While what happens on the field and how things finish at the end of the season is what really matters, preseason rankings give fans an idea of what teams and players they should keep an eye on. In this summer series, we’ll take the Top 25 approach and rank the best returning players at every position.
First up are the quarterbacks.
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Best Returning QBs
25. Rasean McKay, Florida A&M
24. Parker McKinney, Eastern Kentucky
23. Kasim Hill, Rhode Island
22. Tyler Riddell, East Tennessee State
21. Joe Fagnano, Maine
20. Seth Morgan, VMI
19. Matthew Sluka, Holy Cross
18. Carson Camp, South Dakota
17. RJ Martinez, Northern Arizona
16. Jake Dunniway, Sac State
15. Hajj-Malik Williams, Campbell
14. Nic Baker, Southern Illinois
13. Tommy Mellott, Montana State
12. Cam Miller, North Dakota State
11. Tony Muskett, Monmouth
10. Lindsey Scott Jr., Incarnate Word (transfer from Nicholls)
9. Draylen Ellis, Tennessee State (transfer from Austin Peay)
8. Nolan Henderson, Delaware
7. Mark Gronowski, South Dakota State
6. Reece Udinski, Richmond (transfer from Maryland & VMI)
The Top 5
5. Trae Self, Stephen F. Austin
Self has played a key part in SFA’s rise into a playoff contender. After a 2,550-yard, 12-TD season in 2019 and a 2,008-yard, 15-TD season in the fall of 2020, he took a big step as a standout QB last season. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 3,201 yards, 28 TDs, and nine interceptions. With his size and a big arm, Self will gain more NFL interest this season.
4. Shedeur Sanders, Jackson State
A four-star recruit, Sanders stepped in as JSU’s starter as a true freshman last season. The Tigers won their first SWAC championship since 2007 in Deion Sanders’ first full season as head coach. His son Shedeur was fantastic, completing 272-of-413 passes for 3,231 yards, 30 TDs, and eight interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder won the Jerry Rice Award for the best FCS freshman.
3. Tim DeMorat, Fordham
DeMorat is a veteran standout for the Rams entering his fifth season as a starter. He is a three-time First Team All-Patriot League selection and has been named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year the last two seasons. In 36 career games, DeMorat has thrown for 8,570 yards, 67 TDs, and 29 interceptions while rushing for 12 scores. DeMorat likely would have gotten a postseason all-star game invite if he didn’t decide to come back for a graduate student season. The 6-foot-4 gunslinger is a pro prospect to keep an eye on this year.
2. Xavier Shepherd, Kennesaw State
Shepherd orchestrates the option offense to perfection. He’s a tremendous runner and an efficient passer. A First Team All-American last season at the all-purpose position, Shepherd led the FCS with 23 rushing TDs as he ran for 867 yards on 240 carries. He kept defenses honest with his throwing abilities, too. Shepherd completed 77-of-123 passes for 1,341 yards, 15 TDs, and three interceptions.
1. Jason Shelley, Missouri State
Shelley is a straight-up playmaker for the Bears. Ranked the No. 12 dual-threat QB in the country coming out of high school, he made stops at Utah and Utah State before transferring to Mo State last fall. His impact was immediate, going 215-of-362 passing for 3,088 yards, 30 TDs, and six interceptions, including 398 yards rushing and 10 scores. Shelley was named the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. With some big-time weapons around him, the sky is the limit for what Shelley can do in 2022.