Who is the best quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft? Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are the consensus top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft QB rankings. However, this year’s draft class delivers a lot of intrigue with endless debates regarding the top draft-eligible quarterbacks.
Despite the hype surrounding the 2023 NFL Draft quarterback class, there isn’t a generational-caliber talent available this year. There are noteworthy concerns and red flags with even the best passers available this year, negatives that keep them from reaching the highest elite tier.
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While it’s too early to determine how many quarterbacks will be drafted in the first round in 2023, the depth of this class is an even bigger debate. After Young and Stroud, evaluations vary widely on names like Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, Hendon Hooker and Tanner McKee.
2023 NFL Draft Rankings
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1. Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide
- Bryce Young height: 5-foot-10
- Bryce Young weight: 204 pounds
- Bryce Young stats: 162.4 QB rating, 75-12 TD-INT, 8.7 ypa, 8,035 pass yards, 7 rush TDs
- Bryce Young career: 2020 CFP national champion, 2021 Heisman Trophy
Young, 247 Sports’ No. 1 quarterback out of high school in 2020, met every expectation at Alabama. In his 2021 Heisman season, Young led the Crimson Tide to the College Football Playoff, scored 50 total touchdowns and showed phenomenal arm strength and touch throwing to Jameson Williams and John Metchie. In 2022, Young played through injury and overcame a receiving corps that fell far short of the Alabama standard yet still finished sixth in Heisman voting.
Turning 22 in July, Young is more than ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He boasts above-average arm strength with the touch and timing through adjusted velocities to put the football anywhere all over the field. Just as important for modern NFL offenses, he is adept at throwing on the move, using different arm angles to get accurate passes off fairly consistently.
Paired with his functional athleticism, allowing him to evade pressure and make plays on the run, the physical tools and mental capacity that franchise-caliber quarterbacks have can all be found in Young and make him the consensus No.1 player in 2023 NFL Draft QB rankings.
However, concerns regarding his size will become more prevalent during the pre-draft process. Alabama lists him at 6-foot and 194 lbs. but he was 5-foot-10 at the NFL Combine. Fortunately, the scales showing 204 pounds is a positive for his body composition amid concerns regarding his frame. Lacking the elite athleticism of Kyler Murray and without top-end natural arm strength, these limitations are enough when combined with some of his inconsistencies to prevent him from being viewed as Trevor Lawrence-esque talent.
We do have to address Young’s size, because many will point to Murray, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. While they were all short quarterbacks, Wilson carried a bulked-up frame that truly minimalized concerns regarding his ability to survive NFL hits. Brees enjoyed a long career, but he played a majority of his games indoors and even he carried more bulk than Young. Murray is the best size comparison, but he is a generational athlete and even with that he has not stayed healthy.
There is still so much to love, though, with the Sugar Bowl providing a perfect example. Firstly, Young played in that game when some of the best quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft, including Will Levis, opted out. In his final start, Young needed just 15 completions to eclipse 320 passing yards with five touchdown passes. Poise, accuracy, mobility, great eyes and is advanced beyond his years mentally, Young has so many tools for an NFL coach to build from.
2. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State Buckeyes
- C.J. Stroud stats: 182.0 QB rating, 81-12 TD-INT, 9.8 ypa, 7,775 pass yards, 69.3% completion
- C.J. Stroud career: First-team All-Big Ten (2021-’22), Heisman Trophy finalist (2021-’22)
The recent history of Ohio State quarterbacks not performing well in the NFL will be a negative that is used against Stroud. It’s accurate to say that he plays in a restricted offense, with easier throws set up and the offense designed for quick decisions, but Stroud’s talent speaks for itself.
Stroud’s frame (6-foot-3, 218 lbs.) immediately checks off the box for prototypical size. As for his physical talents, Stroud’s outstanding velocity and quick release are crucial heading to the next level with tight windows and defensive backs that react much faster to throws.
He demonstrates above-average arm strength for an NFL quarterback prospect, with consistent mechanics that lead to smooth passes even when pressured. Crucially, he also knows when to get rid of the football and how to progress through his options.
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There are limitations to his game. Stroud is never going to lead the NFL in on-target throws and his athleticism is more suited for navigating pressure in the pocket than making plays on his own. He offers the ceiling of a top-10 quarterback in the NFL at his peak, but even being an above-average starter would be a positive outcome.
