Since 2012, the first round of the NFL Draft has averaged three quarterback selections. In this cycle, C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young are the favorites to be Nos. 1 and 2. With his scouting report, can Kentucky QB Will Levis lock down another Round 1 spot in the 2023 NFL Draft?
Will Levis NFL draft profile
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. And 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. And 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 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.
Now, Levis looks on to 2022, aiming to take the next step.
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Kentucky
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’4, 230 pounds
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, he 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. And 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. But 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. He’s 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 he can stay in phase with his base, keep his feet active, and place his front foot properly for placement and rotation. Moreover, he continually keeps his shoulders level on release, and he can also keep his shoulders level off-platform.
Not only does Levis have good mechanics, but he can also actively manipulate his mechanics to influence ball placement. He can adjust 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 can mix velocity and touch to arc the ball into small windows. In a similar vein, Levis has shown he can lead WRs low in tight situations to minimize the threat of contact and disruption.
There are lapses with precision at times from Levis, which we’ll get to later. But overall, he’s underrated with his general accuracy. He consistently throws within the WR’s wheelhouse and doesn’t often throw uncatchable balls. He’s a reliable rhythm passer with snappy lower-body mechanics off the snap, and he can lead 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 he can read defender spacing pre-snap and identify favorable matchups based on route concepts.
While there were a lot of rhythm and timing throws in 2021, Levis did go through hi-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 serves as a sturdy foundation for his passing production. The Kentucky QB senses pressure well, and he’s often quick to detect penetrating rushers and step into lanes to avoid contact. He’s shown he can manage space in the pocket to buy himself more time. While he can be skittish at times, there are awesome glimpses of poise in the pocket. Levis shows the steadiness to stand in as the pocket condenses. He steps forward into tightening lanes and delivers throws amidst direct contact.
Among other things, Levis often keeps his eyes forward on the dropback to hold safeties, and he’s shown he can 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, Levis delivered in late-down, high-distance situations in 2021.
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 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 stares down his primary receiver at times, inviting defenders to close in early with his eyes. His field vision is questionable at times. He sometimes misses open receivers and occasionally forces intermediate and deep throws with defenders looming. Levis is effective off play-action and on timing throws, but he can accrue more experience with full-field reads.
As a thrower, Levis can be more precise at times. Especially 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 be concave at times, pushing passes high as a result.
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 blind side. He can be rushed into making non-ideal decisions by pressure and sometimes fades back as he throws, eroding his mechanics.
Lastly, while Levis’ toughness as a runner is appealing, he has room to better preserve himself on the ground.
Current draft projection for Kentucky QB Will Levis
Levis is a polarizing prospect at the QB position. But after re-evaluating his most recent tape, I feel he’s worthy of Round 1 capital. And with a year of improvement, he could work himself into the early first-round range. Levis has high-end physical tools. And while he has room for further refinement, there are bright flashes on the operational side.
Levis graded on the Day 1-Day 2 boundary for me, but the positional value at quarterback and his corresponding upside lift him into the first-round conversation. Levis checks almost all the boxes when it comes to the unteachable traits. He’s a strong player both inside and outside the pocket, with a compact 6’4″, 230-pound frame. He’s a great athlete with good speed, burst, and flashes of one-cut elusiveness. And his arm can generate elite levels of velocity from different angles.
Levis has a clear path to improvement in 2022, but it will be easier said than done. He has to become much more consistent reading the field and anticipating windows, and he needs to more consistently lead receivers effectively, especially over the middle of the field. But as it stands, he has good mechanics and pocket management, his accuracy is far from a liability, and he does show flashes of anticipation to build on.
Taking Levis’ potential for growth into account, his stable, unteachable traits remain exhilarating. Levis is an athletic, resilient, and supremely talented passer, with the high-end attributes to buoy a franchise-caliber ceiling as he gains more starting experience.