freshman drafts, Nelson should be the 1.01 and projects to be a potential overall top pick in the 2026 NFL Draft. 

Dante Moore, UCLA

For as refined and ready as Nelson is, Moore isn’t far behind. And he’s got a better shot to see the field in his freshman season. He was a four-year starter in high school and led his team to two state titles. Chip Kelly has been unafraid to let young players start, and Moore is far more talented than Collin Schlee and Ethan Garbers.

Moore is a technically sound prospect with an arm able to make all the throws to all levels of the field. He excels at working around the pocket and is unfazed by pressure. He can move around and takes the time to set his feet and deliver an accurate pass with touch and anticipation. Moore isn’t as much of a rushing threat but is athletic enough to gain yardage if everything breaks down. 

Moore should be taken shortly after Nelson and is projected to be a top-ten pick in the same draft as Nelson. 

Arch Manning, Texas

Hopefully, Peyton and Eli stick with the Monday night ESPN2 feed, and they are able to get their nephew on – Arch is the next Manning to get a shot at being an NFL quarterback. And he’s getting a shot to do it with Steve Sarkisian at Texas, with time behind another prodigy, Quinn Ewers. 

The mental side of Manning’s game is predictably sound. He already has shown the ability to audibly and manipulate defenses pre-snap (who would have thought that?). His arm is lively, and throws with good velocity, but his ball placement needs to be more consistent. Manning can get out of the pocket and run and has a good size to handle running – but he will need to learn to get down and avoid hits. He did his damage against a lower level of competition in high school and struggled against better teams. 

While there is work for Manning to do, his famous name and mental grasp on the game will afford him more chances. He could even push Ewers should the junior struggle. But time waiting in the wings is not a bad thing for him. I’m not as sold on Manning as I am on Moore, Nelson, or even Arnold, but he’s an intriguing prospect. Manning should be one of the top four quarterbacks selected in devy drafts. 

Jackson Arnold, Oklahoma

The last of my locked-in devy quarterbacks is the freshman Sooner. The more I watched of him, the more I loved, and he could be the best passer in the class with some development. He’s got a great arm – he can make every throw and throws with incredible accuracy. Arnold drives the ball, and he has a sweet delivery. Arnold navigates the pocket with ease and has nice footwork. He can run but prefers to throw, keeping his eyes downfield as he moves around. 

Veteran Dillon Gabriel has the reins for head coach Brent Venables, but he has struggled to stay healthy in his career. Arnold could push Gabriel, even if the vet is healthy. He is much more dynamic and could kick the Sooners’ offense into another gear by pushing the ball downfield. Arnold has a first-round upside in the NFL Draft and should be a later first-round in your devy drafts.  

Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee

A fun quarterback prospect with tons of flair, Iamaleava lands in a perfect situation to highlight his talent. Tennessee’s quick-hitting offense will fit well with his arm talent. He will sit this season behind Joe Milton unless Milton flames out or is injured, and then it’s his team. 

Iamaleava has a wicked arm, it’s not quick the cannon that Milton has, but Iamaleava has an effortless throw, and the ball jumps off his hand. He can make any throw and is most dangerous on the move. His accuracy is spotty and will need to be more consistent. Iamaleava doesn’t run often, but when he does, his long legs stride, and he picks up yardage quickly. The biggest knock on Iamaleava is his size. At 6’6” and 200 pounds, he’s a bean pole – and won’t survive many big hits. 

The Volunteers freshman is the last of the “must-have” quarterbacks in this class if you have a smaller devy draft. He projects to be an early NFL Draft pick if he can add some weight and improve his consistency. 

When drafting in devy leagues, particularly ones with five to ten rounds each off-season, I don’t typically target many quarterbacks outside of the top few. The likelihood of these guys hitting at lower-profile colleges or in murkier situations makes them less worthy of a pick for me. I would rather take a chance at a running back or wide receiver, trying to find the next Kendre Miller or Jameson Williams. 

Aidan Chiles, Oregon State

Behind DJ Uiagalelei, Chiles will likely not see the field this year – but he should. He’s an interesting prospect and an explosive rushing threat. His passing has improved, and if it continues, Chiles has early draft potential. His mechanics are loose, and he greatly relied on his athletic ability in high school. But his accuracy improved each season, and Chiles can push the ball downfield. He was a late riser in the process and only had seven P5 offers, but I really like his potential if he gets the shot. 

Sam Leavitt, Michigan State

A talent stuck in a suboptimal situation, Leavitt is a guy I am taking a flier on in my later rounds of devy drafts. Yes, I am a Spartan homer, but Leavitt is a talented passer who could be in the top tier if he landed in a better situation. He’s got an impressive arm – he throws to all levels with velocity and touch and can make off-platform throws with some juice. Leavitt pushes the ball and moves well in the pocket. If there’s a knock on his talent, it’s his propensity to run too early and not go through progressions. And, due to the Spartans losing Payton Thorne, Leavitt could push to start. 

LaNorris Sellers, South Carolina

If there is a candidate in this class for a prospect to take the Jalen Hurts/Anthony Richardson path to the draft, it’s the Gamecock freshman Sellers. He’s an incredibly dangerous runner and has a big booming arm too. Sellers is an athlete with a quick release and throws with zip on the run. As with the other quarterbacks mentioned, Sellers will need to work on ball placement and touch. He’s also got a year behind an entrenched starter, Spencer Rattler, but Sellers is a fun dart throw that could massively pay dividends. 

Kenny Minchey, Notre Dame

As a Notre Dame quarterback, Minchey’s biggest questions are about the offense evolving and the Irish’s ability to develop an NFL passer. Minchey has a good but not great arm and is another refined option in the class. He commands his offenses well and has a clean release. I could see Minchey being a solid starter and late draft pick, not someone I want to invest in until I see more though. 

Lincoln Keinholz, Ohio State

It’s all about when and if, Keinholz will see the field for the Buckeyes. They have had multiple good quarterbacks and have a pipeline of good ones coming up behind Keinholz too. He’s an impressive athlete and makes phenomenal throws on the run. He doesn’t lose any touch when he’s on the move, and Keinholz loves to be on the move. Perhaps too much. Will he ever see the field? It’s hard to say, which makes me hesitate to select him in devy drafts. 

Austin Novosad, Oregon

The last quarterback I’m considering is the possible next man up in Eugene, Oregon. Novosad is a pure pocket passer and has impressive mechanics, and early reports have been encouraging. He throws with velocity but can vary speeds to throw with touch. He’s not much of a threat to run, and we need to see how he handles pressure. I like Novosad a lot, but I am having a harder time putting much stock in pocket-passing quarterbacks. I don’t think they entirely go away, but I am more willing to take a shot on a mobile guy like Sellers. 

Names to Monitor

Austin Mack, Washington

Jaden Rashada, Arizona State 

Avery Johnson, Kansas State

Eli Holstein, Alabama

Christopher Vizzina, Clemson

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2 Responses

  1. I’m new to dynasty. Everything I’ve read though says to avoid young QBs in devy drafts because they are unpredictable. So why would you take Nelson at 1.01 over Caleb Williams?

    1. I’m taking Nelson at 1.01 in freshman/supplemental drafts. No way over Caleb! If it’s a combined initial devy draft, I would have Nelson at my QB6/7 and wouldn’t target him until the second round. Great question!

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