We know Will Levis is in the early first-round mix with his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report, but where along the pecking order does he sit? Since 2012, the first round of the NFL draft has averaged three quarterback selections. C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young are the favorites in 2023, but Levis might be the third of that trio — and his tools could lift him higher than third overall.
Will Levis NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Kentucky
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’4, 230 pounds
Levis’ career track is different from that of most first-round QB prospects. The Kentucky QB was a 2018 recruit in the same class as Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Yet, 2021 was his first season as a starting signal-caller at the collegiate level.
While other quarterbacks found immediate stardom, Levis took the longer road to prominence. Levis was a 4.0 student at Xavier in Connecticut and had offers from a number of Ivy League schools, including Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Columbia. But Levis wanted to pursue a D1 football career and signed with Penn State instead.
Three years passed. Levis redshirted in 2018 and started two games total through 2019 and 2020. At the end of that stretch, Levis transferred to Kentucky. In Lexington, he finally emerged as a legitimate draft prospect.
Levis only carried 102 career attempts into the 2021 season, but he picked things up quickly. A team captain in his first year at Kentucky, Levis collected 2,826 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in 13 starts. He also added 376 yards and nine scores on the ground.
Levis exited 2021 as a polarizing but exciting QB prospect, and 2022 has brought more of that sentiment. He’s completed 114 of 164 passes for 1,635 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five picks to this point. The production and talent are there, but unanswered questions remain on the tape.
Will Levis Scouting Report
Levis would be undrafted for his eating habits. He eats bananas with the peel on, and he puts mayonnaise in his coffee. But we’ll let all that slide because, on the field, Levis brings plenty of talent.
Levis has very exciting tools as a passer and a creator. The Kentucky QB stands at 6’4″, 230 pounds, with a strong, dense frame that can withstand contact. With his frame, Levis brings elite arm talent to the fold. He generates elite velocity on throws with visible ease and has a quick, crisp 3/4 sidearm release. His velocity carries well to all levels of the field and travels with immediacy in the short and intermediate ranges.
Levis has a supremely strong arm — strong enough to generate high levels of velocity even when off-platform and rolling against his dominant side. Beyond that, his arm is also noticeably elastic. The Kentucky QB is very natural and comfortable throwing from different arm angles, and he can generate high levels of velocity from various arm angles. Levis is able to throw with pace and accuracy off-platform, and he can correct incongruent mechanics with his arm talent.
Levis doesn’t just have high-end arm talent, either. He’s a legitimate athlete with potential 4.6 speed at his size. He shows great burst and speed in the open field and has enough agility to make single cuts. The physical edge Levis plays with as a runner is even more enticing. For a QB, he breaks tackles with more consistency than expected. He plays strong in the pocket, churns his legs through tackle attempts, and frequently extends plays with his frame, play strength, and athleticism.
Levis’ arm talent is a central part of his game, but he’s also proficient at properly channeling that arm talent with strong mechanics. Levis consistently gets excellent hip rotation on his throws, which allows him to generate maximum velocity. He’s also shown to stay in phase with his base, keep his feet active, and place his front foot properly for placement and rotation. Moreover, Levis continually keeps his shoulders level on release and level off-platform.
Not only does Levis have good mechanics, but he can also actively manipulate his mechanics to influence ball placement. He adjusts his shoulder alignment situationally to manipulate the trajectory of his throws — a tendency that shows up most often on seam routes and boundary fades. On those throws, he mixes velocity and touch to arc the ball into small windows. In a similar vein, Levis has shown to lead WRs low in tight situations to minimize the threat of contact and disruption.
There are sometimes lapses with precision from Levis, which we’ll get to later. But overall, he’s underrated with his general accuracy. He consistently throws within the receiver’s wheelhouse and doesn’t often throw uncatchable balls. Levis is a reliable rhythm passer with snappy lower-body mechanics off the snap and leads receivers for run-after-catch yards with great velocity in the short range. And over the middle of the field, he has displayed the ability to lead into space, away from contact.
Processing and field vision are areas where Levis can improve. But even there, the Kentucky QB has shown glimpses of promise. Levis flashes the ability to anticipate windows and go through progression work. He’s also shown to read defender spacing pre-snap and identify favorable matchups based on route concepts.
While there were several rhythm and timing throws in 2021, Levis did go through high-to-low reads on occasion, and he has the capacity to process and progress through options quickly. In select situations, particularly against zone coverage, Levis displayed the wherewithal to wait ahead of his release to let overlapping route concepts play out and neutralize the threat of an underneath defender.
