We’re still weeks away from draft season kicking off in earnest, but the discourse surrounding the 2023 NFL draft is already off to a heated start. One polarizing prospect is Kentucky quarterback Will Levis — anonymous scouts are still dealing out quotes about his potential as the draft’s No. 1 overall prospect, but the mock draft industrial complex has chilled on him amid a difficult senior season for the Wildcats.
Levis even fell past the New Orleans Saints in a recent mock draft from our own Luke Easterling over at Draft Wire. The Saints selected Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker at No. 43 overall, who we’ve advocated for in spite of his season-ending knee injury, with Levis falling to the Washington Commanders at No. 48. Would the Saints let Levis get past them if given that opportunity?
Maybe so. He fits their established prototype for the position as an experienced college passer with size and athleticism at a listed 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, and real arm talent. Levis entered his senior year with plenty of momentum after completing 66% of his attempts last year while throwing for 2,826 yards with 24 touchdown passes, adding another 376 rushing yards and 9 touchdown runs on the ground. It was a strong start for the Penn State transfer.
The issue was whether he could cut down on the turnovers (throwing 13 interceptions in 13 games, and fumbling 3 times) and endure a lot of changes in his supporting cast: Levis lost his offensive coordinator Liam Coen (who was once in the mix for a job with the Saints), his offensive line coach Eric Wolford (who ironically replaced Saints line coach Doug Marrone at Alabama), multiple starters along the offensive line, and his leading receiver Wan’Dale Robinson.
He responded to all of that adversity by throwing for 2,218 yards and 17 touchdown passes in 10 games, lobbing 10 interceptions through those 10 games. Levis has completed 65.9% of his passes and improved on his yards per attempt average (going from 8.0 to 8.4), but he hasn’t been a factor as a runner with just 2 touchdown carries and more yards lost than gained on the ground — he’s actually at negative-97 rushing yards right now. Tack on 3 fumbles (the same as last year, but in 3 fewer games; Levis fumbled twice in an ugly last-minute sequence during Kentucky’s loss to Ole Miss in October) and it isn’t looking pretty.
Still, scouts claim they love him when they can’t put their names to that testimony where the public can read it, and he’s routinely getting picked in the first round of mock drafts. He wouldn’t be the first quarterback to enjoy greater stability and thrive in a better situation at the pro level. But is that the kind of prospect you spend a first-round pick on? What about a second rounder?
It’s a curious situation, and it’ll take months to suss out. There are still games to play, not to mention all-star events like the Senior Bowl, interviews and athletic testing at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, plus private meetings and workouts with interested teams in the spring. Levis should be on the Saints’ radar just like every other quarterback in the upcoming draft class, but they might have better options. The next step for Levis comes in Saturday’s Governor Cup’s rivalry game with the Louisville Cardinals, with kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.