2023 NFL draft big board: Quarterbacks
Evaluating quarterbacks requires more film work than any other position group. The quest to find the consistency of mechanics, as well as how things like pocket presence, accuracy, awareness and athleticism worked in college and twill ranslate to the next level is arduous — and inexact. Yet it’s also the most critical position for NFL teams to get right.
2023 NFL draft big board: Running backs
Here’s how I rank the quarterbacks in the draft class of 2023.
1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Stroud offers pinpoint ball placement all over the field with outstanding anticipatory timing. Consistently delivers strikes in rhythm and can thread needles with confident arm strength. Only hinted at using his legs, but those hints were fantastic–which leads to questions of why not more?
There is a whole lot of a slightly smaller Andrew Luck to Stroud’s game, right down to his occasional lack of recognition of LBs in coverage. Ready-made NFL starter with high-end potential.
Projection: Top 5 pick
2. Bryce Young, Alabama
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Young brings incredible poise and leadership to the huddle from a pro-friendly offensive style. Might be the best QB at pocket manipulation and movement in years. Arm is good-not-great to all levels of the field, but Young’s ability to deliver with accuracy from multiple angles and platforms helps mitigate the lower velocity throws. His extreme lack of size (5-10 and a playing weight rumored in the 180s) is the biggest issue, and Young will hold the ball a count too long at times. High-end field general with impressive accuracy and athleticism, but will have to answer questions about size and strength.
Projection: Top 5 pick
3. Anthony Richardson, Florida
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Physically freakish athlete with “wow” size, arm strength and on-the-move athleticism. Richardson is also precociously inconsistent. The 20-year-old has just 13 starts and the lack of experience often shows in his throwing process and accuracy. At times, his anticipation and touch are pitch-perfect, but he’s too easily thrown off by pressure or variables with his teammates. Exceptional weapon with his legs. Richardson badly needs more reps to polish out the consistency and field processing issues. Highest ceiling in the class and he’s not as far away from approaching it as his critics would have you believe, but there’s work to be done to raise Richardson’s floor and drive him closer to that ceiling.
Projection: Top 10 pick
4. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Hooker is a very talented, generally accurate passer with an above-average arm and quick, clean release. He’s capable of buying time and gaining big yards with his legs, but also has enough strength to play through some contact. Two major drawbacks: Hooker is likely to miss at least most of his rookie season with a torn ACL, and his Tennessee offense was simplistic and often made reads for him that won’t come so easily in the NFL. He’s also 25 already. The 58 TD/5 INT ratio in 2021-22 is not sustainable but it’s not a fluke for how Hooker throws either.
A healthy 23-year-old Hooker would be above Richardson here, but neither is the case, unfortunately.
Projection: Second half of the first round
5. Will Levis, Kentucky
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Big-armed, experienced thrower with above-average movement and running ability, Levis brings quite a physical presence. Tough and aggressive with his mindset, the Penn State transfer can make the “wow” throws from a variety of angles. Can hit the downfield crossing route in perfect stride and lead receivers away from the defense. His ball placement is inconsistent, but the lack of touch on throws is troubling and it never got better despite more experience. Accuracy and catchability on short-range throws are problematic. Lacks great pocket presence or feel for the rush and will panic at times. Helps himself by being a good runner and confident leader, a la a souped-up Taylor Heinicke.
Projection: Top 12 overall
6. Jaren Hall, BYU
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Hall is a mature (he’s 25), efficient distributor of the ball. He consistently makes the correct, and usually the safest read both pre- and post-snap. Above-average accuracy that extends outside the hashes to about 15 yards but falls off thereafter due to average (at best) arm strength. Hall is smaller (6-0/207) and operates much better out of the pocket despite having some scrambling and running ability. Does not improvise well, something that was on full display during Senior Bowl week. Likely tops out as a reliable, long-term backup capable of handling the reins for a few weeks, a la Cooper Rush.
Projection: 3rd-4th round
7. Clayton Tune, Houston
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Tune put up huge numbers over five seasons for the go-go Cougars offense. He’s almost like a pitching machine from the pocket: crisp, consistent, confident delivery of an accurate and catchable ball to all levels of the field. Tune doesn’t have great arm strength but shouldn’t be underestimated by defenses. He doesn’t go off-script well with his eyes or accuracy, and Tune gets erratic with both his throws and his decisions under pressure. Bonus points for leadership and consistently coming through in late-game situations.
Projection: 5th round
8. Aidan O'Connell, Purdue
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Traditional, dropback pocket passer with a nice arm and ability to put something extra on tight-window throws. O’Connell can make anticipatory throws and hit receivers in stride well. Slower mechanics outside the pocket, notably through the lower body, really hinders what O’Connell can do when forced to move off his spot. Does not reset quickly and will stare down his target at times. Needs to learn to protect himself better; O’Connell takes more big hits than any QB in this draft class. He’s tougher than he needs to be.
Projection: 3rd-4th round
9. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
“DTR” played a ton of football for the Bruins and progressively looked more like an NFL prospect. He’s an above-average athlete and uses his speed, quickness and coordination well as a dual-threat and read-option QB. Made quicker, better decisions with the ball in his final season and it helped both his accuracy and efficiency. Thompson-Robinson has a tendency to baby the ball and it takes too long to come out at times, both in terms of decision and a loopy release motion. Effective runner when he makes up his mind to go, which is inconsistent. Ascending talent at over 23 years old, but his below-average size (6-1/205) could be problematic. Highest upside of the Day 3 QBs.
Projection: 6th-7th round
10. Jake Haener, Fresno State
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Tough-as-nails “gamer” who maximizes his ability. Can hit a moving target in rhythm and with proper touch. Haener is good at putting the ball where his receiver can make a play and the defense cannot, both in system and off-schedule. Smaller and slighter in person than expected and lacks the athleticism to get out of trouble easily unless he sees it coming early. Ball consistently takes too long to come out, something that was true even in 1-on-1 drills at the Senior Bowl. Arm strength fades quickly on longer throws but does carry good velocity closer to the line. Undersized scrapper in the David Blough/Nick Mullens mold.
Projection: 4th-5th round
11. Max Duggan, TCU
12. Tanner McKee, Stanford
13. Tyson Bagent, Shepherd
14. Stetson Bennett, Georgia
15. Malik Cunningham, Louisville
16. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
17. Sean Clifford, Penn State
18. Adrian Martinez, Kansas State