2023 NFL Draft QB Prospects: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud set to battle for QB1 all year

It's a great time to be a QB-needy NFL team, as the 2023 NFL Draft quarterback prospects are plentiful, led by Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud.

Don’t worry, the 2023 NFL Draft class at quarterback is absolutely loaded. After a down year that saw one quarterback drafted in the first round for the first time since 2013, the 2023 NFL Draft is likely to be a candidate to break records. This position group is stacked for the 2022 college season.

Depending on how the draft order shakes out, we could see multiple quarterbacks come off the board to start Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft. As it’s hard to decipher that now, I thought I’d rather lump the quarterbacks into tiers. We’ll start at the top and work our way through the college football season’s expected stars who will challenge for draft authority.

Top 2023 NFL Draft QB prospects | Tier 1: The top two

Two of the top three players on the 2023 NFL Draft Big Board are quarterbacks. Not because of how QB-needy the sport has become, but because of their overall abilities. Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are now set to battle it out for the Heisman Trophy (again), a National Championship, and eventually the No. 1 overall pick if all goes to plan.

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

With every bit of arm talent as his predecessors at Ohio State, Stroud is second fiddle to no Buckeye. He handled himself brilliantly in Year 1 as a starter in Columbus, rallying from an early-season loss. Stroud found the pace of the game early on after the battle with Oregon and rallied off multiple contests with at least 5 touchdown passes.

Stroud had some inconsistency with his accuracy early in the season (all too often missing high), but some of his anticipatory throws after OSU’s Week 4 bye were the best in college football. He squeezes the ball into tight windows with ease. Stroud is a tremendous athlete with great pocket maneuverability to boot.

He also owns perhaps the best middle-of-the-field throws in all of football. Stroud layers throws over defenders or drives passes when needed. Overall, his game is incredibly polished. And he’s just getting started.

Bryce Young, Alabama

There isn’t much more to say about Young that hasn’t already been stated. So, if this is repetitive, I apologize. His ability to stand tall in the face of pressure is uncanny. Young’s arm is next-level, and he trusts it with precision and poise.

What separates Young from the rest of the class is his ability to find and elevate his already incredibly talented group of players.

Sure, Jameson Williams had more plays of 50+ yards than anyone else in college football, but Young was the one to find him quickly and accurately. He finds every level of the field with ease and works his progressions brilliantly. There are very few flaws, if any, in Young’s game. Considering this was just Year 1 of him as the starter, and he became the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman, the sky is truly the limit for No. 9.

He’ll continually battle it out with Stroud to become the top quarterback in college football. They’ll also battle it out for the Heisman Trophy in 2022 and, ultimately, the right to have their name called first in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Tier 2: Early first-round discussion

After a bevy of teams passed on first- and second-round quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, it spoke volumes about just how talented this 2023 crop is. Here’s the second tier of quarterbacks, all players you should already know and who could challenge to become the third quarterback drafted.

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

Seeking atonement, Spencer Rattler has jettisoned Norman, Oklahoma, for Columbia, South Carolina. He’s traded a defensive-minded head coach with the Sooners for the offensive-minded Shane Beamer and the Gamecocks. Considering the work Beamer did last season with the cast of characters he had at quarterback, Rattler’s presence had to be welcomed with open arms.

Rattler has every bit of an elite arm and athleticism. However, his inability to find his receivers in Oklahoma’s wide-open offense in 2021 got him benched. He struggled to find receivers by reading his progressions. Rattler locked on to targets and forced throws far too often. He looked lost at times with the Sooners this past season.

After entering the year as the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Rattler has a lot left to prove next fall. If he does prove that he has improved his intangibles, he vaults right back into the top quarterback discussion and likely gets a seat in New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation.

Jake Haener, Fresno State

No top quarterback discussion will be complete without Jake Haener. The fierce signal-caller out west has an incredible arm and terrific moxie in the pocket. Haener can make all the throws and beautifully layers passes over defenders against all coverages. He uses his great arm strength to fit throws into tight windows and throw his receivers open at every level.

