Layout of the Preview:
1) Brief Positional Overview
2) Top 10 Prospects. Includes Grade, NFL Comparison, Summary, Extra Thoughts
*Comparisons are more about physical profile and play style, NOT projection
3) Grades only: 11 – 16
90+: All Pro
85+ Pro Bowl
81-84: 1st Round / Year 1 Contributor / Starter
79-80: 2nd Round / Year 1 Contributor / Year 2 Starter
77-78: 3rd Round / Contribute by end of Year 1 / Year 2 Starter
74-76: Early Day 3 / Special Teams / Future Backup / Possible Starter
71-73: Mid-Day 3 / Special Teams / Future backup / Gamble Starter
68-70: Late Day 3 / Back End of Roster / Practice Squad / Developmental
65-67: Preferred UDFA
4) Positional Approach – Draft Weekend
What a difference a year can make. The new leadership of NYG decision makers declined the fifth-year option on Daniel Jones a year ago. It was not punch to the gut, as Jones was drafted by a previous regime and did not have a lot of success in his early years. What it was, however, was a mark in the sand for Jones to get past. He had to prove it the hard way. Even during training camp when I saw some struggles in person, I was already thinking about the 2023 Draft class and what it was going to offer at quarterback. Well, nine months later he is locked into a long-term contract that currently averages top ten in the league when it comes to per-year spending and guaranteed money at signing. While this does not cross off the position from overall draft needs (backup Tyrod Taylor has just one year left on his deal), Jones is the guy for the foreseeable future.
TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
1) Bryce Young – Alabama – 5’10/204
NFL Comparison: Russell Wilson / DEN
Junior entry. Two-year starter from Pasadena, CA. 2021 Heisman Trophy Winner, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and All-American. Two-time first team All-SEC. Young is an elite innovator that has a special ability to create on his own. He knows when to stay within the scheme, makes the right decision to adjust at the right time, and plays his best football in the most difficult moments. The initial hesitation that stems from his diminutive frame is credible. There are almost no long-time quarterbacks that have sustained success in the league at his size. His two years of tape, however, show countless flashes of high-level playmaking, leadership, and productive play. Young is simply the player you want with his hands on the ball in tight games. His versatility is hard to defend, and his maturity is way beyond his years. Young has proven over and over that his brain, unique skill set, and leadership traits can overcome the issues that could come from a lack of sheer size in more ways than one and is fully capable of being the face of a franchise under center.
*Man, what a long process this was. Young has been the quarterback I have spent the most time on since I started scouting professionally. The voice inside my head kept saying “No”. You can’t have a guy this small playing quarterback, you just can’t. But the film says otherwise, the QB coaches I speak with say otherwise, and big moments say otherwise. In a very bizarre quarterback class to say the least, Young is the guy I want with the ball in his hands at the end of the game if my life was reliant on his result. I trust his decision making, I trust his arm talent, I trust his innovation. Young will be fighting an uphill battle his entire career and every time a Dexter Lawrence fall on top of him, I am going to shut my eyes and hold my breath. Every, single, time. He does finish as my QB1 – but man this would be a hard card to hand in if my job relied on it.
2) CJ Stroud – Ohio State – 6’3/214
NFL Comparison: Derek Carr / NO
Third-year sophomore entry. Two-year starter from Inland Empire, CA. Two-time first team All-Big Ten, two-time All-American, two-time Heisman finalist, and two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Stroud finished first and second respectively in the country in passing efficiency in 2021 and 2022. Ohio State went 21-4 in his starts. He is atop the single game passing records in the historic Rose Bowl. Keep discussing Stroud and you will run out of breath talking about how many things he accomplished in the two years after Justin Fields left for the NFL. Stroud is simply next in line from the program’s productive list of passers to make their way into the NFL. The production is off the charts. He won a lot of games. The question will be how much of these results derived from the system and elite talent at receiver and how much of it came from Stroud? The tools and intangibles pass all the tests and Stroud can make a strong case to be considered the best pure passer Ohio State has ever produced. Stroud is coming from a program that can cause at least some hesitation when it comes to projecting his college success to the NFL, but his ascent and performance on the toughest stages of his career combined with his outstanding arm talent are worth taking a chance on to be a credible, big-time NFL quarterback.
