Top 10 QBs in the 2023 NFL Draft

In last week’s post, we examined the top 10 QB-needy teams. Thus, it makes sense to take a look at the QBs that are going to available in the upcoming draft. I’m going to rank the 10 best signal callers (in descending order) based on their production, skillsets, and traits. This list is likely to be very different than any other that you will come across. My opinions about QBs rarely align with those of the draft analysts in the media, but that’s fine! You’re here for unique analysis, not the same old takes. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not sold on any QB in this class. While it’s better than the abysmal 2022 class, each of these prospects still has flaws. Now that we got those disclaimers out of the way, here are the top 10 QBs in the 2023 NFL draft!

1. Bryce Young, Alabama
Most of what people have said about Young is true. He is a polished prospect with sublime pocket presence, he’s a good teammate with high character, and (most importantly), he is very accurate with the football. I’ve heard some questions about his arm strength, but I think it’s good enough, and he’s also mobile. His one critical knock is his size. If he measures 5’11” at the combine this week, I’ll be shocked, and his listed weight is 194 pounds. That’s quite a slight frame, and we’ve seen with players like Kyler Murray that smaller QBs have injury concerns. They also struggle to see over their linemen, leading to more shotgun and pistol formations. Young can be very good in the right situation, but I don’t see those types of spots available.

2. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
If not for an ACL injury suffered against South Carolina, we might be talking very differently about Hooker. He might have won the Heisman trophy, but he has flown a bit under the radar instead. Consider his rookie year a wash because he’ll still be rehabbing his knee and his learning process will be delayed. However, there might not be a QB with more upside in this draft. His 6’4″ size is ideal, his arm is strong, and he can make plays with his feet. The major question marks concern his experience in a pro-style offense (he has none) and his age (he’s a 25-year-old prospect). Kenny Pickett was also an older prospect, yet he still went in the first round last year (albeit in a weaker class). Hooker was decent at Virginia Tech before blossoming under Josh Heupel at Tennessee. He completely transformed the program, and he could potentially transform a patient and well-coached NFL team.

3. Max Duggan, TCU

I doubt that you’ll find another player with a wider range of draft grades. Duggan is projected to go anywhere from round 2 to round 5, and that’s because of how differently people see him. Some envision him as a late bloomer with star potential, whereas others view him strictly as a backup with a style reminiscent of Tim Tebow’s. As always, the truth lies between those two extremes. Duggan actually lost his starting job to open the 2022 season, but an injury returned it to him, and he exploded. He became a Heisman finalist and led TCU to the CFP. Mobility is his key trait, which he uses to pick up yards and navigate the pocket. His arm, like many others, is “good enough”, though his accuracy is a bit lacking. Despite this, he did not throw many INTs as a senior. I like him as a high-end backup with the potential to develop into a low-end starter.

4. CJ Stroud, Ohio State

On the surface, Stroud appears to have the complete package, with arm strength, accuracy, size, mobility, and production. You know what’s coming though. As I’ve stated so many times, I can’t trust OSU quarterbacks. The best of them have been busts too often. Could Stroud break that trend? Of course. Would I bet a high first-round pick on it? Not a chance. His most promising start came against Georgia in the CFP, where he put up a bunch of points and used his legs to great effect, something scouts have been clamoring for. Some have questioned his quiet leadership style, but that’s nonsense. His play should be doing the talking. If you take Stroud, you’re betting that he can transition from his easy Buckeye offense to a pro system and hit his targets even when they aren’t wide open. He’s best off sitting for a year and learning, but he’s unlikely to get that opportunity with where he’ll be picked.

5. Jake Haener, Fresno State

Yeah, you probably didn’t think this would be my pick at #5. Most draftniks have Haener in the late rounds on day 3, and honestly, that’s not an awful projection. My relatively high ranking of him probably speaks more to my low opinion of the class than anything else. Haener is well known in California as the best QB Fresno State has ever had whose last name isn’t “Carr”. I wouldn’t say that he does any one thing amazingly, but he doesn’t do anything too poorly either. He’s a perfect backup QB candidate with an adequate arm, good college production, nice ball placement, and a winning resume. As the reigning Mountain West champion, Haener won’t impress you with his legs, but he can move in the pocket like a veteran. This is a high-floor, low-ceiling prospect.

