The 2023 NFL Draft has an interesting group of prospects at the quarterback position.
While there’s not a clear-cut QB1 this year, there are four likely first-round picks and a couple other prospects who could climb their way up boards when it’s all said and done. The chaos in projecting which quarterback goes where has been fun already, and with over 2 months to go until the draft, you’ll be seeing a lot more of it soon.
I’ll say this before I dive into things: this isn’t indicating I think the Bears will draft a quarterback early. This is me just doing my job as a draft evaluator to watch prospects and provide my opinions on them. Don’t kill me!
Here are some of the superlatives I’m handing out to the quarterback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Strongest arm: Will Levis, Kentucky
This was a difficult category to narrow down, as I feel there are a handful of quarterbacks with a strong argument to have the strongest arm in this class. However, watching Levis shows exactly why he’s as highly-touted as he is.
A lot of Levis’ stock comes from projection, but a lot of that projection comes from his arm strength. He has a loose throwing motion that allows him to deliver throws from difficult platforms, and his velocity to fit passes into tight windows is impressive. He has a compact throwing motion with good hip rotation when he throws, and his release is quick. Though he’s a work in progress as a decision-maker, Levis’ arm talent is undeniable.
Most accurate: Bryce Young, Alabama
A big part of Young’s game is how much touch he displays when he throws, and the numbers back that up.
SIS DataHub has Young as the most accurate of the top quarterback prospects in the 2023 draft class. 87.1% of his passes were deemed catchable, and his 127.2 IQR is the highest of any quarterback entering the draft this year. His deep-ball accuracy might be the best of any prospect in this class, and he has a natural sense of anticipating when a receiver is going to get open and how to hit them in stride. Young’s arm is good enough that it allows him to hit receivers in tight windows, but it’s the timing and placement from all ranges of the field that make him a top prospect.
Most athletic: Anthony Richardson, Florida
At 6-foot-4 and a little under 240 pounds, Richardson can supposedly run a 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range. That’s just unfair.
Athleticism is a big part of Richardson’s allure as a prospect. He has great lateral agility, which helps him evade tacklers in space and extend plays as a passer. His straight-line speed allows him to accelerate as a runner and break away for big gains, and he’s a creative runner who knows how to keep the play going. It helps that his big frame also makes him a tough runner to bring down, but it’s his pure speed and agility that make Richardson my most athletic quarterback in the 2023 draft.
Most cerebral: Bryce Young, Alabama
I nearly went with Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell here, who’s a later-round target with a backup ceiling but is an intelligent process.
However, Young narrowly takes the cake for me. He showcases the ability to make full-field reads and go through his progressions, and he is able to read coverages accordingly to figure out the best target to throw to. His poise in his dropbacks is encouraging, and he knows when to break out of the pocket and extend the play with his feet. His 80 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in his 3 seasons at the collegiate level indicate he plays a smart game, and that translates to what you see from him on tape.
Most boom-or-bust: Anthony Richardson, Florida
In addition to Richardson’s aforementioned athleticism, he also has one of the strongest arms in the class and has prototypical quarterback size. The tools are superb with him, but the tape is riddled with inconsistency.
When Richardson is on, he looks like a franchise quarterback. His flashes of deep accuracy and spurts of brilliance moving around in and out of the pocket indicate he could become a star in the NFL. However, his moments of inaccuracy are frustrating to watch, and he isn’t the most careful with the ball in his hands. He doesn’t have full-field read experience, and he trusts his arm too much to the point that he’ll make questionable decisions and throw into bad situations. If Richardson hits, he could be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. He could also become abandoned as a developmental project within three years of his being in the league.
Highest floor: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
There are valid concerns with every top quarterback prospect in this class. Young is undersized and would likely be a historical outlier for how skinny he is. Levis is an older quarterback prospect who still makes plenty of mistakes with the football. Richardson only has one year of true starting tape and was quite inaccurate. Hendon Hooker from Tennessee is also an older prospect coming off of a torn ACL.
If there’s one quarterback I feel confident is at least a solid starting quarterback at the next level, it’s Stroud. A two-time Heisman finalist who dominated on some of the biggest stages in college football, Stroud has a live arm with a quick release and killer velocity behind his throws. He has ideal weight distribution in his follow-through, and his natural sense of accuracy is very good. Though he doesn’t always know how to use it, he’s an above-average athlete at quarterback who flashed some off-platform magic against Georgia this year. His ability to extend the play needs work, and he faced as favorable of a supporting cast as any quarterback in the nation. However, because of his arm strength, athleticism and accuracy, Stroud seems like as safe of a quarterback pick as there is in this class.
Sneaky starter potential: Tanner McKee, Stanford
Some mock drafts and big boards have McKee as a first-round pick, which I find highly unlikely. Others have him ranked in various parts of Day 3. That said, there’s still plenty to like about his game.
McKee started getting on NFL radar in 2021, when he beat No. 3 Oregon in just his fourth collegiate start. He has fantastic size at about 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, and he has a strong arm that can hit throws at all levels of the field. His flashes of intermediate anticipation are enticing, and he has good enough pocket awareness to know when to step up or roll out to evade pressure. McKee is raw as a full-field decision-maker, he doesn’t have fantastic athleticism, and his deep-ball touch is inconsistent. With his size, arm strength and ability to get the ball out, though, I could see a situation where he inherits a starting job after an incumbent starter gets benched, and he gets to ride out most of a season.