Ranking the best college football QB recruits in Elite 11 history, from Justin Fields to Caleb WilliamsESPN PLUS $ MATERIAL
Founded in 1999, the Elite 11 is the premier quarterback event for the nation's top college football recruits. Winners from 10 regional camps throughout each spring come together in July to receive advanced, one-on-one quarterback instruction in a highly competitive setting.
The regional camps include testing and position-specific instruction by some of the top quarterback coaches in the nation. Those who show the highest level of skill, acumen and competitive drive will earn a coveted invitation to compete at the Elite 11 finals.
The finals begin with 20 quarterbacks competing in the classroom and on the field, since playing quarterback is more than just physical development. The on-field segments teach the game from the ground up, starting with footwork, delivery mechanics, timing and accuracy.
The event moves from individual instruction to a scripted throwing session, or pro day, on which quarterbacks are graded. The three-day event concludes with a team-oriented 7-on-7 tourney, which emphasizes tempo, leadership qualities and the ability to read defensive coverage. At the end of the finals, an Elite 11 MVP is named, a prestigious honor given the stage and history of blue-chip performers.
How notable is the all-time roster? The top performers over the past 23 years have been a "Who's Who" of Heisman Trophy winners and future NFL first-round draft picks. Thirteen of the past 14 Heisman-winning quarterbacks attended the Elite 11 finals or an Elite 11 regional. Twenty-six out of 32 NFL starters also claim space in this celebrated fraternity.
Below we rank the top 20 all-time performances and recap each quarterback's post-event career.
Editor's note: ESPN began ranking college football recruits in 2006 and expanded the ESPN 150 to the ESPN 300 starting with the Class of 2013.
20. Sean White
NSU University School (Florida)
Class of 2014 ESPN 300 ranking: 41
White was not anything flashy physically (6-foot-1, 199 pounds), but was surgical as a passer and picked apart defenses all the way to the opening 7-on-7 title and Elite 11 MVP honors in 2013. He was also extremely competitive and showed an intangible it factor. The former Under Armour All-America Game MVP, White arrived at Auburn with tremendous confidence. He made his first start his redshirt freshman season and led Auburn to a top-10 ranking and Sugar Bowl appearance as a sophomore. In 2017 he lost the starting job to transfer Jarrett Stidham and later was dismissed from the team after he was arrested for public intoxication.
19. Spencer Rattler
Pinnacle High School (Arizona)
Oklahoma and South Carolina
Class of 2019 ESPN 300 ranking: 29
Rattler was up-and-down in 7-on-7 play at the finals but caught fire on the final day in one of the more dynamic performances in Elite 11 history, leading his team to the 7-on-7 championship at the opening and earning Elite 11 MVP honors in 2018. After becoming the most prolific passer is Arizona high school football history, Rattler enrolled at Oklahoma with high expectations. He was named the starter in his redshirt freshman season and led the Sooners to another Big 12 championship, while still not playing to his full potential. Entering his second season as starter, he was considered a Heisman favorite, but after poor play he lost the starting job to freshman Caleb Williams and ultimately transferred to South Carolina.
18. Caleb Williams
Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.)
Oklahoma and USC
Class of 2021 ESPN 300 ranking: 16
In an altered finals format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams was still able to flash top-notch physical gifts and leadership qualities on his way to Elite 11 MVP honors in 2020. His accuracy on the rollouts and zip on intermediate balls separated him from the pack. He went to Oklahoma as the projected backup to Rattler. Thrust into the spotlight in the Red River rivalry, Williams threw for 212 yards, ran for 88 and totaled three touchdowns en route to a memorable comeback. He finished the year by throwing for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns and running for 442 yards and six touchdowns. After the season, he elected to transfer to USC, following coach Lincoln Riley, and is slated to start for the Trojans.
