The 2023 NFL Draft is shaping up to be a hugely-entertaining offseason event and a major reason is because quarterbacks will feature heavily in the opening round. An NFL Draft always hits a little different when the passers are pivotal to the event.
While last year saw just one quarterback taken in round one (Kenny Pickett by the Pittsburgh Steelers), we could have as many as five go off the board on the opening night and, for just the fourth time in the modern era of NFL Draft, quarterbacks could go one, two and three.
This NFL Draft is shaping up to be more like the 2020 and 2021 selection processes. In 2020, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love were taken in round one while Jalen Hurts went off the board in the second round. In 2021, five quarterbacks went in the first 15 picks in Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones.
There is likely to be similar interest in the quarterbacks this year and here is my top five as we prepare to turn our attention to Kansas City.
Alabama – 5-10/204 pounds
Bryce Young is a quick-thinking, intelligent and productive quarterback ideal for today’s NFL. He can extend plays with his legs and make defenders miss. During his prolific two-year spell with Alabama, Young was awarded the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player in 2021. The only concern is his lack of size. Listing him at 204 pounds is generous – Young spent most of his college career playing in the 180s and he tied Kyler Murray as the shortest quarterback at the NFL Combine since 1998. But comparisons to Drew Brees and Tony Romo suggest a bright future for Young and the team that selects him, regardless of his diminutive stature.
Ohio State – 6-3/214 pounds
C.J. Stroud will win more support from NFL traditionalists as he boasts prototypical size and has been hailed as “the most-pure pocket passer in the 2023 Draft class.” Stroud started 21 games in two seasons at Ohio State, throwing 85 touchdown passes and just 12 interceptions. Stroud’s arm strength and accuracy check all the required boxes and the young man who averaged 325 passing yards and three passing touchdowns per game in college is set to be a day one starter in the NFL. He will hear his name called first or second on the opening night of the Draft.
Florida – 6-4/232 pounds
Dubbed the most athletic quarterback to ever enter the NFL, Anthony Richardson has pro scouts drooling over his potential. But he also has them concerned about his ability to play this most vital of positions and those league-wide views are summed up perfectly by NFL Network Draft expert Daniel Jeremiah, who said: “Arm strength is special. Decision making and accuracy are a roller coaster ride.” Despite having just one year as a college starter under his belt, Richardson has drawn heady comparisons to Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson. He will misfire and make mistakes, but as ESPN Draft expert Todd McShay stressed: “You’d need to call NASA to reach his sky-high ceiling.” Richardson offers too much to resist and his name will be called early.
Kentucky – 6-3/232 pounds
After three wasted years at Penn State during which time he started just two games, Will Levis resurrected his career with 24 starts over two seasons after transferring to Kentucky. And while his game needs to be tidied up (inconsistent play and inaccuracy are real issues), Levis has shown enough as a power thrower to hear his name called in round one. With a lightning-quick release and a cannon for an arm, Levis has drawn exciting comparisons to Buffalo’s Josh Allen. However, he has also been compared to Jay Cutler and Carson Wentz. Make of that what you will!
Tennessee – 6-3/208 pounds
Every mock Draft has four quarterbacks going in round one – the aforementioned Young, Stroud, Richardson and Levis. An increasing number of mocks are now charting Hendon Hooker as a candidate to be taken in the second half of round one. Hooker is not considered one of the top 32 players in this class, but the value of the position could see him picked relatively high. Hooker is a mature player at 25 and one who boasts an intriguing mix of size, accuracy, athleticism and vision. He threw for 80 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions at Tennessee. Hooker helped the Vols lead the nation on offense in 2022 with 525.5 yards and 46.1 points per game. He may not be as spectacular as those above him on this list, but Hooker could match their achievements in the NFL.