Quarterback prospects for Chargers to watch at 2023 Senior Bowl

The Senior Bowl game kicks off on Saturday, February 4th, after a full week of practice, evaluation, and interviews for nearly 100 of college football’s top senior players. To get prepared, Chargers Wire will preview each position group set to compete in Mobile, Alabama, continuing today with the quarterback group.

Los Angeles, of course, doesn’t need a quarterback. They have Justin Herbert, himself an alum of the 2020 Senior Bowl. But backup options are always in play: Chase Daniel is likely to retire, but even if he doesn’t, he’s a free agent. Easton Stick is a free agent as well. There’s opportunity to reshape the room behind Herbert.

Jaren Hall, BYU

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Measurables: 6’1”, 205 lbs

Likely draft range: Mid-Day 3

A former BYU baseball player, Hall took over the signal-calling duties from Zach Wilson in 2021 and immediately showcased the natural athleticism that players increasingly need to be successful in the pocket. While a bit undersized, which has led to a pockmarked injury history, Hall is not to be taken lightly as a runner and has a strong arm as a passer.

For a baseball player, I’d expect Hall’s ability to throw on the run to be better than it is. Often, his accuracy falters without a solid base underneath him. Hall will also turn 25 in March but has limited college game experience, making him a developmental quarterback of advanced age. Such a combination is likely to dampen his stock.

Jake Haener, Fresno State

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Measurables: 6’1”, 200 lbs

Likely draft range: Late Day 3

It’ll be interesting to see how Haener measures in Mobile, because I think his listed height of 6’1” is awfully generous. Originally a Washington Husky, Haener transferred to Fresno State after losing the starting job to 2020 fourth round pick Jacob Eason. A return seemed to be in the cards entering 2022, but eligibility issues ultimately kept Haener in Fresno.

A folk hero for his gutsy performances during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Haener has the play-through-anything mentality that keeps backup quarterbacks in the league for a long time. Many pundits have likened Haener to Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke, and I think that’s an apt comparison. While not blessed with elite size, athleticism, or arm strength, Haener simply gets the ball where it needs to go and has the will to drag teams to victories.

Clayton Tune, Houston

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Measurables: 6’3”, 220 lbs

Likely draft range: Mid-Day 3

This year’s version of the Air Raid quarterback with eye-popping stats, Tune is a touch better than the usual player of his mold. With plus running ability, a quick release, and advanced field-reading skills, he’s a perfect candidate as a developmental backup.

Tune’s primary deficiencies are mechanical – his footwork is inconsistent at best, which can affect his accuracy from throw to throw. He’s quick to come off reads, too quick at times, and gets flustered easily when pressure bears down on him. Coaching consistency and patience into him could result in a few games of spot start magic, but I don’t see too much beyond that.

Malik Cunningham, Louisville

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Measurables: 6’1”, 190 lbs

Likely draft range: UDFA

Invited to Mobile on Wednesday after a strong week of practice at the NFLPA Bowl in Pasadena, Cunningham is an undersized, one-read-and-go quarterback who hurts defenses with his legs more than his arm at this juncture.

Cunningham’s lower body mechanics are inconsistent, partially because he’s always itching for the first opportunity to take off and run. That makes an already pedestrian arm look worse, and his accuracy is all over the place as a result. Mobile is a huge opportunity to prove he can slow things down and threaten teams through the air as well.

Tyson Bagent, Shepherd

Measurables: 6’3”, 210 lbs

Likely draft range: Mid-Day 3

The son of one of the greatest arm wrestlers of all time, Bagent rewrote the record book at Division II Shepherd before entering the portal and pursuing Power 5 schools like Maryland and West Virginia prior to 2022. An eligibility snag prevented him from leaving, however, and so Shepherd remained an essential trip for NFL area scouts this season.

Bagent’s talent pops off the screen against inferior competition: he’s a talented processor, adequate athlete, and has one or two plays a game outside structure that get you up out of your seat. Mobile is going to be hugely important for him to prove he can hang with the best of the best. Bagent isn’t entirely dissimilar from Easton Stick (record-setting small schooler with playmaking ability), but I think Bagent has the upper hand on him as a prospect.

Max Duggan, TCU

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Measurables: 6’2”, 210 lbs

Likely draft range: Early Day 3

One of the best redemption stories in college football, Duggan recovered from losing his starting job to open 2022 by leading TCU to a National Championship appearance while being named a Heisman Trophy finalist. A bulked-up player with legit running ability, Duggan has gone from NFL afterthought to likely 4th or 5th round pick.

Duggan is the last of a generation of Big 12 quarterbacks addicted to playing backyard football, a lineage that extends from Duggan to Brock Purdy to Kyler Murray. While he has the ability to make plays out of structure, Duggan forces himself to more often than necessary because of how long he holds onto the ball. He’s willing to take a shot, both in the sense that he’ll launch it downfield and the sense that he’ll absorb contact from defenders. A consistent string of games in 2022 does make me wonder if NFL teams are convinced he’s turned a corner, however.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

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Measurables: 6’4”, 218 lbs

Likely draft range: Day 2

Hooker won’t participate beyond interviews in Mobile because of a torn ACL he suffered in November. It’s unfortunate timing for a player who was having a Heisman-caliber season, leading Tennessee to one of their best starts of all-time.

The problem now with Hooker is that he was already going to be an overaged rookie – he celebrated his 25th birthday two weeks ago. Now, he’s an overaged rookie who won’t even be able to play right away as he recovers from the ACL tear. That wouldn’t be as much of a problem if he ran something resembling a pro system, but Tennessee’s offense is a far cry from what NFL teams like to scheme up.

All this said, Hooker is one of the most accurate QBs in the draft, with near-unmatched touch in intermediate areas of the field and the anticipation to lead receivers and drop balls in buckets. He’s a natural leader with running ability and should be highly coveted by teams whose QB situations might be in flux heading into this season.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire