2023 NFL Draft QB breakdown: Examining where Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Will Levis will be taken

The college football regular season is quickly coming to an end, and perceptions of top quarterback prospects are changing. In addition to providing insight into the trees that have been this weekend’s performances, CBSSports.com scans the forest in an attempt to provide some context on where these players could be drafted next April.

CJ Stroud, Ohio State

Statistics: (21-7 win at Northwestern): 10 of 26 passes completed, 76 yards; 6 carries, 79 yards

Ohio State was averaging 48.9 points per game heading into the Big Ten vs. Northwestern affair. Stroud and the Buckeyes struggled in the first half, with the junior quarterback missing high on several occasions. There were opportunities during the afternoon. Stroud placed a down pass perfectly into the hands of receiver Emeka Egbuka, but the game was not over. While completing just 38.4% of his passes, the California native was effective with his legs rushing for 79 yards on just six attempts. The Buckeyes continued their game streak scoring at least 20 points, but it was their lowest showing of the season tying Game 1 against Notre Dame.

Early in the process, the draft commentary is often overdone by looking at a prospect’s potential and ignoring the gaps. Compared to last year, when there was no clear candidate to be a first-round pick heading into college football season, the upcoming class has two players (Stroud and Young) who evaluators have been anticipating for a long time. a year; expectations were likely to get outrageous based on that alone.

Stroud is not a go-to quarterback prospect. The term itself may be overstated given the level of trust many, myself included, had in Trevor Lawrence and the struggles he showed early in his career. Stroud doesn’t quite have the ability to play off the cuff, as the struggles of Alabama’s Bryce Young and the Buckeyes’ NFL quarterback are well-documented. Stroud will certainly be a first-round selection when the dust settles, but some of the shine has worn off. Before his first season as a starter, someone close to the program told me he would be a Justin Fields-caliber prospect and the interpretation of that has gotten better in recent weeks with Fields’ play in Chicago.

Bryce Young, Alabama

Stats: (31-32 loss to No. 10): 25 of 51 passes completed, 328 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 4 carries, 10 yards

Young was doing full reads and gouging the Tigers early. After walking down the field, the pressure forced the quarterback into the pocket to find wide receiver JoJo Earle running through the middle with plenty of green grass in front of him. Unfortunately, Young wasn’t able to angle his hips towards the intended target and the remaining angles to complete a safe pass diminished. The pass was a bit behind Earle and the LSU defender capitalized with an interception that saved the score; an important moment considering the match was decided late with a two-point conversion.

LSU did a good job of getting the California native off the platform and into awkward environments, like what Texas did against Young, all night. He still didn’t make a lot of bad decisions but the pressure was often enough for the passes to go off target. Young has a skill set capable of transcending when the game breaks down. On the play below, Young could feel the pressure, moving into the pocket while keeping his eyes on the court and throwing in anticipation to an open Ja’Corey Brooks on the right boundary to take the lead with under five. minutes remaining in regulation time.

Teams want a quarterback who can get his team to get some late game scores even when the rest of the game may not have gone to plan and Young has some examples of that this season. Alabama isn’t brimming with NFL talent outside of running back Jahmyr Gibbs, and the team has already suffered two regular-season losses for only the second time since 2010.

Young is an outlier by physical standards; always has been and always will be. Will he be able to overcome this inconvenience or will it define his professional career? At some point, you have to choose a side of the fence and, for me, that’s the side where he’s a ball player who can overcome the limits. If it weren’t for the evolution of the modern NFL game, and quarterbacks being strictly told to back up and pass, then that would be an entirely different conversation. However, Young has a natural sense of the game and his ability to play when the pocket expires inspires confidence. According to TruMedia, Young hasn’t had a bye this season. Mississippi State’s Will Rogers has 14, which is the most in college football.

Young will be a polarizing prospect and he may not be for every team, but his prospects are still Top 10 overall.

Will Levis, Kentucky

Statistics: (21-17 victory at Missouri): 13 out of 19 passes completed, 170 yards, 3 TDs; 7 carries, -36 yards

Levis showed great composure against a miserly Missouri defense. He will occasionally work on his second reading but needs to complete his first reading more quickly. When the first reading is open, there isn’t a quarterback who rips off a prettier pitch than Levis. He has the arm strength to hit digs from the back of a play and recently told PFF he feels capable of throwing 80 yards down the field.

Injuries piled up over the season, but the Penn State transfer only missed one game and never used it as an excuse. Last year he showed his ability to get big yardage on the ground when the game would crash; that element of his game has basically been removed either out of necessity or by play call in 2022. He’s a smart player who has the support of his teammates.

The season hasn’t gone to plan for the Wildcats and Levis’ stats won’t stand up to college football’s best passers, but his stock will still be high in April. When talent evaluators have the chance to sit down with Levis, they come away impressed. When they see him throw, they’ll be captivated. NFL coaches are eternal optimists who believe they can make the most of any situation. “Just wait for this guy to play in our system.” The Connecticut native is an older prospect, but don’t expect him to be available beyond the middle of the first round.

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