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It is a virtual lock that for the fourth time in nine years quarterbacks will go No. 1 and 2 in the NFL Draft in April. That may be the beginning of one of the most fascinating quarterback classes in league history.
“If you include the juniors who could come out, you’re probably looking at 12 guys who could go in the first or second round,” said one NFL scout who implied that 10 of the 12 quarterbacks rated as possible first-round picks when compared to the most recent draft. “At this moment, I have a higher grade on 10 of them than I did on Kenny Pickett at this point last year.”
Another scout put it in slightly different terms: “There are going to be teams that have no need at quarterback that will take a few of these guys because the value is just too good. It’s like when Green Bay had (Brett) Favre and took Aaron Rodgers. At a certain point, you have to take them because the value is so great.”
One personnel man went as far to compare this class to the historic 1983 group that included six quarterbacks drafted in the first round, including three eventual Hall of Famers (John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly).
“I don’t know if any of them are as good as Elway or Marino, but you have more guys who you think have a real chance to make it and be impact guys … if you had a draft where you had five guys who could be as good or better than Kelly, you’d be damn excited. That’s what this is looking like,” the personnel man said.
A Look At The Top Passers
1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State: There’s historically a knock on Ohio State quarterbacks and quarterbacks who have come out of the OSU offense since Urban Meyer brought his attack there. Stroud looks like the best candidate to break that trend.
2. Bryce Young, Alabama: The criticism he received after the national championship game was considered overwrought by the scouts we talked to. Young has been a stud since his days in high school. As one scout said: “I thought Young and Stroud were the top two guys last season if they had been able to come out. Nothing has changed my mind.”
3. Will Levis, Kentucky: One scout called him, “Taysom Hill with a real arm and better size.” At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Levis likes to dish out some punishment when he runs, which is not a great long-term plan. His aggressiveness also shows up when he throws the ball.
4. Tanner McKee, Stanford: McKee is only a junior and doesn’t run as well as some of the other guys on this list. However, he is considered incredibly accurate, has prototype size, and has great maturity from having done a two-year Mormon mission. In short, he’s an incredibly safe bet to make it in the NFL. Many people are split on whether he’ll stay in school, but McKee turns 23 on April 27, 2023, which is the same day as the first round of the next NFL draft.
5. Tyler Van Dyke, Miami: Similar to McKee, although he may be able to move a little better. Prototype pro passer with requisite size.
6. Anthony Richardson, Florida: Who is the best quarterback in the state between Van Dyke and Richardson is a matter of taste … and projection. Richardson is mostly a legend along the line of Roy Hobbs. He was a stud at Eastside High in Gainesville, which is all of 4 miles from the Florida campus. So this smacks of the local boy makes good story, a la Justin Herbert at Oregon. He sat his first season at Florida and then finally took the field in limited action last season. The athletic ability and arm strength are so obvious that the comparisons with Cam Newton make sense. The question is whether Richardson has a chance to be a better passer than Newton.
7. Devin Leary, North Carolina State: At 6-1, he’s one of the smaller players on this list for a primarily pocket guy, but height has become less of an issue in the NFL in recent years. It’s not as crucial because of the wide-open nature of the game. Leary has the arm strength to make all the throws and that’s good enough for most scouts.
8. Malik Cunningham, Louisville: Cunningham gets compared to Lamar Jackson. Cunningham is a great runner, but not quite like Jackson. Cunningham has a more traditional throwing style that could make him effective in a similar attack. Downside is that Cunningham turns 24 this season.
9. Jaren Hall, BYU: Like McKee and Cunningham, Hall is on the older side. He is 24 years old and turns 25 before the draft. Then again, Russell Wilson was older when he was drafted. Hall was stuck behind Zach Wilson for three years, but never complained and didn’t leave. There’s something to be said for that and scouts don’t take it lightly. Like both of the aforementioned Wilson’s, Hall is on the shorter side. Again, that’s not a huge issue.
10. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina: The hype from a year ago and the stats from the last two years make you want to believe that Rattler is a major prospect. The fact that Oklahoma switched to Caleb Williams when they were 6-0 under Rattler is a major indictment. Furthermore, Oklahoma people aren’t shy about telling scouts that Rattler was a selfish jerk. There’s talent, but a lot of red flags about the attitude.
11. Jake Haener, Fresno State: The dude can wing it. Like many on this list, he’s on the older side at 23. The concern among scouts is his level of commitment. He transferred from Washington to Fresno State and was thinking about leaving again by putting his name in the transfer portal late last year before deciding to stay.
12. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee: There’s a lot to like about Hooker, from his size (6-4) to his playing ability to his maturity (this will be his fourth season as a starter) and devout upbringing. He’s older (he turns 25 in January) so there may not be a lot of physical growth, but this is a guy who is very safe.
Other notables: Grayson McCall, Coast Carolina and D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson.