Wild Card Preview…Another Common Cowboys L? – DraftID Podcast
The NFL Draft is 160 days away and most of the prospect evaluations are still ahead. I anticipate a lot of movement in this class, especially outside my top 2 prospects. As uncomfortable as it is to rank these guys right now, this is how it would be if the draft was tomorrow.
C.J. Stroud | Ohio State
This year’s QB class is headlined by my 3rd overall prospect, CJ Stroud. The Buckeyes Junior has been one of the most productive players in college football since taking over from where Justin Fields left off. The likely back-to-back Heisman finalist has thrown for 78 TDs and 7,200 yards with only 10 interceptions. At 6’3” 220 lbs, Stroud has a solid NFL build, which is just another box that he checks off. Stroud’s tape is extremely clean, but there are times that he gets caught with a hand in the cookie jar or trying to be aggressive and do too much for his team. His traits are very solid and his arm talent reminds me a lot of Justin Herbert coming out of college. He is one of the quickest mental processors in college football and possesses incredible touch to layer the football all around the field. The balanced, yet elite blend of tangible traits and intangible attributes is only the start of the discussion of why I believe Stroud has what it takes to be a Superstar in the NFL.
Bryce Young | Alabama
The reining Heisman winner has been one of the most electrifying players in the nation and seems to have the “it factor” that teams look for. Despite being a bit undersized (6’0″, 195 lbs), Young has been one of the best and toughest players in college football. Young is a high IQ pocket passer with phenomenal touch and accuracy, but also generates much more zip than you’d expect from an “undersized” passer. Alabama’s offense has struggled a bit at times this year, but I do not blame that on Young. I believe he is the one thing that is keeping this group competitive. Another underrated quality that Young has is he will absolutely win over a front office with his personality and leadership qualities. We have seen many 5 Star prospects and Heisman winners develop an ego that has followed them to the NFL. Bryce Young has blocked out the noise, which includes millions off of NIL money and sponsorships.
Will Levis | Kentucky
Despite his less than stellar production, Will Levis is a big-time name within the NFL scouting community. It is easy to get deterred by a guy that puts up 109 yards passing in a loss to Vanderbilt, but fans need to remember that these players are not being scouted on college production, rather on their upside and potential. It’s easy to see the upside when you watch Levis throw the ball, but will he ever develop into a successful NFL QB? Levis has a naturally gifted arm with insanely fast release and next level zip. The 2022 raw numbers have been disheartening, but it is worth mentioning that he has thrown for 40 TDs and completed over 66% of his passes since transferring to Kentucky.
Despite a tough 2022 season, Levis has still showcased an arm worthy of an NFL passer and is one of the few prospects that has shown shades of Mahomes or Josh Allen level arm talent. Levis likely would’ve been the 1st QB selected last year in the putrid 2022 class and likely will be in the top 3 of the 2023 class. I think part of the dip this year is largely due to Levis being on a horrible Kentucky team that lost several key players on their offensive line as well as a 2nd round receiver. Levis will be one of the headliners playing in the Senior Bowl, which will give scouts a first hand experience with the signal caller to kick off the draft season.
Anthony Richardson | Florida
AR has been one of the most intriguing prospects in college football and may have had one of the most volatile seasons as a prospect. He is close to being in that first tier due to upside alone, but I am holding out until I see a full season of tape before I can move him up that high. Analysts have been split down the middle on Richardson; many have claimed he should return to Florida for another season, but scouts seem to think the upside is too good to ignore. When you watch him on film, the traits are the first thing that catch your eye. Richardson, who stands at 6’4” 240 lbs, has a rocket arm with elite zip and strength. He can throw the deep ball on a rope, despite lacking the necessary accuracy at times. To add to that, he is a 5-star athlete who will be heavily featured as a rushing threat throughout his football career. The biggest detractor is evident…Richardson has started just 10 career games and has looked completely lost at times as a passer. However, he has shown steady improvement throughout the season and has actually been much more efficient in SEC play than he was earlier in the season. He will be a true project, but the traits and upside should keep his name relevant. His improvement throughout his first 10 games are extremely encouraging and I am eager to fully evaluate a season of tape.