Fortunately, he ended his college career with a performance that elevated his draft stock. Facing one of the best defenses in college football, Stroud picked the Georgia Bulldogs apart. He stood in the face of pressure to make throws with pinpoint accuracy, unleashed 30-plus yard touchdown strikes on the move and displayed more than enough functional athleticism to make him a threat at the next level.
Overall, the gap between Stroud and Young has narrowed slightly. While the nod is still given to Alabama’s quarterback, Stroud’s performance in the CFP Semifinal erased concerns about his dip in production late in the regular season. There are more than enough tools and intangibles to work with that a team can bet on Stroud to become its franchise quarterback.
3. Anthony Richardson, Florida Gators
- Anthony Richardson stats (passing): 133.6 QB rating, 24-15 TD-INT, 3,105 pass yards
- Anthony Richardson rushing stats: 1,116 rush yards, 12 touchdowns
- Anthony Richardson 40 time: 4.43 seconds
Some thought Richardson could challenge for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft before the season. If you were to create a player in Madden, so many of the attributes you’d use could be found in Richardson’s game. He needed to put it all together in 2022, but it didn’t happen.
We’ll start with the positives. Even at 6-foot-4 and 232 lbs., Richardson offers elite athleticism. He rushed for 100-plus yards four times in two seasons and had seven games with at least 60 rushing yards. It’s at the level to where you could project Richardson to rush for 600-plus yards per season at the next level. Of course, it also makes him even more difficult to bring down for sacks and the ability to buy time can also open things up for his receivers.
It’s also critical to mention Richardson’s arm strength, which would put him on a level with some of the best gunslingers in the NFL. Similar to Levis, the 21-year-old can physically drop a football at just about any location on the field. These two building blocks are what NFL coaches dream of.
Unfortunately, it just so rarely came together for Richardson. He only attempted 393 passes in his collegiate career, completing just 54.7% of those throws. If a 3.8% isn’t alarming enough – NFL interception leaders are Matt Ryan (13 INT, 3%) and Davis Mills (12, 3.4%) – Richardson also has a history of fumbles.
Richardson’s mechanics are going to be a multi-year project for his NFL coach. As things currently stand, the throwing mechanisms, decision-making and bad habits with his eyes all need to be addressed before he can be trusted in a regular-season game. We’re talking about at least two years of development before Richardson could potentially even begin to scratch at his potential.
We have moved Richardson up to No. 3 in our 2023 NFL Draft QB rankings through the pre-draft process. It’s because of two key factors. First, he offers greater physical tools than Levis with a level of athleticism that we’ve never seen in the NFL outside of Lamar Jackson and this is from a 6-foot-4 quarterback, too.
Secondly, Richardson crushed the interview process with NFL teams raving about his character, maturity, knowledge of Xs and Os and how he handled the process. Quite frankly, there’s an argument to take Richardson No. 1 overall because he could develop into becoming the best player from the 2023 NFL Draft class.
4. Will Levis, Kentucky Wildcats
- Will Levis stats: 145.6 QB rating, 46-25 TD-INT, 5,876 pass yards, 64.9% completion, 8.0 ypa
- Will Levis age: 23 (June 27, 1999)
The 2023 NFL Draft QB rankings become hotly debated after Stroud and Young. Levis stands the best chance of being a top-10 pick after his two peers. He is also an example of scouts and general managers ignoring box scores, focusing purely on physical abilities and what a player can do at the next level with better coaching.
It’s not hard to figure out why so many are high on the Kentucky quarterback. Standing at 6-foot-4, Levis is armed with a cannon that gives him one of the strongest arms in the 2023 NFL Draft. While arm strength and velocity don’t guarantee success in the pros, the raw ability to place a football 60-plus yards downfield and to launch bullets through minuscule windows puts his upside in a different stratosphere than many of his peers.
What NFL play-callers will love even more is the ability to create a scheme around Levis’s mobility. Expected to run a sub 4.7 40-yard dash, the size and agility are similar to Josh Allen. With those physical tools also comes the rare skill of making throws off-platform. Whether it’s a 40-yard strike to the opposite hash while rolling out or fighting off a sack and still throwing a 20-yard dime, he can do it and it looks easy.