6. Anthony Richardson, Florida

This prospect both excites me and terrifies me. Therefore, I had to put him somewhere in the middle. Richardson’s physical traits are worthy of the #1 overall pick. He has ideal size at 6’3″, 236 lbs, and he runs a lot like Jalen Hurts. His bazooka arm might give Josh Allen’s a run for its money, and he throws with easy velocity. My one little complaint: he doesn’t play the QB position well. Ok, so maybe that’s a big complaint. Regardless, it’s something an evaluator will have to grapple with. You don’t want to pass on Richardson if you think you can clean up his mechanics and build him into a superstar. However, you absolutely have to pass if you think he’s simply a poor passer that can run and won’t grow into the position. For whoever does take him, that team must treat him as a multi-year project a la Trey Lance. Playing him right away will doom the experiment from the start.

7. Will Levis, Kentucky

Another polarizing prospect whose skillset intrigues you, Levis will also go in the first round. However, as I’ve consistently said, I don’t know why that’s the case. His size is almost identical to Richardson’s (Levis is a mere 4 pounds lighter), and his arm is almost as strong. What makes Levis less risky is that he comes from a pro-style system, so his learning curve shouldn’t be as long. However, that same positive aspect also makes me worried that his accuracy woes might not be fixable. No physical trait is more important for a QB than accuracy. Look at Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. They don’t have a lot in common from a physical standpoint, but one thing they are is accurate ball placement. The other is good decision making, which Levis also lacks. He’ll need to be coached very effectively to make good on his strong physical tools.

8. Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia

Conventional wisdom suggests that Bennett shouldn’t be picked at all. That same wisdom buried him on the Bulldog depth chart and even forced him to transfer to a junior college at one point. However, with the way Bennett has defied all odds and exceeded every limitation set for him, I couldn’t in good conscience rank him last or exclude him altogether. He had his best year in 2022, finishing as a Heisman finalist and leading Georgia to back-to-back titles. The ebbs and flows that were there in 2021 gave way to a more consistent player this past season, and he used his legs more to great effect. I don’t think he has a future as a starter at just 5’11” and with an average arm, but he’s surprisingly fleet of foot, has a ton of willpower, and comes with a nearly unmatched college resume. Someone will love the kid as much as the player and give him a shot.

9. Clayton Tune, Houston

Tune is a multiyear starter who you likely haven’t heard too much about unless you watch AAC football or Scott van Pelt’s “Bad Beats” segments (Houston had a lot of wild games this past season). When you watch him play, your reactions alternate between “why is this guy not more famous?” and “why isn’t he better given his clear talent”? That’s for scouts to figure out; I’ll just tell you what I see. I view Tune as a player with a good arm, clutch performance, and high production. He can run well; think of someone like Joe Burrow: give Tune space and he’ll make you pay. The problem is that he’s a bit streaky. He’ll do absolutely nothing for 2 quarters and then lead an 18-point second-half comeback. That reminds me of Ryan Fitzpatrick, and if he becomes that type of QB in the NFL, that would not be bad at all for a mid- or late-round pick.

10. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Our last QB is an extreme high-floor, low-ceiling guy. Then again, you might argue that the floor isn’t great either. O’Connell is certainly limited from a physical standpoint. He’s not very fast, and he doesn’t have a big arm, but he impresses you when he plays. Though not a prolific passer, O’Connell profiles as a game manager who can lead you on a winning drive if you need one. Confidence is certainly in his nature, and you can tell that he plays with a lot of moxie. A motivated guy like this can scratch and claw his way onto a roster as a backup and carve out an unexpectedly nice career. O’Connell earns the last spot on this list because he seems like the player in this class who profiles as being likely to do just that.

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