Bo Nix | Oregon
The former 5-star dual threat was written off after a rough start to his career in the SEC at Auburn. Despite upsetting both Justin Herbert and Mac Jones as a true freshman, Nix was never consistently a top passer in the conference. Now, after transferring to Oregon, Nix has been one of the most dominant players in the nation and a potential dark horse Heisman candidate. Part of the emergence could be due to a new team with a legitimate WR1, Troy Franklin. However, the traits have always been there and Nix possesses an elastic arm and excellent mobility, which has pushed him into the early round discussion. Nix’s deep ball has been one of the best in college football and has certainly caught the attention of NFL scouts. I’d assume the Alabama native and well connected prospect has gotten an invite to the Senior Bowl, but assume he still is deciding on if he wants to return to Oregon for his final season. If he is in Mobile, expect many scouts to be dissecting Nix as a prospect all week long.
Mid Round Picks
Michael Penix Jr. | Washington
The 5th year senior has had his ups and downs throughout college but is enjoying a late “breakout” season where he stands atop the nation in passing yards. In his four seasons at Indiana, Penix never surpassed 14 TDs or 2,000 yards…both hurdles that he cleared by midseason this year. There were times where Penix’s career looked like it was done, but he made the correct decision to transfer to Washington, which has revitalized his career. Despite being in his 5th season, Penix turns just 23 in March. He is on the older side of the group, but still more than two years younger than Hendon Hooker.
Penix, a lefty, can absolutely sling the ball and comfortably controls the ball with a combination of touch and zip. His 2022 tape is filled with dot after dot as well as off platform throws, sophisticated release points and impressive big-time plays. If you are unsure about Penix Jr., I’d advise you to watch his games against Michigan State and Oregon, which were both outings where he showed off his upside and completely took over the game. Like Nix, Penix benefitted from a much-improved arsenal of weapons following his transfer, but he is also a key reason why Washington has bounced back. I anticipate Michael Penix Jr. to be a mid-round draft pick that offers a high ceiling to a team wanting to take a shot without spending an early round pick.
Hendon Hooker | Tennessee
Hooker has been one of the best underdog stories in college football, but I am still weary of his draft stock as he turns 25 in January. He is a veteran that has learned to get the job done and is the clear leader of the Vols locker room, but late bloomers typically are knocked in the draft process. The question that commonly arises is “how much further can he improve and develop?”, which is a legitimate concern that can be added to a prospect that already has some questions regarding his footwork and technique.
The Tennessee scheme has been very friendly to Hooker this year and has allowed for him to make many wide-open passes to some of the top playmakers in the country. However, he also hasn’t missed many opportunities, per se. When I watch the Georgia tape, there were far too many times where Hooker gets stuck in his progressions or is quickly thrown off by the pass rush. The Georgia front is probably the best in the country, but you’d like to see a 5-year veteran keep his eyes downfield when under duress. To add to that, there really isn’t anything special about the arm talent. Yes, he has made a lot of great throws this year, but none that give him more upside than the guys above him. I think Hooker is a guy that a team with an established QB will select to fill in as a high-end backup.
Tyson Bagent | Shepherd
You may not know much about Bagent, but you will start hearing his name soon. He has been one of the most dominant DII players in the nation and a 4 year starter for the Shepherd Rams in Shepherdstown, WV. Since taking over in 2018, Bagent has thrown for 16,000 yards and 153 TDs while completing 69% of his 1,894 career pass attempts. Bagent will soon be a household name in the draft community as he is the first QB that has verbally accepted his invite to the 2023 Senior Bowl. I was tipped off on Bagent back in September, so I dove into some of his film and have been following him since then.
