2023 NFL Draft Quarterbacks Primer: The Good, the Bad, and the Transferred
Seaside Joe 1167: A recap of all the draft eligible quarterbacks that I expect to monitor during the 2022 college season
While I don’t know that it necessarily surprised me, something that was much more prevalent than I expected was the overrating of quarterbacks in the 2022 draft by writers, analysts, and social media coaches/scouts who clearly do not pay attention to the prospects until after the NFL season is over. And then many of those same people still don’t actually appear to do any homework or research of their own into said quarterback prospects.
For anyone who sincerely made an effort to follow the 2022 class from start to end, the only reasonable conclusion was that maybe Kenny Pickett had done enough as a football player to convince a team to draft him in the first round… and that he was completely alone in that regard.
There were about 100 people subscribed to Seaside Joe last year, which is maybe 100 more than expected given that my main focus was both covering the 2021 Seattle Seahawks and following the quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft class; those two things were at complete odds with one another, but last year I felt determined to be more prepared for a draft class than I had ever been before.
For those 100 of you who followed, you know that week after week I would rank the top-10, sometimes the top-20, and sometimes the top-30 quarterbacks who would be eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft. And you also know that I had Grayson McCall ranked number one on that list throughout the year—this was part manifest destiny and part McCall is fuckin’ awesome, but I was fueled to keep him ranked atop the list merely by the fact that nobody in college football was stepping up.
Finally towards the end of the season, I gave Pickett the nod because he had consistently played good football and had the right physical attributes to make him worth a first round pick. But also because a minor injury caused McCall to miss a couple of games and he opted to return to Coastal Carolina rather than entering the draft or the transfer portal.
(Another reason I’m so pro-McCall is that he’s fiercely committed to his teammates, an attribute that also made me a huge fan of Justin Herbert going into 2020.)
Malik Willis, in his fifth college season, was not dominant enough and far too mistake prone against Liberty’s schedule to be worthy of a first round pick. Desmond Ridder had loads of college experience, a 6’4 frame, and a pretty good arm, but also failed to impress given the level of competition and his long history at Cincinnati. Jake Haener could blow your mind in a good way one week, then in the bad way by the next week.
And quarterbacks who had never really done anything in college to deserve the attention that they had gotten because of sterling high school resumes, like Spencer Rattler, Kedon Slovis, Bo Nix, and J.T. Daniels, were worse than ever and have since transferred.
Nothing about how the 2022 NFL Draft fell for the quarterbacks surprised me other than Carson Strong falling out of it entirely. This isn’t because of prophecies, this is because of preparation, and the only people who were left “shocked” by the fact that Willis and Ridder were third round quarterbacks are those who blindly trusted certain social media sources who they never should have put any faith in.
So now that the Seaside Joe readership is much bigger than it was a year ago—and now that we know that actually Russell Wilson is not in Seattle’s future plans and that the Seahawks will almost certainly be targeting a quarterback early in the 2023 NFL Draft*—I’m excited to prepare for a QB class over the course of an entire year with you!
*I was 99% sure that the Seahawks would not draft a QB early this year, but even though Pete Carroll has historically gone the cheap route at QB, I’m over 90% certain that the Seahawks will buck the trend and draft one in the first round in 2023. The timing is perfect.
Finally, Seaside Joe’s mission makes sense!
Today, we start with a primer so that we can separate the 2023 draft eligible quarterbacks by a few factors:
What high school graduating class were they in?
Have they actually been GOOD AT FOOTBALL in college? A question that some people want to ignore for some reason
Where they at and who they playing against?
People tend to think of Trevor Lawrence as the perfect combination of these three factors: He was the top-ranked recruit in a competitive high school class in 2018, he went to one of the top programs in the country, he was mostly dominant against a tough slate, and he entered the draft as soon as legally possible by NFL rules.