*What gave Stroud a fighting chance to finish as my QB1 was the arm talent. Simply put, I believe his ability to throw the ball is better than everyone in the class. Not just power, not just accuracy, not just touch – but the sum of them all. Stroud is smooth, he is confident, and he got better in big moments when comparing 2021 to 2022. Does the recent history of OSU quarterbacks strike some fear into you? I would not look down on anyone that felt that way. It isn’t just the system – but the receivers and O-Line. You would have a hard time finding a better combination of talent AND a bigger gap between his team and weekly opponents than what Stroud had at his disposal. If he did not elevate his game the way he did in 2022 in big moments – I may have kept him out of round 1.
3) Anthony Richardson – Florida – 6’4/244
NFL Comparison: Cam Newton / FA
Junior entry. One year starter from Gainesville, FL. A career that started off in the Covid season and the decision to play Emory Jones in front of him in 2021, Richardson had to oddly wait until 2022 to get the full-time starting job for the Gators. It was his lone full season atop the depth chart, thus he enters the league with 13 starts under his belt. When looking at the combination of elite tools that he has put into motion on multiple occasions, it is hard to see just how high the ceiling is from where he currently stands. He has the body of a tight end, the speed of a receiver, and the contact balance of a running back. He complements that with top-shelf arm strength and a lightning-quick release that produces a tight spiral throw after throw. Richardson’s inconsistent ball placement and footwork are fixable indeed, but the near-blank canvas will present a lot of risk. There is a lot of unknown simply because he did not get on the field enough in college and the track record for quarterbacks in this situation is not a good one. The tools are the best in the class at the position and an offense that can build the scheme around him with patience is the most ideal route for him to trek on. Richardson brings to the table but the contrast between his good and bad combined with a lack of experience makes him a tremendous boom or bust prospect.
*What is your detailed plan for him? That is the first question I am asking the Head Coach / Offensive Coordinator prior to drafting him. Baltimore set the template with how they handled Lamar Jackson and the fact they constructed an offense for and around him. The amount of starts he had scares me the most. Sure, the inconsistent ball placement/accuracy woes are frustrating. The turnovers are too many. The adjustment to the NFL will take him some extra time. But since 2010, here is the list of guys that started under 18 games in college: Cam Newton, Mitch Trubisky, Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Trey Lance, Mac Jones. I don’t love the idea of taking him round one but there are generational traits here. I see a lot of Newton by the way. Newton without the weird personality could have been special.
4) Will Levis – Kentucky – 6’4/229
Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Madison, CT. Began his career at Penn State where he redshirted and started two games, backing up Sean Clifford. Levis, a two-time team captain, played under two NFL offensive coaches. His 2021 coordinator was Liam Coen, who previously coached quarterbacks for the Rams. His 2022 coordinator Rich Scangarello, who previously coached quarterbacks for the Niners. That exposure will give him a slight head start into pro-caliber scheming, game planning, and overall demands. Levis has the prototype profile for today’s quarterback. He is a big, strong, and physical kid that could fit in with the linebackers. His muscle mass if functional. He has a cannon for arm and his base is incredibly thick and strong. The two-time team captain was a brilliant student, one that graduated undergrad in three years and then obtained his masters over the course of his two years at Kentucky. He is a tough kid with intelligence and good leadership traits. All the talent and tools are there but the consistency was not. Levis had such a roller coaster tenure with Kentucky, and he did not win the starting job at Penn State. At some point, the tools need to evolve into dependable play that can be relied upon week to week. He never quite got there. Levis will come into the league with top ten talent for the position, but it will take a quality coach and system to bring him along slowly but surely if they want him to play at a dependable level of consistency.
