Between Anthony Richardson, C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, and Will Levis, the 2023 NFL Draft will be a case study for the ages at the quarterback position. Forget NFL outcomes — we don’t even know how the board will play out. But it’s looking like a bidding war is set to unfurl before us, in explosive fashion.
2023 NFL Draft QB Class a Breath of Fresh Air After 2022
Quarterbacks make the world go ’round. If you don’t have a QB, you don’t have a chance. There are countless sayings that could apply here, but all of them convey the same idea: That the QB position is by far the most important position in the NFL. And if you’re planning on competing for a Super Bowl, you need the right man under center.
That idea is what makes quarterbacks so likely to go early in the NFL draft each year. It’s why, of the past eight drafts, six first-overall selections have been QBs. If there’s a potential franchise quarterback on the board, and you’re not settled there, you take him.
The 2022 NFL Draft was an anomaly in that sense. In what was universally believed to be a much weaker class than average, the first QB didn’t come off the board until 20th overall, when Kenny Pickett was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After a brief hiatus, however, the early Round 1 QB prospect is back. Alabama’s Young, Ohio State’s Stroud, and Florida’s Richardson are all viewed as potential QB1 candidates in the 2023 NFL Draft, while Levis is there with them in the first-round conversation.
The distribution of these four quarterbacks varies from mock draft to mock draft, but as the draft cycle progresses, and as the need for a new franchise QB festers for several teams, all four passers are climbing up the board.
Combining this rise with the class’ relative lack of blue-chip talent, and the questions surrounding Jalen Carter, one has to ask, just how early will these quarterbacks go?
Will 3 QBs Go in the First 4 Picks in the 2023 NFL Draft?
One notable NFL draft figure recently weighed in on the 2023 NFL Draft QB conversation. Shrine Bowl Director Eric Galko is of the belief that three quarterbacks will go within the first four selections.
In fact, in his tweet, Galko went a step further and said that he’d bet QBs go 1-2-3 in the 2023 NFL Draft, dominating the first three selections. Speaking with PFN directly, Galko also said that he expects Richardson to be one of those first three selections.
From this potential outcome, countless questions are raised. Which QB goes first overall, and to who? Who do the Chicago Bears trade down with? What is the pecking draft order past that point? Who is the odd man out at QB, and who falls past the top three?
We can dissect every little comment from every QB-needy personnel executive in an attempt to narrow down potential matches. And yes, there are some valuable quotes that come out of the offseason. For example, newly-anointed Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans said this about his preferred QB mold earlier in the year:
“These guys, they’re mobile, they can get outside of the pocket, and they make you play 11-on-11 football which unlocks a defense. That’s what sets them apart.”
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was a little less concerned about keeping his poker face during the introductory press conference for Shane Steichen, saying this about Bryce Young: “The Alabama guy doesn’t look bad, I’ll tell ya.”
But it’s important to remember, as we try to trace potential QB paths, we’re in the thick of smokescreen season — teams occluding and veiling their QB preferences to the outside world, to maintain leverage and keep more control of the board. The teams are the only ones who truly know which QB they want.
Regardless, there’s an abundance of QB-needy teams up top. The Texans, Colts, Raiders, and Panthers all need a passer, and the Seahawks have also acknowledged the possibility of using the fifth pick on a QB. The scarcity of franchise QB prospects, combined with that demand, will only drive the price up.
The Bears already know this full well, and reports made clear that Chicago’s general manager Ryan Poles was heavily involved in prospective trade discussions for the No. 1 overall pick at the NFL Combine. No deal is in place — there’s no incentive from Poles to rush anything. But there is undoubtedly interest.
Even after the Bears trade down, there’s still more potential action to watch for. Let’s say the Panthers make a major move for the No. 1 pick and the Texans stay at No. 2. Both teams pick a quarterback, leaving just two franchise QB candidates left on the board, with the Colts waiting at fourth overall. In this scenario, the Cardinals’ No. 3 overall pick becomes a hotbed for a potential deal as well.
We’d be here for a very long time if we went through every potential outcome. That’s part of what mock drafts are for — acknowledging the full extent of the possibilities. But to put it in as simple terms as possible, it’s the law of supply and demand in action. Game-changing quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. If the supply is low and the demand is high, you’ll do whatever it takes to be first in line for your guy.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
If you want my take on potential team-QB fits, here it is.
I love Richardson’s fit with Steichen and the Colts, as he would know best how to maximize Richardson’s tools, similar to Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. Stroud, meanwhile, is tailor-made for Frank Reich’s offense, which employs lots of eye manipulation and anticipation on triangle reads. And with his keen distribution and vision over the middle of the field, Young would be a picture-perfect match with Bobby Slowik’s Shanahan-derived system in Houston.
In this conversation, Levis is likely the odd man out from the top three. He’s toolsy, but not as toolsy as Richardson, and his tape simply isn’t as good as Young’s or Stroud’s. Levis will still likely go in the top 10, but a less complete projective profile will penalize him in a QB race that has very little room for error.
As much as I like those particular fits, however, the final board could look completely different. All it takes is one team to fall in love with one prospect, and they’ll sell the farm for him.
Maybe the Raiders, unbeknownst to anyone, are set on Levis, and they make a surprise move to claim him in the top three. Maybe Ryans’ comments about mobility ring true, and he goes all-in on Richardson.
We simply don’t know what’s going to happen at this stage. The board is brimming with potential energy, cultivated by the mix of high demand and low supply. If you want your QB, you’ll have to pay up somehow. That’s what makes the 2023 NFL Draft so exciting — and trepidatious — for all teams involved.
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