However, does that actually make Trevor Lawrence the perfect prospect? Herbert wasn’t a highly sought after recruit and his final season at Oregon didn’t go as planned. Josh Allen went to Wyoming and many felt he wasn’t even good against a soft schedule. Patrick Mahomes came out of the Texas Tech air raid offense and played against the unremarkable Big 12 defenses.
The best we can hope for is that after a team exhausts all the possible questions and answers about a prospect, they cross their fingers and make a choice, and the rest of the responsibility falls into the hands of fate.
But that’s for the team to worry about. For us, the fans, it’s perfectly okay to choose a favorite and just go with it. I don’t fault you if Willis is a favorite of yours, the resume simply wasn’t there to be a first round pick. My favorite quarterback is still considered by some to be completely undraftable and while I see more and more people jump on the Gray-hound lately, few agree with me that he’s a future NFL star.
Choose a favorite, tell me who it is! Share this post with a friend and ask them which quarterback they hope is wearing wolf gray
son next season and beyond!
Below is a list of 32 quarterbacks who will be eligible for the 2023 NFL Draft. Some of them have been eligible for one to four years already, but the NFL has always had room for late bloomers, including Pickett.
They are separated by “Have they actually played good football?” (based on my opinions, mostly), how long have they been in college, and I’ve included their high school recruiting page and the number of stars they had coming into the NCAA is listed by their names.
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Has actually been good in college
Class of 2020
Bryce Young*****, Alabama
CJ Stroud****, Ohio State
Tyler Van Dyke****, Miami
Will Rogers***, Mississippi State
I’m a little more Bryce Young than I am C.J. Stroud, but I actually didn’t watch nearly as much of these QBs in 2021 as I did the others, because as I said, I was focused on the 2022 NFL Draft. But I’m also much higher on Young than I am on any previous Alabama quarterback—ever—and on Stroud than any previous Ohio State quarterback. I felt that Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields were not even first round picks, while Mac Jones and Dwayne Haskins would be more in line with where they were drafted.
Young and Stroud should go in the top-five… they might still end up being scrutinized because of their incredible supporting casts, which I think is fair to a degree.
Van Dyke didn’t put up the stats that they did, but he also didn’t have the same kind of talent around him at Miami. Van Dyke was still super effective, throwing 25 touchdowns and six interceptions, three of which came in a single game against North Carolina. If he takes the next step up in 2022, Van Dyke is a first round lock.
I want to take this opportunity to caution fans against statements (about any prospect) that look like this one from PFF’s Anthony Treash:
“Van Dyke is only scratching the surface.”
This may be true! I’m not calling out Treash or anyone as being disingenuous, but let’s be clear about something right away: I can find statements like that one being said, by reputable people, about every single quarterback in college football. For many analysts, they feel it is their job to “find the next great superstar” and so it becomes commonplace to say nice things about literally everyone. Then hype up those comments in the future with the benefit of hindsight. It’s a sad reality of modern draft analyzation that people are more concerned with gaining popularity than being right.
I actually don’t know Treash, I apologize to him for using him as an example, but his organization at ProFootballFocus is the absolute worst offender of this. It’s useless and it creates the type of confusion that led to people incorrectly believing that the 2022 draft could have four or five first round quarterbacks. That was something that was REGULARLY said and mocked in 2022 and it wasn’t even close to reality or the truth. This is not what you will see at Seaside Joe. Ever. We do REALITY here and maybe that’s why I’m not very popular…but I’m comfortably closer to the truth.
Will Rogers is on a level below these other three. He may not even be draftable. Playing in Mike Leach’s air raid offense, Rogers only averaged 6.9 yards per attempt and though he had 36 touchdowns, that was on 683 passes. Now Rogers must do it without Charles Cross protecting his blindside.
