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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.

After multiple years of loaded quarterback classes, the NFL Draft will take a step back in 2022. However, for NFL teams needing a new franchise signal-caller in the near future, the 2023 NFL Draft quarterback prospects are next-level. It’s an elite group of characters. Let’s run down the top players — in tiers — as the 2021-22 season comes to a close.

Top 2023 NFL Draft QB prospects

The projected top two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft will likely come from the quarterback position. In fact, there could even be three quarterbacks taken in the first three picks if a certain someone lives up to the hype. Here are the top 2023 NFL Draft QBs, broken out into specific tiers.

Tier 1: The top two

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

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.

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 (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’ll continually battle it out with Young for 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

It’s a good time to need a quarterback as the 2023 NFL Draft quarterback prospects are plentiful. This next tier is the groups of individuals who have traits to possibly land inside the first round.

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 this past 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.

If Hall does that, dare I say he’s a first-round pick? Okay, fine, maybe he is a bit more like Wilson than I thought.

Tier 3: Elite talents with something to prove

The next tier of quarterbacks all have elite traits. However, they each have something to prove.

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.

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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.

No matter what he does in 2022, though, McCall is the best quarterback in the Carolinas entering the year.

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. Proving 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.

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.

DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson

There is absolutely no denying the fact that DJ Uiagalelei has elite arm talent. He has it in spades, to be precise. But there’s also no denying the fact that DJU struggled with consistency, accuracy, poise, pocket presence, and a handful of other intangibles necessary to be an NFL signal-caller.

Uiagalalei has spectacular traits and poor outings. It’s a rare anomaly that still breeds hope. Can he revive his career in Clemson this coming season? Or will he Spencer Rattler himself to another school in the near future, giving way to an incredibly-gifted five-star true freshman QB in Cade Klubnik?

The decision is ultimately up to Uiagalalei. It comes down to how he performs on the field, handles himself in the spring, and leads the program.

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 on 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.

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, UCLA

The nation’s top deep-ball thrower outside of the numbers has gone halfway home. Halfway home for Dillon Gabriel is from Orlando to Los Angeles, halfway back to Hawai’i. A long distance to travel, sure, but in the UCLA system, Gabriel will be able to 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 the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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