Levis’ work in the pocket can visibly improve, but he flashes the requisite toughness and pressure detection. The Kentucky QB has shown he can detect penetrating rushers and step into lanes to avoid contact. He’s also shown to manage space in the pocket to buy himself more time.
While Levis can sometimes be skittish, there are awesome glimpses of poise in the pocket. Furthermore, Levis shows the steadiness to stand in as the pocket condenses. While consistency is still desired, he can step forward into tightening lanes and deliver throws amidst direct contact.
Among other things, Levis has shown to keep his eyes forward on the dropback to hold safeties and use subtle bursts of eye manipulation to open up the field. Additionally, he’s willing to throw the ball away when plays collapse and nothing is there.
On the ground, Levis is a supremely tough competitor who fights to stay on his feet and gain extra yards. In both phases, there are definite clutch moments on tape. More than once in 2021, Levis delivered in late-down, high-distance situations.
Levis’ Areas for Improvement
Right now, the most pressing concern with Levis is his inconsistent field vision and anticipation. The Kentucky QB can do a better job anticipating overall. He often experiences slight delays before throwing and loses time waiting a bit longer for breaks. His trigger can be a bit late, and his lack of anticipation and inconsistent processing gives defenders more time to close in, minimize RAC, or make plays on the ball.
Levis sometimes locks onto WRs pre-snap and will prematurely commit to routes even. He occasionally stares down his primary receiver, inviting defenders to close in early with his eyes.
His field vision is questionable overall. Levis sometimes misses open receivers and occasionally forces intermediate and deep throws with defenders looming. He’s effective off play-action and on timing throws, but he can accrue more experience with full-field reads.
As a thrower, Levis could be more precise. Particularly over the middle, he sometimes fails to lead receivers and forces high-difficulty adjustments in congested areas. He’s still learning to mix velocity and touch, and he sometimes puts too much heat and too little loft on passes. His release is fast but can sometimes be concave, pushing passes high as a result.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Elsewhere, Levis’ pressure detection can fluctuate both ways. He can be spooked into prematurely dropping his eyes and running. Conversely, he occasionally has lapses in pressure detection and takes hard hits on the blindside. Levis can be rushed into making non-ideal decisions by pressure and sometimes fades back as he throws, eroding his mechanics.
Especially in 2022, Levis has struggled with processing and navigation in the pocket, and it’s affected his overall process as a thrower. Levis has the toughness and size to stand in, but his internal clock can be slow, and threats of pressure will sometimes cause him to freeze. Going further, he doesn’t often make the necessary minute adjustments to buy time for himself, inviting sacks and turnover opportunities for the defense.
Overall, Levis can process pressure more quickly and effectively manage the pocket in response to said pressure. Lastly, while Levis’ toughness as a runner is appealing, he has room to better preserve himself on the ground. And while he has enough agility to sidestep rushers, he’s more of a linear athlete who lacks elite evasive twitch in tight spaces.
Current Draft Projection for Kentucky QB Will Levis
Levis graded on the Day 1/Day 2 boundary for me ahead of the 2022 season. His play in 2022 has not elevated him from that range. As a prospect, while he has upside worthy of early first-round consideration, Levis is not at the level of Stroud and Young.
That said, there’s a difference between where Levis grades and where the NFL will have him. Levis looks the part with his size and toughness. His linear athleticism for his size is truly impressive, and he also has an excellent arm with dual-sided strength and elasticity. All this is enough to secure Levis’ place in Round 1, and that strong “eye test” may place him over Stroud and Young for some teams.
To be clear, Levis still needs considerable improvement before he can legitimately be viewed in the same tier as those quarterbacks as an overall prospect. He has most of the unteachable traits, but Levis’ field vision and anticipation both remain inconsistent. His pocket management has not developed and has, at times, appeared to regress.
For a QB with his natural ability, Levis sometimes looks far too uncomfortable operating within the offense. Nevertheless, when taking Levis’ potential for growth into account, his stable, unteachable traits remain exhilarating.
Levis is an athletic, resilient, and supremely talented passer, with solid mechanics and the high-end attributes to buoy a franchise-caliber ceiling. He’ll need to answer the questions about his operational consistency at some point, but he has more than enough tools to earn an extended look as a starting NFL signal-caller.