Class of 2019
Grayson McCall**, Coastal Carolina
Dillon Gabriel***, UCF-to-Oklahoma
K.J. Jefferson***, Arkansas
I feel how I feel about Grayson McCall and I won’t apologize for it. He stayed at CCU despite four of his top-five pass catchers graduating this year and it will be interesting to see his reaction to that next season. After leading the nation in passing efficiency in each of the last two years, I expect him to get even better in 2022. I love that he continuously works on the parts of his game that are lacking and his commitment to being better everyday at football is why I believe that he’s going to take another step up with his velocity and the few “negatives” in his game moving forward.
Gabriel is a lefty who had 32 touchdowns and four interceptions as a sophomore in 2020, then had nine touchdowns in his first three games in 2021, but broke his clavicle and missed the rest of the year. He could star this year at Oklahoma, playing for first-time head coach Brent Venables, but could a 6’, 186 lbs southpaw be an NFL team’s franchise quarterback?
I thought Jefferson played kind of slow and stiff last season, similar to Geno Smith, but he had 21 touchdowns on only 294 throws and only had four picks. Jefferson now must prove himself without Treylon Burks, one of the top weapons in college football in 2021.
Class of 2018
Cameron Rising****, Utah
Devin Leary****, NC State
Brennan Armstrong***, Virginia
Tanner Mordecai***, Oklahoma-to-SMU
Leary had 35 touchdowns against only five interceptions last season. That makes 2022 the first time that Leary has gotten any NFL draft buzz and another year like his last will make him difficult to keep out of the day one conversation. Armstrong is another lefty and I was monitoring him a lot last year because he had 31 touchdowns at Virginia, but there’s a reason he went back for a fifth season instead of attempting to make the jump this year during a weak QB class. He may be more of a “Bailey Zappe” than a “Kenny Pickett”.
Mordecai transferred away from Oklahoma, throwing 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for SMU, but he’s extremely error prone. Is it a “red flag” to not win a job at a program and have to transfer? Many people will point to Joe Burrow as an example of why it is “not” a red flag, but I find that to be flawed, simplistic reasoning. There are always exceptions and it’s a case by case basis, plus we’re talking about getting one of the hardest jobs in all of world sports: starting NFL quarterback. For some players, it should be a concern that they didn’t have the attributes necessary to beat out players like Bo Nix or Sean Clifford for starting gigs.
Class of 2017
Malik Cunningham****, Louisville
Jake Haener***, Washington-to-Fresno State
Hendon Hooker***, Virginia Tech-to-Tennessee
Hooker’s stats last season were bonkers: 31 touchdowns, three interceptions, 616 rushing yards, five more scores. But it has taken a long, long time to get here.
I haven’t seen “NFL starting QB” skills in any of these three players. They seem to be good college football quarterbacks only, and that’s not even really consistent.
Has been fine in college:
Class of 2020
Max Johnson****, LSU-to-Texas A&M
Following Joe Burrow didn’t go to plan, and Johnson transferred to Texas A&M after LSU hired Brian Kelly to be its new head football coach. Johnson, another lefty, had 27 touchdowns and six interceptions last season and he’s leaving behind some really talented receivers, like Kayshon Boutte, but the Aggies have national championship aspirations this year. Johnson’s a bit off the radar now, at will of course change if A&M wins the SEC. However, there are still things to, uhh… work on.
Class of 2019
Grant Wells**, Marshall-to-Virginia Tech
Connor Bazelak***, Missouri-to-Indiana
Levi Williams***, Wyoming-to-Utah State
All three names here elected to transfer. Again, none of them are nearly as good as Grayson McCall, a quarterback who decided to follow through his commitment to Coastal Carolina despite losing star offensive players all around him. I’m not saying this is a “weakness”, these players deserve their opportunities to “upgrade” if that’s what they’re getting, it’s just…something to consider.