17. Blake Barnett
Santiago High School (California)
Alabama, Arizona State and South Florida
Class of 2015 ESPN 300 ranking: 14
Barnett, a 6-5 pocket passer with good mobility, made the most of his opportunities at the 2014 finals. He emerged from a group of finalists that included three future first-round draft picks (Josh Rosen, Kyler Murray and Sam Darnold) to earn MVP honors, largely based on a connection in 7-on-7 play with future Alabama teammate Calvin Ridley. Barnett arrived in Tuscaloosa with national championship hopes but was ultimately beaten out for the starting job by Jalen Hurts. Barnett transferred to Arizona State, where he twice failed to win the starting job, then transferred again to USF, where he threw for 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in two seasons.
16. Davis Mills
Greater Atlanta Christian School (Georgia)
Class of 2017 ESPN 300 ranking: 61
If not for Tua Tagavailoa's meteoric rise at the 2016 finals, Mills would have claimed MVP honors, checking all the boxes as a prototypical pocket passer with confidence and a calm, cool demeanor. Unlike recent top quarterback recruits, Mills had to wait his turn at Stanford. He was given the opportunity in his third year, when he finished with 1,960 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was poised to start the 2020 season, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic his season was cut to just five games, and he threw for 1,508 yards and seven touchdowns. The Houston Texans drafted him in the third round in 2021 and he threw for 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 13 games as a rookie.
15. Bryce Young
Mater Dei High School (California)
Class of 2020 ESPN 300 ranking: 5
Young was a close MVP runner-up to C.J. Stroud at the 2019 finals, as the two had the misfortune of being on the same 7-on-7 team, otherwise the result could have easily been flipped in Young's favor. He had a strong showing in the pro day competition and was consistently impressive throughout drills. A five-star recruit in the 2020 class, Young flipped from USC to the Alabama, where he backed up Mac Jones as a freshman and then threw for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns while winning the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore.
14. Jeff Driskel
Paul J. Hagerty High School (Florida)
Florida and Louisiana Tech
Class of 2011 ESPN 150 ranking: 10
Driskel had rare physical gifts at 6-3 with 4.6 40-yard dash speed and a strong arm, attributes that helped elevate him above the rest of the competition, including runner-up and fellow Sunshine Stater Teddy Bridgewater at the 2010 finals. As the reigning Gatorade football Player of the Year in Florida, Driskel decided to stay home and attend the University of Florida. He went 11-2 in his first season as a starter and showed promise, but a leg injury spoiled his career in Gainesville. He rebounded after transferring to Louisiana Tech in 2015, throwing for 4,026 yards and 27 touchdowns. Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round in 2016, Driskel has bounced around the league, more recently converting to a tight end with the Houston Texans.
13. Trevor Lawrence
Cartersville High School (Georgia)
Class of 2019 ESPN 300 ranking: 2
Lawrence was not perfect in 7-on-7 play but displayed all the physical and mental attributes of a future star at the finals, most notably an even-keeled demeanor, coachability and the desire to compete. Following his stellar high school career, the much-heralded Lawrence brought his talents to Death Valley and took college football by storm. He led the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman and went 38-2 with 10,098 yards and 90 touchdowns over his three seasons. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft, Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to bounce back after a tumultuous season.
12. Kyle Allen
Desert Mountain High School (Arizona)
Texas A&M and Houston
Class of 2014 ESPN 300 ranking: 35
Allen might have been robbed of MVP honors in 2013, as the staff tilted slightly more toward White's finish in 7-on-7. Allen's very strong body of work and consistent high-level production as a pocket passer are still regarded as one of the best showings at the Elite 11. The No. 1 quarterback in the class, he signed with Texas A&M and became the full-time starter in 2015, leading the Aggies to a 5-0 start until a bad performance and an injury derailed his season. He transferred to the University of Houston, where he started only three games and threw for four touchdowns and four interceptions. After going undrafted in 2018, Allen has played in 21 games over the past four years with the Carolina Panthers and Washington Commanders.
11. Cade Klubnik
Westlake High School (Texas)
Class of 2022 ESPN 300 ranking: 29
Klubnik wasn't the biggest name coming into the 2021 finals, but he dominated the competition from start to finish to emerge as a clear-cut MVP thanks to consistency and a rare competitive drive. Klubnik led Westlake High School to three consecutive state championships, being named Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas. He signed with Clemson, enrolled early and could be the next great signal-caller to bring the Tigers back to the national championship.