Haener may trust his arm a bit too much at times and try to squeeze throws into windows that aren’t there, but in time, he should understand coverages more and more. After throwing for over 6,000 yards the past two seasons, he returns as one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country.

Showcasing growth in understanding situational football and when to pull the trigger will be helpful for his NFL prognosis. Still, Haener’s arm is a rare blend of power and torque, and he layers just enough smoothness to his throws. He’s special.

Jaren Hall, BYU

In no way am I comparing Jaren Hall to Zach Wilson. But there is no world that I cannot see the similarities. They’re different quarterbacks, playing in the same system, with similar success. In fact, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said that Hall is the quarterback who “gave BYU the most similar offense” to the one that Wilson ran in 2020.

With a zippy arm and even better hips, Hall’s baseball background has gone a long way toward him delivering fastballs on Saturdays. Hall is a tremendous athlete and started to understand how to navigate the pocket with ease as the season went on for the Cougars. Finding his receivers with accurate passes is no issue, but proving he can keep safeties at bay with his eyes and hips will go a long way at him vaulting into the upper echelon of 2023 NFL Draft quarterback prospects.

Anthony Richardson, Florida

It’s time to firmly stand on the Anthony Richardson Hype Train. Richardson has a rare skill set. Some of his throws after he’s broken contain were the best in the country. He also happens to be the fastest person on the field 99% of the time. Richardson can vault himself into the 2023 NFL Draft conversation by proving down-to-down consistency inside of Billy Napier’s offense in 2022.

The heavy-run, outside-zone offensive scheme that Napier will likely employ should open up plenty of passing lanes for Richardson this fall. Inside those lanes will be a chance to showcase an NFL arm as well as that athleticism with the ball in his hands. It’s a match made in college football heaven. It may also be one that gets Richardson some favorable opportunities to showcase all he needs to get into the draft conversation.

Tier 3: Elite talents with something to prove

The next tier of quarterbacks is full of signal-callers with elite traits. However, they each have something to prove.

Will Levis, Kentucky

With a rocket for a right arm, Will Levis proved in 2021 that he’s got plenty of arm talent to make a splash in the NFL. He trailed off midway through the season as the speed of SEC play seemed too much. But the Kentucky QB more than rallied with an incredible stretch to close the year. He moves well in the pocket and can spot throws to every level.

Levis will be out to prove that his six games of elite-level quarterbacking are more of the standard as opposed to the other sloppy performances he produced. We need to see fewer outings against Chattanooga, Florida, and Mississippi State, and more against Tennessee, LSU, and Vanderbilt from 2021.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

After leading the nation in completion percentage and yards per pass attempt in the regular season, Grayson McCall is far from a system quarterback. He possesses ample arm strength and athleticism to make an impact in the NFL.

Yet, a return to college football in 2022 graces Coastal Carolina and the Sun Belt with one more season of him and his mullet dominating on Saturdays.

To encroach on the top tier of QB prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, McCall needs to work on a few things. Finding all levels of the field by going through his progressions is one of them. If McCall can add a level of “NFL Throws” to his arsenal by finding his receivers downfield, he’ll check off nearly every box.

Tyler Van Dyke, Miami (FL)

Still considered a freshman in 2021, Tyler Van Dyke entered the season as a potential name to know in the future for the Hurricanes. Playing behind D’Eriq King, it wasn’t until an injury to King that the world got introduced to Van Dyke. And yet, he still had to prove himself against fellow highly-recruited quarterback Jake Garcia.

It was a performance against Central Connecticut State that gave us a glimpse of his ability. He finished just a half’s worth of work with 10-of-11 passing for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns. In his eight starts thereafter, Van Dyke threw for a total of 22 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards. An impressive career debut as ever, especially considering we weren’t supposed to see Van Dyke in a full-time role until 2022.

Now that we’ve been teased with that and signs are pointing toward growth, Van Dyke is absolutely ready to vault into the top 10 draft-eligible quarterbacks. His arm is terrific, and he throws with excellent anticipation and trust in his football. It’s a fantastic combination, and Van Dyke may just have the chance to showcase his full skill set this fall in Miami.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

Proving that he can do it for more than one quarter will be crucial for Hendon Hooker in 2022. He already is the nation’s top first-quarter quarterback after dominating the opening frame after he took over in Knoxville. Still, he’s an accurate thrower of the football with enough touch to find his receivers across a bevy of routes. Hooker has plenty of strength to drive the football through zone windows as well.

