Two big questions loom as the NFL draft approaches: Which quarterback should they choose? Should they trade to get it?
Indianapolis has the #4 pick and is finally poised to finish its quarterback round in the April draft, but there’s a strong chance Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud — ranked as the top two signal callers in this year’s class — won’t be on the board if he stays. The team is in place.
The Texans will likely draft a second-place quarterback, and needy QB teams like the Raiders (No. 7) and Panthers (No. 9) might try to trade the Bears for first—unless the Colts act first. In my first mock draft, I got Indianapolis No. 4 and 35 picks this year, a 5th round pick and a 1st round pick next year to get the No. 1 pick, which the team used to pick Young.
Some think it’s too much to concede to the 5-foot-10 Young, who will join Kyler Murray as the second under-six quarterback to be first choice. However, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah projected a steeper price for the No. 1 pick based on years of studying the draft. In his projected trade, the Colts would trade No. 4 and No. 35 picks, and the 2024 first and second picks for No. 1 and 2024 fourth round picks from the Bears.
“I’m not going to sleep well at night if I’m just going to sit and stay tight at number four,” Jeremiah added during a media availability on Zoom on Friday.
If Indianapolis is to stay put and lose Young and Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson are the next two QB choices, the latter being seen as the biggest draft with perhaps the highest cap. For this piece, though, I focused on Levis, who has drawn comparisons to Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Levis is 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds, while Allen is 6-foot-5 and weighs 237 pounds. Levis, like Allen, is mobile and has a cannon arm, which must have been attractive to Colts general manager Chris Ballard and his long-standing affinity for impressive physical attributes. Both quarterbacks were also latecomers in college, and underwent coaching changes after establishing themselves and dealing with injuries during their final college seasons. But I still feel like the Levi’s becoming the NFL’s Allen 2.0 is a far-fetched best-case scenario and perhaps not the most realistic one.
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With that in mind, I asked Jeremiah and three members of Who Athletic College football staff: Nick Baumgardner, Seth Emerson, and Chris Vanini—who’ve watched the Levi’s more than I have—these two questions:
1. What is your overall assessment of Levi’s?
2. Besides Allen, which current NFL quarterback would you compare Levi’s to?
Here’s what they said with the NFL Scouting Combine starting Tuesday:
Jeremiah’s assessment: “You have to start with the bags and the spin. I mean, that’s the concern. That’s the science. So you have to navigate that, you have to look at that if you’re a team and talk to it and sit down and watch the tape and look through it and see if you can learn a few things. You’re not going to It’s all of those things on him. When you look at some of the turnovers, there’s a ton of turnovers. When you look at the sacks, the offensive line hasn’t been very good against him this year, and there’s some blast protection. I’d like to sit there and go through all the sacks and turnover when You sit with him because it’s a big number and needs explaining. I don’t think that’s all on it.
“The injury is another thing. I mean, I don’t want to go and try to excuse some issues, but when I watched him, I didn’t like when he was running on the left side of the field. I thought he was locked up. I thought he threw (his body). Then I came to find out after I saw the tape. That his toe was broken, he had a spoiled shoulder, and I think that affected that to a degree. But the things you can’t disprove, he’s got a strong arm. He’s a really good athlete. Especially the year before when he was so healthy. You can see him as a runner. You can use it for some of the things quarterback runs in design plus it makes things happen more naturally.
“He’s tough. He hangs in there and takes the shots. There are some times I wish he felt better on the backside. Every time he gets hit, it’s a surprise party. I wish he felt a little better getting up and away from some of this stuff. But toughness isn’t an issue.” Absolutely. He can do every kind you want. She’s looking at some of the issues to see what the deal is with him and why some of this stuff is happening in terms of turnovers and sacks.”
Jeremiah NFL QB Comparison: “As an athlete, I think there’s some comparison to Ryan Tannehill when he was coming out. I think you look at his build, one Dak Prescott. I think that’s fair for him. Same conference, same build, same toughness. Things are in Dak, when you talk to the coaches.” There–a worker, a smart, a tough one, a winner. You’ll hear all those exact same things said about Levis. They care about him. As I think about it, that might end up being the best comparison.”
Baumgardner’s Rating: “Levis’ arm is as good as it gets in this season, perhaps the best. He can rip it off from almost any angle, which often gets him into trouble – but he can also get him out of trouble. His inconsistency as a passer stems mostly from inconsistent footwork and over-reliance on a defender.” “His howitzers. Footwork can be trained, honed, and improved. Levis’ inconsistencies take ownership of a share of his mistakes last season. But Kentucky’s offense was also a mess compared to the year before, and Levis’s been a bit flabby. There’s risk, but the reward is palpable when you see him throw.”
Baumgardner’s NFL QB Comparison: Athletically speaking, I think he would end up in the Test somewhere close to what Gino Smith scored when he came out about 10 years ago. Levis is in the 6ft 2/6ft 3 range, 220-230lbs. He has good speed and pace Good feet for his size and he’s a capable runner, though he needs to remember he’s better out of pocket.
“Maybe Smith is faster at 40, but Levis is probably bigger and he won’t have as many athletic holes in his game (be it agility or explosiveness). However, he needs to be more disciplined with his feet both in and out of the pocket.”
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Emerson’s assessment: “I saw Levi’s against Georgia twice. The first time in 2021, he didn’t make any positive or negative impression. In fact I had to look back to make sure he was a Kentucky QB in that game. (He attempted 42 passes but for 192 yards only).But given all the hype about Levi’s, I was well aware of him going into last year’s game, and I was expecting him to be fired.However, while his stats weren’t quite as impressive (206 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception), I was impressed to Somewhat. In a whirlwind, Levis made some good throws. Now, am I impressed enough to think he should be the first pick? Heck no. Even a first-round pick seems a tall order. But he looks like a decent prospect, even if the scouts exaggerate at his discretion.”
Emerson’s NFL QB Comparison: Mitch Trubisky is the one who jumps to mind, not even on quantifiable matters, but the situation. Trubisky was the second pick of the year after playing Georgia, and I found that baffling too. Tough, especially guys like the Levi’s who didn’t have a lot of talent around them and played in several different systems. But as a college football writer, I look at a lot of these possibilities and say, ‘Wait, shouldn’t their performance in college mean something, Especially when you’re at the highest university level?”
Vannini’s review: “It’s really strange to look back on the beginning of Levis’ college career, when he was basically just used as a starting quarterback, the only quarterback at Penn State. The coaches never let him open things up, so he went to Kentucky and eventually did. While he was good Very and definitely showed raw tools, he was never the quarterback who put a team on his back to win a huge game. If you asked me about his outstanding performance in college, I couldn’t tell you. He only threw once for over 250 yards against a Power 5 team. Accuracy was an issue He got hurt a lot.”
Vannini’s NFL QB comparison (not sure but not Allen): It’s easy to see comparisons to Allen, who only once threw for 300 yards against an FBS team. But Allen was far less accurate in college than Levis (56.2 percent vs. 64.9 percent), and Allen had a terrible performance against a few Power 5 teams. that he faced.While the Levi’s lacked outstanding performances, he had plenty of solid-to-good performances on teams less talented than the opposition.But the thing to remember about Allen is that he was truly a unicorn.College players don’t get any more finicky when they enter the NFL Allen’s improvement in the NFL has been basically unprecedented, and I’m not going to make a Top 10 draft pick thinking you can find the same kind of luck.”
(Photo: Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)
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