The NFL regular season still has a long way to go, but it is never too early to take a sneak peek at the stars of tomorrow, who are making a name for themselves on the collegiate level. NFL fans are used to premier prospects coming out of programs like the University of Alabama, University of Georgia, or Ohio State University, and there will likely be a bunch of players who reach the pros next year from those schools.
However, we should also be keeping an eye on another potential prospect from a non-powerhouse football school at the University of Kentucky. Quarterback Will Levis is ascending up the mock draft boards with each passing week, which is an interesting development consider that Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud had been anointed as the premier signal caller in the nation.
There is still time for Stroud and Levis to cement their draft positions next April if they deliver for their respective teams in the college football odds, but it will be interesting to see if Levis can potentially be the first player selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
He has had an interesting journey to relevancy, to say the least. Levis started his college career at Penn State University, where he spent the first two seasons as a part time starter. He did not really distinguish himself with the Nittany Lions, appearing in 14 games over two seasons. During that span he threw for 644 total yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Because he was not going to get the chance to run with the starting job at Penn State, Levis took advantage of the more lenient transfer rules created by the NCAA in the past couple of years. Due to the pandemic, college sports allowed student athletes to transfer once without having to sit out a year, which was a major win for the players. As a result, Levis found himself playing for the Kentucky Wildcats a year after he was part of the Penn State program.
In the most difficult conference in the country, Levis showed what he was made of during the 2021 season in SEC play. He played in thirteen games last year, throwing for 2,826 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. While the turnover rate was a bit high, he still completed 66 percent of his passes.
Now a senior at Kentucky, Levis has followed up his strong junior campaign with another impressive season. He is on pace to set career highs in every major statistical category and will have the chance to shine against the nation’s most fierce competition in the next few months.
Levis looks the part of an NFL quarterback, standing 6’3” tall and weighing over 232 pounds. He profiles as the ideal passer in an NFL offense, who will be able to stand tall and see over the rush, while shrugging off defenders who are trying to bring him down with one arm.
Another feather in Levis’ cap is the fact that Kentucky runs an offense that is similar to what NFL teams deploy each Sunday. According to draft analysts, he plays in a system that mirrors what the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams utilize, which is impressive considering that both teams are coached by some of the most brilliant offensive minds in the sport.
As he matures, Levis will need to pick his spots with regards to taking contact from defenders, as he is sometimes keen to stick his shoulder into the pile to get extra yards.
Potential Landing Spots
There doesn’t appear to be a team in the NFL that is tanking in order to secure the first overall pick in the draft. It is a little early to be thinking about that, and hope springs eternal for every franchise.
However, there are a couple of teams that come to mind who may not have a long-term answer under center. The Seattle Seahawks is off to a surprisingly competent start under Geno Smith, but neither him nor Drew Lock are likely to be leading the franchise in a couple of years. Seattle had been rumored to be in the quarterback market this offseason, and that reality will likely not change next spring.
Additionally, the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers will likely be quarterback shopping come the next offseason. Davis Mills does not profile as the answer for the Texans, despite showing some decent poise in difficult circumstances the past couple of years.
The Panthers have swung for the fences, making big move after big move, but still don’t seem to be any close to finding their franchise guy in a room that includes Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold.
It is entirely possible that Levis will be on one of these three NFL teams next year.