Thanks in part to the partnership with Pro Football Network and the East-West Shrine Bowl, readers can now go beyond the games on Saturdays and obtain a virtual look at the scouting process for the 2023 NFL Draft.
For some, the draft takes place in April. For those initiated, the 2023 NFL Draft has already begun with preparation, film study, analysis, and now live looks at some of the top players as Week 0 has come and gone.
Below are observations and analysis from Shrine Bowl Director Eric Galko from the previous week of action.
A scout’s eye: 2023 NFL Draft quarterbacks
It was an incredible start to the college football season after multiple Thursday and Friday night games led the way to a full slate of college football on Saturday.
From six-touchdown performances to in-air flips for scores and game-winning drives after near-game-losing mistakes, it was a wild quarterback evaluation ride in Week 1. And was a perfect first weekend to be reminded just how talented and deep the all-star game quarterback class is.
Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State (vs. Central Michigan)
On Thursday night of Week 1, Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders had maybe the most impressive performance of any all-star game eligible passer in the country.
With a total of six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing), Sanders showed outstanding confidence in the offense, composure on the move and under pressure, high-end decision-making as a passer and when transitioning to a runner, and high-end accuracy, especially downfield.
Entering the year without nearly enough fanfare from those in the media, NFL personnel have known about Sanders’ potential for the last two seasons. If he can continue to play like this – loose, confident, and finishing big plays – he’ll have a chance to emerge as a top-tier senior quarterback.
Clayton Tune, Houston (vs. UTSA)
Heading into the game, I was excited to see Houston QB Clayton Tune operate, as I had gotten to spend time with him this offseason, first at a camp with Jordan Palmer and then again at Manning Passing Academy.
However, he struggled for much of the first three quarters of the game with some of the timing and accuracy expected for a Week 1 opener. Before the fourth quarter, his team was down 21-7, he had just one touchdown, one near interception, and had been sacked four times.
But his fourth-quarter comeback showed his patience and anticipation as a quarterback, two traits that ooze NFL starting quarterback traits. His swagger and confidence once his team began the comeback shows the galvanizing leader he is, only enhanced by the game-leading end zone flip to keep his team alive.
Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (vs. Ball State)
While the game never felt in doubt for Tennessee, Hendon Hooker showcased the efficiency and accuracy that made his 2021 film so impressive to NFL evaluators.
While the team didn’t need to do anything extreme in their offense to put up points, Hooker’s placement in short and mid-range throws that led to yards after catch opportunities seemed easy. Still, it’s a consistent accuracy trait few possess and see true importance in before getting to the NFL.
He only took four shots beyond 20 yards in the game (one for a touchdown). NFL scouts will for sure be looking to see if his downfield ball placement can be as impressive as last season as his competition increases. Still, Hooker continues to be on track to be a top-tier senior quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
Sean Clifford, Penn State (vs. Purdue)
For anyone that watched the game, Clifford’s performance ebbed and flowed before it aggressively turned. Steady performance for much of the game, Clifford’s night turned terrible after a pick-six late in the game, only to be his own savior and lead an incredible late game drive in under two minutes, where he went 5-for-6, to give Penn State the victory.
Clifford, in his sixth season, has an incredibly high football IQ, and after speaking with him multiple times over the last few years, seeing him at Quincy Avery’s quarterback camp, and speaking with his coaches and teammates (current and past), it’s clear that his future after his playing career is in coaching.
So it was no surprise that he’s taken the next step as a passer to finish on time in the mid-field, use his mobility with purpose, and remain confident even in the face of his own mistake. His late-game drive was not just a great college football experience; it’ll likely be one of the first talking points in his scouting report in NFL rooms during the draft process.
Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh (vs. West Virginia)
In his first game leading the Pittsburgh Panthers after transferring from USC, Kedon Slovis was challenged with a consistently attacking and penetrating West Virginia defense.
Slovis’s toughness in the pocket and under pressure, especially as the game went on, stood out coupled with his high-end release quickness and short/mid-range accuracy.
His downfield accuracy wasn’t as crisp as expected, though that is likely more due to the first game action with a new team than a concern, and his arm talent looked even stronger than it did at USC.
If he can continue to build better anticipation, timing, and deep ball accuracy with his talented set of receivers, Slovis can start to emerge out of Kenny Pickett’s shadow and become a coveted QB prospect in his own right.
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