Class of 2018
Sam Hartman***, Wake Forest
Dorian Thompson-Robinson****, UCLA
Tanner McKee****, Stanford
Will Levis***, Penn State-to-Kentucky
I know that there are some people throwing a few chips at DTR, thinking he might make the rise next season. An NFL quarterback? We need to see more, a lot more, and he’s entering his fifth college season. Tanner McKee was once ranked right behind Lawrence and Fields in the 2018 class, then elected to take time off and returned to Stanford in 2021. He did well, at times, but then would play extremely poorly, so consistency will be key. I kind of like Sam Hartman as a sleeper, though that is a bit of a stretch. Maybe I like him because so few others are hyping him up and he’s at least worth monitoring.
Finally, I know that there’s now a groundswell of support for Will Levis. I think this is based on some Seahawks writers who are following that track, and that’s perfectly okay, even understandable, and now it’s becoming common to see Levis mocked to Seattle in very early 2023 mock drafts.
I guess my only issue with Levis, a player who I also watched every week last season, is that he’s not a very good college quarterback, he didn’t beat out Sean Clifford for a job at Penn State, he was extremely fortunate to play for offensive coordinator Liam Coen in 2021 (now the OC for the LA Rams), he was bailed out by receiver Wan’Dale Robinson many times, he had a star running back behind him, he’s an inaccurate passer, he’s not that much of a runner, and he’s going to be 24 next summer.
Not even Kentucky’s own fans are sure how this hype is happening:
But sure, let’s rank him ahead of Grayson McCall, consistently one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football week after week for the last two seasons.
Class of 2017
Stetson Bennett**, JC-to-Georgia
Class of 2016
Jaren Hall***, BYU
Has been bad in college:
Class of 2020
D.J. Uiagalelei*****, Clemson
There was plenty of support for Spencer Rattler in 2021, but all I saw was a former five-star prospect who had done little as a redshirt freshman to justify the hype in 2020, so long as you didn’t just look at the numbers. If you watched the games, Rattler wasn’t on his way to becoming a star. Uiagalelei has actually lost a lot of what support he used to have (9 TD, 10 INT in 2021) but he will continue to be tracked by many because of what he was seen as coming out of high school. And maybe Uiagalelei has a breakout campaign, I’m all for it, it seems more likely that he could follower Rattler’s path and enter the transfer portal.
Class of 2019
Kedon Slovis***, USC-to-Pitt
Jayden Daniels****, ASU-to-LSU
Spencer Rattler*****, Oklahoma-to-South Carolina
Bo Nix*****, Auburn-to-Oregon
They only make lists like these because they were once highly regarded and despite their poor college performances, will continue to be monitored until they’re officially graduated or benched. Of these four, Rattler may have the highest ceiling. I can’t imagine seeing Nix or Slovis ever playing in the NFL. Hey guess who’s back:
Class of 2018
J.T. Daniels*****, USC-to-Georgia-to-West Virginia
Emory Jones****, Florida-to-ASU
Has been in college:
Class of 2020
Anthony Richardson****, Florida
Jack Miller****, Ohio State-to-Florida
A competition is underway for the Gators. A lot of people want to believe that Richardson is at least the next Chris Leak, if not the next Tim Tebow, but we’ve seen almost nothing on the field over the last two years to have confidence in his ability to hold the starting job for long.
Entering the scene in college:
Class of 2019
Cameron Ward, Washington State
There isn’t really much known here about Ward. Playing for Incarnate Word in 2021, Ward (6’2, 223 lbs) had 4,648 yards, 47 TDs and 10 INTs, making him one of the top transfers in the country and potentially the best among those who weren’t going somewhere because they had failed at their previous stop.
Great write up. Am looking forward to monitoring next year's draft class of QBs. McCall truly doesn't seem to be getting a lotta love nationally. What holds him back? Is it just because he doesn't play for a big school? Do they feel he plays against inferior competition? Perhaps just lazy scouting by national sports media. In any event, I agree that McCall looks far better than he has thus far been projected.
You have won me over with your predictions, in particular with the Hawks. The draft was a fun ride. I enjoyed how the QB's ended up. It was very interesting thinking back to the projections by the various prognosticators. You did quite well, so I'm with ya for next years QB evaluations. Looking forward to reading more thanks again!