*Levis was the guy I projected to be number one heading into the 2022 season. A foot injury and poor supporting cast hurt his case in a big way. But we can’t pretend the issues started and ended there. Levis did not play well, he did not make those around him better. He did not elevate his game in big moments. It is hard to ignore the fact he looks, moves, throws like a prototype. The fact he played under two separate NFL offensive minds is a positive. When all is said and done, Levis just has the feel of a first-round pick. What ends up happening with him is a mystery and I have asked myself if I needed a QB in the top 10, do I take him? After a long time scouting his tape, I am a no.
5) Hendon Hooker – Tennessee – 6’3/217
NFL Comparison: Joshua Dobbs / CLE
Sixth year senior. Four-year starter from Greensboro, NC. Spent four seasons at Virginia Tech and two at Tennessee. 2022 SEC Offensive Player of the Year and Third Team All-American. Hooker took over the starting job for Tennessee a couple weeks into the 2021 season and changed the trajectory of the program. A year later, he took home the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award and nearly led them to the College Football Playoffs. Playing under the Air Raid scheme, Hooker proved he can drop the ball in a bucket downfield, create with his legs, and play a tough brand of football. A torn ACL late in the year and the fact he is already 25 years old can cause some hesitation when looking at the long-term projection. This is a top-shelf young man with talent and proven success at the highest level of college football. At the very least, he is a great addition to the quarterback room with the upside of a solid starter. Hooker is a mature, battle-tested leader with an equal distribution of talent from his arm and legs with that will be a great addition to a quarterback room with quality starter-upside.
*I like the intangibles of Hooker enough to consider him in round one. The knee and age (combined) are enough to bump him down a notch. He will be 26 when he sees his first NFL action. That is approaching Brandon Weeden territory. But even if you don’t see a starter – he will be important for a team. Remember, one can make an argument the backup QB is more important than some of the starting spots in today’s NFL. He is tough, he is a leader, he is smart. I think someone is going to trade up for him toward the end of round one to let him compete for a job in 2024.
6) Jake Haener – Fresno State – 6’0/207
NFL Comparison: Taylor Heinicke / ATL
Fifth year senior. Three-year starter from Danville, CA. Spent one season at Washington before transferring to Fresno State in 2019. Three-time All Mountain West including the first team honor in 2022 despite missing four weeks due to injury. Haener falls below the ideal measurables for the position. He barely stands at six feet and further lessens the reach and radius with below average arm length and wingspan. He is going to fight an uphill battle off the snap his entire career. Beyond that, however, this is a tough gamer that can stand figuratively tall and brave in the face of pressure. The lightning-fast release and ability to put some extra RPM’s on the ball from his torque can make up for some of the physical shortcomings. He scored 81 touchdowns and threw just 18 interceptions over his career. The constant ascent in his game is a positive sign of what is to come at the next level. Haener will be a smart and usable presence in the quarterback room even if he does earn a starting job. He brings a noticeable level of energy and leadership to the offense that can hold the ship together if the starter goes down. Do not sleep on his potential to evolve into a quality starter as well. Haener projects as a backup at the next level but there is a sense of intrigue around the combination of talent and intangibles that are worth considering as a starter down the road if the system is friendly to his skill set.
*In a class where the likely #1 overall pick is being heavily scrutinized for a lack of size, not enough is made about Haener and his diminutive frame. I know it is at least somewhat different because Haener is being projected for backup duty, but it still needs to be discussed. His wingspan is smaller than Young’s. His playing weight was under 200 pounds. He tied for the smallest hands among quarterbacks at the combine. I do not want to beat him down further, but these are things that need to be considered if you are at all concerned by the Bryce Young size; it would not make sense otherwise. Anyway, I like the style in which Haener plays with and it reminds me so much of Heinicke. It was one of my favorite comparisons in the class, I saw it instantly.