He’s an elite athlete as well, totaling nearly 2,000 rushing yards in his career that spans four seasons — three at Virginia Tech and one at Tennessee. Showing that he can maintain vision of his receivers while maneuvering the pocket is the next step in his growth. If that takes place in 2022, expect Hooker to shift up a tier.

Cameron Ward, Washington State

A former Incarnate Word gunslinger, Cameron Ward heads to the Pacific Northwest to call the shots in Jake Dickert’s first year at the helm of the Cougars. Ward is an unpolished passer with a cannon for an arm despite a unique release. Somehow, Ward finds the target with a shortened delivery that allows his tape to jump with his special arm talent.

He’s a quick decision-maker and should thrive in the Pac-12 this fall. Ward will have to rely on his solid footwork and foundation as he ups the competition level. He can also count on his athleticism and ability to reset his platform in nearly every scenario. If Ward continues to showcase the growth we saw at Incarnate Word, the same growth that saw him win the Jerry Rice Award and throw for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns a season ago, we’re in for a real treat this season.

Tier 4: Need to prove that injuries are behind them

At one point, each of these 2023 NFL Draft quarterback prospects had aspirations for the 2022 NFL Draft. Injuries derailed them in 2021, and now they shift focus to proving they still warrant a draft pick.

Phil Jurkovec, Boston College

A wrist injury sidelined Phil Jurkovec after just one drive of Boston College’s Week 2 matchup against UMass. He returned in Week 10 and started the team’s final four games of the season. Jurkovec looked rusty at times during his return, but he more than has the tools to be a factor in this 2023 NFL Draft. If he can return to the form that saw him throw 15 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions in 2020, or even his 2021 Week 1 performance of 303 yards and 3 TDs, Jurkovec vaults back into the conversation.

He is on pace to set or break more Boston College records in 2022. While not setting all-time career marks, he’s quickly vaulting up the leaderboard in terms of speed to set records. He’s already passed Matt Ryan for the fastest to reach multiple 300-yard game plateaus. Anytime you’re drawing comparisons to either Matt Ryan or Ben Roethlisberger (as he does with his size), you’re doing something right.

Jurkovec will have to prove the injuries are behind him and show he’s mentally prepared to lead a team at the next level. This Boston College team has the pieces to win games in 2022, but they’re missing a smart and savvy leader like the top clubs in recent memory have had at the helm. If Jurkovec can become that, he’ll vault up a tier or two.

Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh

Needing a change of scenery, Kedon Slovis heads east to Pittsburgh. After losing his starting spot to Jaxson Dart following a leg injury, Slovis has transferred to the vacated spot left by Kenny Pickett. With ample arm strength and terrific in-structure play, Slovis was a gem of an Air Raid quarterback when firing on all cylinders.

He’s thrown for over 7,500 yards in three seasons, and that’s special considering he started just nine games in 2021 and only six in 2020. Proving his ability in a more pro-style system is as important as his ability to showcase the leg injury is behind him. Like the others in this group, if he does, Slovis absolutely jumps back into the draft conversation.

Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma

The nation’s top deep-ball thrower outside of the numbers has transferred to greener pastures, again. After a short agreement to transfer to UCLA, the former UCF signal-caller now calls Norman, Oklahoma home under new head coach Brett Venables. To be considered a legitimate draft prospect, Gabriel must demonstrate the ability that he showcased in 2019 and 2020. Despite just three starts in 2021, Gabriel has over 8,000 passing yards and is as dynamic of a college football player as there is.

The big-armed lefty will have to prove he can still throw the ball with the velocity we came to know and love after suffering a broken collarbone in Week 3 against Louisville. Spreading the field and dropping “Dillon Dimes” will be fun to watch if he’s healthy enough to do so in 2022.

Cam Mellor is the senior director of college football and NFL Draft at Pro Football Network. You can read all of Cam’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.