As always happens right before the NFL draft, some players stock rises while others see theirs fall. For most of the off-season Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young of the Alabama Crimson Tide have been hailed as the top two NCAA quarterbacks this year. While some are insisting Florida’s Anthony Richardson belongs in that group, his pro day didn’t help his draft stock, particularly the “viral” pass where he hit the ceiling instead of his wide open receiver.
Kentucky Wildcats QB Will Levis has seen his stock rise, however. Including praise from one of the greatest quarterbacks in the modern era, Peyton Manning.
Kentucky QB Will Levis broke down film with Peyton Manning for an episode of “On the Clock” airing on ESPN2 on Monday. https://t.co/qd8jycdhEE— Lexington Herald-Leader (@heraldleader) April 17, 2023
One thing scouts often look for is the style of offensive a quarterback ran in college. Of the four QBs at the top of this draft, Levis has the most success in an NFL style offense. Yet, his NCAA career stat line isn’t as solid as Stroud or Young, which works against him.
Levis is also not as mistake-free as the two aforementioned gunslingers.
However, given the right situation, with solid coaching, a proper NFL scheme and good supporting cast, Levis very well may excel once he takes the field at the next level.
Make no mistake, however, he shouldn’t be a day one starter. Which means if he comes to the Texans, Davis Mills may lead off until DeMeco Ryans and the offensive coaching staff believe Levis is ready to go. And, many believe one reason Case Keenum was brought in revolves around coaching up a rookie.
What he does well: Levis has elite physical tools for the quarterback position — if the draft were based on pure potential alone, he would probably go first overall.
He has exceptional arm talent with a lightning-quick release, and his 6-foot-3, 232-pound frame perfectly fits the NFL QB mold. He can make any throw on the football field, and there are times when he makes it look easy.
He’s not just a pocket passer either, as Levis also possesses a dynamic running ability that should bode well for him in the pros. He produced 516 rushing yards in 2021 — 287 designed yards and 229 scramble yards — so the dual-threat ability is still there. And I fully expect Levis to use his legs at the next level.
Well, that all sounds fantastic, right? But, for all the pros, there are certainly cons.
What he needs to improve: The talent is there. The physical tools are there. The athleticism is there. He just needs to put it all together.
After an amazing 2021 season, we would’ve loved to have seen him take that next step this year, but instead, we saw regression. In 2021, he posted a 90.6 PFF grade, which dropped to 68.6 in 2022.
He will need to drastically improve his accuracy and decision-making if he wants to live up to the hype as a potential top-five pick.
Best NFL traits: Size, arm talent, quick release and strength.
The lack of expected improvement in the 2022 season has cast a pall on Levis’ NFL stock. Many look at this on the surface and see a player backing away from his potential and failing to grow. Others dive deeper and see reasons why Levis was “set up to fail” to some extent in 2022, which explains the lower levels of productivity.
Heading into the 2022 season, Levis was viewed as potentially the best quarterback in the class. The previous year, he led the Kentucky Wildcats to a 9-3 regular season record and a win over the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Citrus Bowl. However, he suffered a regression in 2022, as did the entire Kentucky offense. This is partially due to a decline in overall roster talent, as well as a significant coaching change. These are very valid assertions as to why his statistical decline may be less concerning than it looks on paper. In fact, some experts predicted this exact thing. Here is Dane Brugler’s preseason assessment from last August:
“[Will Levis] his size, athleticism and arm talent, he checks a lot of boxes — and he put promising play on tape last season in his first year as a starter.
Levis lost his top receiver (Wan’Dale Robinson, drafted No. 43 by the Giants) and play caller (Liam Coen, now the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator), so clear on-field improvement over last season shouldn’t be assumed. However, all the talent is there for him to become a top-10 pick and NFL starter if his decision-making and anticipation continue to develop as a senior.”
2021 was indeed Levis’ breakout season. Going against “Cornerback U” aka LSU, Levis put up 14 completions on 17 attempts for 145 YDS, 3 TD and 0 interceptions. Add to that 11 runs for an additional 75 yards and two more touchdowns.
All this to say, if the Texans land Levis instead of Stroud or Young, it might not be the worst thing. In fact, Levis may very well have a far better NFL career when all is said and done.