7) Dorian Thompson-Robinson – UCLA – 6’1/203
NFL Comparison: Tyrod Taylor / NYG
Fifth year senior. Four-year starter from Las Vegas, NV. Three-time All-Pac 12 honoree. Thompson-Robinson turned his back to the NFL after a strong 2021 season where he led the conference in several passing metrics, including total touchdowns and yards per game. He left his mark on the UCLA program, leaving as the all-time leader in total offense, passing yards, completions, and touchdowns. Over the course of 48 career starts, Thompson-Robinson scored 116 times. This is a dynamic and versatile threat that plays the game with unshakeable passion and toughness. There is a competitive juice to his game that very few can match and if channeled correctly, it can elevate his game. He fits in well with what the league wants out of its quarterbacks. There will be plenty to work on both as a passer and reader of the defense, but the traits are worth a day three gamble. Thompson-Robinson is an athletic, high-powered thrower that can make all the plays both as a runner and passer if he stays on a disciplined path.
*I am higher on DTR than the market and I will tell why. This is not algorithm-based, this is not based on analytics. It is a feeling. NYG would be smart to maintain an athletic presence behind Jones on the depth chart. The QB-running is a big part of the scheme and success. Let’s stay away from a Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm type, even if they look good throwing the ball. They need a competitive gamer behind Jones. Someone that is standing on the sideline, foaming at the mouth waiting to get his shot. They need a good teammate, one that will do things away from the field and on his own to make the team better. And lastly, they need someone that can bring energy to the field should Jones go down. DTR checks all those boxes at adamantly. Again, not the biggest guy, but I am OK with it. The league is shifting toward this kind of quarterback, and I think there are elements to DTR many overlook. I would invest an early day three pick in him even if it meant keeping three quarterbacks on the 53 all year.
8) Clayton Tune – Houston – 6’3/220
NFL Comparison: Tom Savage / RET
Fifth year senior. Four-year starter from Carrollton, TX. First Team All-AAC in 2022. The three-time team captain set a conference record with 40 touchdowns in his final go-round. He finished his career top five in school history across multiple key categories, including wins. Tune is a sizeable framed, well put together, classic pocket passer that can drop dimes down the field. He has a knack for putting the ball in a bucket on vertical routes with the pocket awareness plus maneuverability to stay alive under pressure. He is not a great athlete and there are a few shortcomings on the move, but if he can be protected just long enough, he has the skill set to move the ball and score points. Tune has the experience and has shown the ability to lead his team to a pile of wins. How smoothly he can morph into an NFL-style offense will dictate a lot when it comes to his trajectory and ceiling. Tune projects to the backup tier of quarterbacks at the next level but there is a wide spectrum of outcomes when transitioning from a Dana Holgorsen scheme to the NFL.
*The classic drop back, downfield thrower has some of the best sustained production in the class. He also threw 10 interceptions each of the past three seasons. He also comes from an offensive scheme that has struggled to produce NFL talent. Tune has his fans, some that think he is the #6 guy in this class. I don’t see anything special, although the arm talent is real, and he is a big, thick kid. The pre-draft meetings for him will be very important when it comes to how well he does on the whiteboard and with interactions between coaches.
9) Jaren Hall – BYU – 6’0/207
NFL Comparison: Sam Howell / WAS
Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Spanish Fork, UT. Will turn 25 years old before the draft. He is married and has a daughter. Hall comes from an athletic family, as his brothers and parents have played different sports for BYU. Hall himself was a two-sport athlete in college, also playing Baseball for the Cougars for two seasons. He missed 2020 with an injury, the final year Zach Wilson was the starter. Since then, he has scored 54 touchdowns, thrown just 11 interceptions, and went 18-8 as the starter. His arm talent jumps off the screen and he is an excellent scrambler. Hall does some of his best passing work on the move. There are multiple issues with his footwork, and he has multiple shortcomings when it comes to size. The NFL will have to weigh the risk / reward of his consistent glitches found on tape with his plus-talent as both a thrower and runner. Hall’s maturity and intangibles will be a welcomed addition to any quarterback room. Hall makes several NFL-caliber throws look routine and there is a mature competitive mindset here that can maximize his talent. He projects to a backup role but there is something in him that can evolve into much more.
