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Will the 2023 Draft Class Revitalize NFL Quarterback Play?

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Quarterback play has been underwhelming for much of the NFL this year, and the uneven performance of the headliners in the last two classes of the QB draft is partly to blame. The jury certainly hasn’t decided on the class of 2022, led by Pittsburgh Steelers starter Kenny Pickett, but early results haven’t been promising for that group. And the highly acclaimed class of 2021 has yet to live up to expectations: Trevor Lawrence has been fickle, Zach Wilson still needs to make a huge leap, and Trey Lance has barely played since a season-ending ankle injury. Justin Fields has shown significant improvement over the past few weeks but is still facing major challenges and Mac Jones has regressed heavily.

All of which means the league could use some fresh young talent at quarterback. Could the 2023 project be the solution? While there are no unmissable prospects on the list, this year’s QB class is rife with potential. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest names to keep an eye on as we get closer to the project.

Bryce Young, Alabama

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The current Heisman winner, Young is an electric playmaker with a dual threat skill set and incredible game sense. He received nearly everything that NFL raters look for in this position, pairing a strong hand with accuracy, poise, and out-of-the-box genius—but he has a rather important flaw: he’s small. At 6 feet tall and weighing 194 pounds, he is well below the traditional size standards for the position, even when compared to a guy like Kyler Murray, who checked in at 5 feet 10 inches and weighed 207 pounds on the 2019 combine. . However, I’m not sure Young’s lack of size will completely deter draft teams. He’s just damn good.

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A five-star prospect from Santa Ana, California, Young was rated no. 1 double threat quarterback in the country and no. 2 absolute player in its class, for 247Sport. He spent little time matching that list of prospects, leading the Crimson Tide to a national championship game in his first year of starting 2021, throwing for 4,872 yards, 47 touchdowns and just seven picks in that campaign. , while adding three points on the ground. This season, he again threw for 2,234 yards, threw for 19 touchdowns and four picks in eight starts, scoring another 147 yards and three touchdowns as a runner.

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Young has a live hand and shoots with a quick release, demonstrating the ability to get passes to the sideline and hit accurate shots on the go.

One big question he will face is whether his lack of height will limit his ability to attack midfield. This was sometimes a problem for shorter guys like Russell Wilson and Jalen Hurts and could limit his effectiveness as a passer. But Young certainly showed the ability to hold tight in the pocket, wait for the routes to develop and push the ball down the middle. His ability to synthesize routes and surfaces is evident in these throws.

Young has a vision similar to Jason Kidd, and this is even more evident in his off-the-wall games. He has the athleticism to climb and gain yards with his feet, but he always aims to get big with his arm first. He feels pressure well, eludes rushers and keeps his eyes on the field even when out of the pocket. He can drop his legs or make throws from the platform. And he’s even been in a few plays where he almost looks like a point guard, riding up to the rim and pulling the defense in before throwing an alley-oop to a guy in the bottom half of the field.

Young is resourceful in and out of the pocket to avoid rushing and keep playing. This ability came to the fore during a game against Texas when he avoided what would have been a game-deciding sack with 35 seconds left by diving under a defender before running for the first down. A few games later, Alabama scored the game-winning field goal. If I had to guess, Young probably never lost at tag.

If you’re looking for the negatives, Young’s deep accuracy can be a little random. He has a tendency to back away from shots in the face of pressure. And he could be taken off the draft list by several teams altogether because of his size. But I think it would be a mistake; Young has many of the traits it takes to play in the NFL position and has the talent to mitigate his lack of height.

CJ Stroud, Ohio State

Stroud is likely to be the best quarterback on many teams. He combines good size with a big hand, surgical precision on the pitch, and elite passing. A Heisman finalist last year, Stroud became the team’s starter and threw for 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns with just six spades to lead the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl victory over Utah with a truly absurd 573 yards and six touchdowns.

A four-star prospect rated no. The second pro-style defenseman in the country according to 247Sports, Stroud has a strong arm and shoots from a wide, balanced base with a fast and excessive release. The first thing that catches the eye is his ability to drive a magnificent, laser-like, deep ball down the field, which is often shown in Ohio State’s aggressive scheme.

However, it’s not just that Stroud has a strong hand. He demonstrates the ability to put the ball on a dime at all three levels, often passing where only his target can receive it, or taking his receivers away from defenders into the open field.

Stroud is a pocket passer with a good sense of how to avoid rushing. He feels the pressure but looks down and has shown that he can win a blitz or throw when a pass rusher comes at him. In the first play below, when the defense makes an all-out blitz, he skillfully attacks the vacated area in the depth of the field. In the second play, he gets thrown down the seam despite the pressure in his face.

A sophomore in a red shirt can throw with anticipation, throwing a pass before his target makes his breakthrough. He understands how to manipulate the eye cover, holding the safety to one side before passing to the other direction. And although he is capable of gaining yards with his feet, he always looks down when he plays. His first priority is always to throw, and he will even run parallel to the line of scrimmage to try and let the route develop before taking off. He anticipates where his targets will be in practice games and demonstrates the ability to make something out of nothing when the game breaks down.

Stroud’s fluid pocket demeanor can be a double-edged sword as he plays in an almost robotic style that isn’t as effective when the structure breaks. He seems to predetermine shots and miss passes from time to time as if he can’t see the defenders, sometimes leading the intended targets to massive shots. He often takes an extra hitch before throwing and will need to work on removing that crutch on the next level. And while it can climb, it’s not a true double threat.

Will Lewis, Kentucky

Lewis caused a lot of buzz last calendar year, and while I consider him a notch below Young and Stroud, he could compete for the first half of the first round in April thanks to a combination of his formative traits. He is a tough, solid, strong passer with good size, a light wrist throwing style and the ability to do things with his feet. A three-star prospect who started his college career in Pennsylvania and then moved to Kentucky, he burst onto the scene in 2021, passing for 2,816 yards and 24 touchdowns with 13 spades, adding another 376 yards and nine points on the ground in the lead. Wildcats to a 10-3 record.

Lewis is a light thrower who develops good speed across the field. He is most effective when he takes the decisive shot and clears the ball with his back foot. He also shows an ability to shoot with good touch and depth accuracy, occasionally taking some mustard off the ball to give his receivers a chance to go down with the catch.

He feels comfortable both in the center and in the shotgun position, and is strong in the pocket, getting shots when he gets hit or when pressure is put on him. He uses nimble pocket moves to buy time and keeps his eyes on the prize field.

Levis has a background in game imagery and bootlegging and can generate some torque on the go. He is able to drop his legs and throw a dart when moving to the left.

While Lewis’s tools are intriguing, he hasn’t put it all together yet when it comes to consistent high-level quarterbacks. He takes on too many bags and will need to speed up his internal clock for the next level. He is inconsistent in touching and placing the ball (i.e. he hits on the wrong shoulder, shoots behind receivers, etc.), especially deep in the field. He is a strong, physically runner, but at times he is too reckless with both his body and football, dropping his shoulder like a runner or allowing defenders to load and hit him on the open field instead of sliding or running out of bounds. . And while he’s been praised for his work ethic and leadership qualities, some teams might take issue with the fact that he’ll be a 24-year-old rookie.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

This year, Hooker has risen to the quarterback position the most. A four-star prospect, he began his college career at Virginia Tech, starting 15 games there over three seasons before moving to Tennessee ahead of the 2021 season. Last year, he scored with 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns,…


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