Bagent has a tall, lanky build (6’3”, 210 lbs) and appears to be a terrific athlete with incredible pocket mobility, despite his lack of rushing production. The Shepherd scheme strictly kept him as a passer, but he has scored 11 career rushing TDs. The first thing that jumps off the tape is how quick he is to move the ball out of his hand due to lighting speed processing abilities. He is a true chain mover that frequently will take the open guys and checkdowns rather than being too aggressive. The zip is very average, but he throws with some very interesting arm angles and exemplifies impressive touch on the ball. You don’t look at his arm and say “WOW!”, but he gets the job done. One concern I have with Bagent is that he is playing with far superior talent over most of his opponents. Shepherd has been a DII powerhouse in their conference and frequently had offensive lineman and receivers dominate their matchups. Regardless, Bagent is an intriguing prospect that I look forward to watching compete at the Senior Bowl.
Guys Who Could Return
Will Rogers | Mississippi State
Rogers has been a big-time producer in the SEC and has racked up 10,000 passing yards and 74 TDs while completing over 70% of his career passes. The junior QB has been the epitome of a pocket passer in Mike Leech’s air raid offense and I have been extremely impressed with his touch passing the ball on all three levels. The air raid has been knocked at times, but in today’s NFL the scheme is the least of scout’s concerns. Rogers is a high IQ passer with solid arm talent, but nothing that will elevate his stock into the elite tier of this group. I think when you look at Rogers, you see his ceiling being someone like Mac Jones. He is a prospect that can produce under pressure due to the high football IQ and understanding of the position. I think there is a good chance Rogers returns to Mississippi State for his senior season and could potentially break into the top group with another year of growth.
DJ Uiagalelei | Clemson
The former 5 star recruit was labeled as the guy who would make the transition from Trevor Lawrence seamless, but the Clemson program now potentially faces back to back years without a CFP appearance since DJ has taken over. Although replacing Lawrence is a tall task that very few could accommodate, Uiagalelei had a less than stellar showing in 2021 where he threw 9 TDs and 9 INTs all season. He seemed to bounce back this season, where he started the year with 7 straight wins 21 TDs compared to just 2 INTs…then he ran into a buzzsaw against Syracuse where he was benched. Since then, he has seemed to bounce back but is not playing as well as he showed through the first stretch of the season.
Uiagalelei is a tough prospect to evaluate. He’s got a big arm, perfect build and is a very athletic, pass-first QB that also has been successful rushing the ball. This season, he has been one of the best deep ball throwers in the nation with19 Big Time Throws (per PFF), which is the most out of this entire group. Like Rogers, I could see Uiagalelei return to college for another season, but will that require him to transfer with Cade Klubnik potentially taking over next year? This could turn into a sticky situation for Uiagalelei.
Others to Consider
Tanner McKee | Stanford
Despite being a sophomore, Tanner McKee will turn 23 this spring due to taking his 2-year LDS pilgrimage prior to his time at Stanford. The former High School All American and Elite 11 prospect was once a top recruit in the nation getting big time offers from schools like Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Texas before choosing the Cardinals. He offers tremendous size (6’6″, 220 lbs) with a very strong arm and above average mobility. Despite being on a horrible Stanford team, McKee has put out solid tape that has kept his name relevant. I am not sure he is close to a top 5 QB in this class, but team certainly are intrigued with the Stanford product.
Aiden O’Connell | Purdue
The 24-year-old signal caller had a very different college career than the typical NFL QB. O’Connell was a walk on that fought his way up the depth chart before finally winning over the starting job in his 4th year with the program. Despite having little hype surrounding him, he had a very successful 2021 season where he threw for 3,700 yards and 28 TDs while completing roughly 72% of his passes. O’Connell has a solid arm, but nothing special enough to really win over scouts. However, he is a polished veteran that can help out a QB room in the NFL.
Jaren Hall | BYU
Hall is another interesting prospect that brings a solid toolbox full of high-end traits but is set to turn 25 in March. Like Tanner McKee, Hall spent two years away from football but has been impressive since taking over the Cougar offense following former 2nd overall pick Zach Wilson. Hall has thrown for 44 TDs and 5,300 yards while completing around 65% of his career passes. At 6’1”, 205, he doesn’t have incredible size, but he is certainly big enough. I think there is upside with Hall, but the fact that he is going to be 25 in March is similar to the same concerns regarding potential upside that Hooker and O’Connell both face.