When it comes to evaluating quarterbacks, I learned several years ago that to come up with an accurate evaluation, the evaluator must consider several different points. Sure, the obvious stands out, such as throwing motion, arm strength, accuracy, and the ability to make both quick and good decisions, just to name a few, but there is much more to it. More than any other position, an evaluator has to look at all things that can affect the quarterback's play.
As I have mentioned several times, football character is important when evaluating not just quarterbacks but all positions. Regardless of a player's natural talent level, if he lacks a strong work ethic and desire to be great, he will never live up to those natural talents.
There are several other factors also, and when it comes to evaluating Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, I feel many analysts are missing a few undeniable points.
Last November, I was asked to write up the top four quarterbacks in this Draft for a club with a need at the position. The four players I did were obvious to all: Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Alabama's Bryce Young, Kentucky's Will Levis, and Florida's Anthony Ricardson.
As part of this exercise, I researched each player as far as games started, statistics, coaching, style of offense, throwing mechanics, how he played in certain down and distance situations, overall play in big games, supporting cast, and coaching.
When it came to doing the Will Levis evaluation, two things stood out. The first was coaching, and the second was his supporting cast.
Let me explain.
In the 2021 College Football Season, Will Levis had an outstanding season for Kentucky. He finished the year by throwing for 2826 yards with a 66% completion percentage and 24 touchdowns. 2021 was Levis' first year at Kentucky, as he previously was enrolled at Penn State and played as the backup quarterback.
That 2021 Kentucky team was one of best Kentucky teams in years, finishing the year with a record of 10-3, including a win over Iowa in the Florida Citrus Bowl. One of the reasons for that strong team was the high-powered offense led by first-year Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen and of course Will Levis.
Coen had spent the three previous years as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams with Sean McVay. In 2018 and 2019, Coen was the wide receivers coach, and in 2020 he was the quarterback's coach. Following the 2020 season, Coen was hired by Kentucky to lead their offense, and he installed a system similar to the Rams' offense (though not as complex), and the Kentucky offense thrived, as did Levis.
Following the 2021 season, Coen went back to the Rams as Offensive Coordinator to replace Kevin O'Connell, who had become the Head Coach with the Minnesota Vikings. Without Coen leading the offense in 2022, the Kentucky offense struggled. Not only did they have a new Coordinator with a new system, but the supporting cast was much different.
In 2021 the leading Kentucky receiver was Wan'Dale Robinson, who had 104 receptions and got drafted by the Giants in the second round. Their number two receiver was Josh Ali, who had 41 catches and was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent and made the Falcons team.
Along the offensive line, two Kentucky players were drafted. Center Luke Fortner went in the third round, and tackle Darian Kinnard was selected in the fifth round. Kentucky has a good program, but they aren't like Alabama or Ohio State, who consistently have the best recruiting classes in the country and re-load every year.
In the 2022 season, the Kentucky offense was not nearly as productive as it was in '21, and the main reasons being they were playing in a new scheme with two new receivers (both freshmen) and a new OLine. When watching tape of Levis in '22 as compared to '21, the difference on the offensive line stood out. Rarely did Levis have time to throw and often he had to scramble as his line may have been the weakest in the SEC. That does affect how a quarterback plays!
Being young, the receivers did not run the crisp routes that veteran receivers had run the year before, and their production wasn't nearly as good.
When I wrote my report on Levis, I noted all of the above. I also noted that had Levis had the opportunity to play with a supporting cast like Bryce Young had at Alabama or C.J. Stroud had at Ohio State, his numbers may be off the chart. Yes, a supporting cast makes a difference!
When listening to several analysts talk about Levis, I have yet to hear even one bring up the fact that he was in a new scheme in 2022 as well as having a new Oline and receivers. Why is it obvious to me, and they can't even mention it?
I am not saying Levis is the best quarterback in this Draft class, but I feel he is much better than he is given credit for. Every club with a need at quarterback will note what I have noted in their reports on Levis, but for some reason, the analysts missed the boat. When talking about players, it's best to know all the information, not just some of it.