*Similar to the comment about Haener and his lack of size, Hall is in the same discussion. His wingspan is even smaller than Haener (almost 2 inches smaller than Bryce Young). Hall has more thickness to him, however. When I see the best of Hall, there is some Zach Wilson arm talent in him. Very snappy thrower that can change up the angles with ease. He is an underrated athlete, too. Hall can make a strong case for himself but the adjustment to the NFL scheme will be tough (Wilson’s lack of success does not help him) but this is a mature kid that will do the work. I like him as a backup prospect to look at day three if that is a goal of this front office.
10) Aidan O’Connell – Purdue – 6’3/213
NFL Comparison: Ryan Finley / RET
Sixth year senior from Long Grove, IL. Two-year starter full time, but also started three games in both 2019 and 2020 respectively. Two-time All Big Ten. After beginning his career as a walk on, O’Connell had to scratch and claw his way to the top of the depth chart. He finally got ahold of the starting job during 2021 season and took off. He went over 500 yards twice that year, a first in program history. He also set school records in completion percentage and passing efficiency. The production was paired with turnovers (24 interceptions over his last two years) and a lack of impact in the running game. He is a pure pocket passer that excels at getting the ball out quickly but there are times he doesn’t seem to know what he is throwing into. With a player this old and experienced and one that lacks plus-athleticism, O’Connell simply needed to be better by this point. He projects to a backup role, and nothing more. O’Connell can be a valuable intangible-based asset to a quarterback room, but the below average anticipation and talent put a severe cap on his potential.
*I have been told a couple times by people I trust to re-consider my grade here, that he needs to be higher. I did go back and look at everything – my opinion remained unchanged. O’Connell is an awkward mover in multiple ways. He moves away from pressure like he has cinderblocks tied to his cleats. The throwing motion is inconsistent. Now, if you are looking for intangibles out of your backup more so than talent, I can see it. He will be a nice addition to a QB room, he can be an extra coach. That may even be his future in the league like Kellen Moore.
11 – 16
11) Tanner McKee – Stanford – 6’6/231: 71
12) Stetson Bennett – Georgia – 5’11/192: 70
13) Tyson Bagent – Shepherd – 6’3/213: 70
14) Chase Brice – Appalachian State – 6’2/236: 69
15) Max Duggan – TCU – 6’1/207: 69
16) Adrian Martinez – Kansas State – 6’2/221: 68
There is still a high demand for quarterbacks in the league. I’m not sure everyone understands how big that demand is (it was a key reason why Jones got the contract he did). Add in the fact there are at least two 2024 quarterbacks who are going to grade out higher than everyone in this class (and last class too), the unpredictability of this market is wild right now, maybe an all-time high. I could see four quarterbacks going in the top ten (a first-time ever). I could see just two quarterbacks going in all of round one. Simply put, NYG is fortunate not to be caught up in the mess of trying to find their next franchise guy right now considering where they are picking. Nobody will criticize or feel uneasy if they ignore the position altogether, either. They have a solid backup in Taylor and what they need behind Jones can be found rather easily year-to-year. With that said, if they see a real QB value, the position could be a strong consideration to use a day-three asset on a player. Locking in a backup for below-market value pricing for three to four years can allow more spending elsewhere. The one stipulation would be the fact they would have to use a 53-man roster spot on a third quarterback. When injuries pile up elsewhere on the roster, that can be prohibitive. Drafting a quarterback would be much more about 2024, 2025, and 2026 than it would be about 2023. That is the consideration and then you have to also love the player. Interesting situation to follow here.