It’s that time. That time when NFL teams are starting to be eliminated from playoff contention while at the collegiate ranks, prospects are announcing their plans to declare for the draft while also deciding to sit out bowl games in preparation for it.
Those simultaneous developments indicate that an increasing number of NFL organizations are turning their attention to the NFL Draft, and quarterbacks are always a hot topic.
Let’s pinpoint the best fits for the consensus top quarterback prospects in the 2023 class.
Best fits: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts
Young stepped onto the Alabama campus and was immediately a star — even before he threw a pass for the Crimson Tide. Young, a five-star recruit in the 2020 class, earned “ungodly numbers” that were close to a million dollars, per Nick Saban, on the NIL market while he sat behind Mac Jones as a true freshman.
The hype for Young was monstrous, and all he did when he took over the starting gig at Alabama in 2021 is cruise to the Heisman Trophy and lead Saban’s club to the national title game. While the Tide lost two regular-season contests in 2022 and didn’t advance to the College Football Playoff with Young in the shotgun, his rapid rise to big man on campus, and how exquisitely he handled it, is important to consider when picking the best landing spot for him in the NFL.
Young is accustomed to lofty expectations from the jump. If he goes No. 1 overall, that label, of course, comes with massive expectations. Football is king in Texas, and if the Texans draft him, Young’s super-poised demeanor on and off the field are an ideal match for a Houston team that was a perennial playoff contender early in Deshaun Watson’s career, then was detonated from the inside, leaving nothing but rubble. Now, Young wasn’t tasked with rebuilding the Alabama program, yet he feels like a quarterback who’d calmly welcome being the face of the next chapter of the Texans franchise.
The Colts would be sensible, too, more from a schematic standpoint. The offensive line is good, and there’s a quality run game there — offensive foundations with which Young is familiar.
Best fits: Detroit Lions, Houston Texans
I’m not dead set on this comparison yet, but in watching Stroud over the past two seasons at Ohio State, it’s hard to strongly disagree with a Jared Goff comp for the young passer. They’re very similar stylistically: strong yet not overwhelmingly power arms, pocket-management skills, quality ball placement to all levels and athleticism that teeters between average and functional.
Because of that, Stroud learning from Goff on an upstart Lions team is perfectly sensible. With the likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams and one of the league’s sturdiest offensive lines, Stroud’s clear-cut, best fit is in the Motor City, soaking up knowledge from Goff early in his pro career. Stroud will enter the NFL at 21 years old, just like Goff did.
The Texans aren’t a bad fit, either, as Stroud stepped into the Ohio State quarterback gig with zero fear and amassed huge numbers in his two seasons as the starter. Houston is a club that needs a confident, highly talented passer who’s not easily shaken. Stroud checks all those boxes.
Best fits: Carolina Panthers, Washington Commanders
Levis will be 24 years old at the start of his rookie season. That fact will be hammered into your brain during draft season. For good reason. Levis’ age has to be considered by all the teams in the quarterback market of the 2023 draft.
Because of it, he’s not ideally suited to sit for a year plus behind a veteran. If you draft him, you’re fully expecting him to start from Day 1 in the NFL. That’s precisely what the Panthers need. A legitimate, logical direction at the quarterback position with a selection from the draft. What’s also good about the fit is that no one is expecting the Panthers to be NFC contenders in 2023, and they’ll likely pair a new head coach and offensive coordinator with Levis. Plus, in 2021, Levis appeared brightly on the draft radar in an offense that centered around one receiver — Wan’Dale Robinson. In Carolina, D.J. Moore is the clear-cut No. 1 wideout who can handle 10-plus targets per game.
Levis to the Commanders would fit snugly, too, particularly with Taylor Heinicke as an impending unrestricted free agent. Washington’s defense is already a top 10 unit, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and boasts plenty of young talent. Yes, the offensive line needs more reinforcement, but the skill-position group featuring underrated star Terry McLaurin, first-round pick Jahan Dotson and explosive complementary piece Curtis Samuel would help guide Levis early in his professional career.
Best fits: New York Giants, Detroit Lions
Giants head coach Brian Daboll was Josh Allen’s offensive coordinator for the first four seasons of the superstar quarterbacks NFL career. Do I need to write any more? Along with Allen’s dedication to improving himself mechanically, Daboll and Co. — part of which was Giants GM Joe Schoen — were integral in molding the offense around Allen’s raw but immense skills in his first few seasons with the Bills.
You better believe they’d be enamored with following their own template with a comparably talented quarterback with the Giants. Richardson is big, ultra athletic and has a hose. If there’s any organization — beyond the Bills — that understands the necessary steps to accentuate the upside of a quarterback who needs to be developed after he’s in the league, it’s the Daboll and Schoen-led Giants.
Simply because of the redshirt opportunity he’d likely be provided with the Lions behind Goff, Detroit would represent a cushy landing spot for Richardson, too. The vision of him firing rockets to Jameson Williams deep down the field is extremely enticing.
Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
Best fits: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Commanders
Believe it or not, Hooker’s even older than Levis, after he justifiably took full advantage of eligibility waivers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He blossomed in Tennessee over the past two seasons and had a Heisman candidate worthy — absolutely should’ve been invited to the ceremony — campaign this season. At a sizable 9.6 yards-per-attempt average, Hooker completed more than 68% of his throws with 58 touchdowns to a miniscule five interceptions in the Volunteers’ wide open, vertical passing attack in 2021 and 2022 combined.
That’s the type of offense I’d love to see him play in once he’s in the NFL. It’ll shorten his learning curve. Now, this year, Tom Brady is back into his normal average depth of target territory (7.6 yards), yet in his first two seasons with the Buccaneers, he operated one of the league’s most aggressive downfield passing offenses. In the Super Bowl winning 2020, his 9.8 aDOT was second in football among qualifying quarterbacks, and at 8.2 last year, Brady was still in the top half of the league in that statistic.
With Hooker, Tampa Bay could revert back to its vertical ways.
The Commanders are another team with quality pieces on offense, a stout defense, and no distinct future at the quarterback position. In theory, Hooker could be the club’s Week 1 starter and keep Washington a wild-card type contender in 2023.
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