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Accuracy, decision-making and processing ability are the main concerns. When Levis isn’t right and faces pressure, you get performances like the ones against Tennessee (3 INT, 67.5 QB rating) and South Carolina (3 INT, 60.7% completion).
Ideally, the team drafting Levis sits at the start of the 2023 NFL season. He is going to make a lot of mistakes in his rookie year and rushing him into action could magnify his issues. If ceiling is what you’re after, Levis has arguably the highest potential of offensive players in the 2023 NFL Draft.
5. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee Volunteers
- Hendon Hooker stats (2021-’22): 178.3 QB rating, 58-5 TD-INT, 6,080 pass yards,
- Hendon Hooker rushing stats: 1,046 rush yards, 10 touchdowns
- Hendon Hooker age: 25 (January 13, 1998)
Transferring to Tennessee changed Hendon Hooker’s career and woke up a Volunteers’ football program that looked finished. Before tearing his ACL in the South Carolina game, Hooker was on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy and generated first-round buzz for the 2023 NFL Draft.
The timeline for Hooker’s recovery from knee surgery puts him on track to return right around the start of the 2023 NFL season. It’s a positive that it won’t damage his draft stock, but it also prevents him from participating in the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. As a result, there really isn’t any way for Hooker to move up draft boards.
One thing working against Hooker is Josh Heupel’s offense. As described by Nat Tice of Athe Athletic, it’s very much a pat-and-go system with Tennessee taking advantage of all the space and one-on-one matchup advantages available in the NCAA. Against the Georgia Bulldogs, a defense with multiple NFL starters in the future, Hooker struggled with pressure and finished with a 53.6 QBR and averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt.
Ultimately, Hooker just needs to be put into the right system. He knows how to use his above-average athleticism to extend plays and Heupel used that movement ability perfectly on play action, RPOs and rollouts. We’ve also seen NFL-caliber arm strength from Hooker, demonstrating he can deliver well-timed balls over the shoulder to wideouts 40-plus yards downfield.
A projected Day 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Hooker could be an ideal target for teams like the New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. He won’t be a franchise-changing talent, but Hooker can blossom in the right system with a quality supporting cast.
6. Tanner McKee, Stanford Cardinal
- Tanner McKee stats (2020-’22): 5,336 pass yards, 28-15 TD-INT, 131.5 QB rating
- Tanner McKee NFL Draft projection: Top-50 pick
Stanford Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee didn’t get to enjoy the experiences of some of the other top 2023 NFL Draft QB prospects. A former four-star recruit in the 2018 class, McKee saw his first significant playing time in 2021. Suiting up in a lackluster Stanford offense that lacked bonafide playmakers and innovative play-calling, McKee’s statistics won’t jump out at anyone.
McKee’s challenging circumstances are reflected in some of his numbers. According to PFF, McKee led all 2023 quarterback prospects in the percentage of tight-window throws (52.7%) downfield. Putting that into context, more than half of his pass attempts traveling 10-plus yards came against NFL-like coverage, the second-closest quarterback was Will Levis (39.2).
Set to be a 23-year-old rookie, McKee will operate well from the pocket. In a Kyle Shanahan-like offense where the quarterback needs to make quick throws and sync his rhythm to allow the pass-catcher to snag it and go, McKee is a nice fit. He is the caliber of signal-caller who can raise the floor of an offense, operating at a level like Jimmy Garoppolo or Matt Ryan in his early-30s.
He would be an upgrade for the Carolina Panthers over Sam Darnold or could be a suitable option for teams like the New Orleans Saints, New York Giants or Indianapolis Colts in Round 2. Whatever team lands him will just have to live with the 6-foot-6 quarterback being a bit statue-like in the pocket, taking some creativity out of an offense. At the very least, he could be a safe starter for several years who serves as a bridge until a franchise-caliber talent can be found.
7. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue Boilermakers
- Aidan O’Connell stats: 9,219 pass yards, 65-30 TD-INT, 141.6 QB rating in 33 games
- Aidan O’Connell draft projection: Day 3
Drew Brees is the only former Purdue Boilermakers quarterback to enjoy sustained success in the NFL since Jeff George. While Aidan O’Connell faces an uphill battle to even become a multi-year starting quarterback at the next level, there is some intrigue with him.
O’Connell essentially is right now what he will be in five years. With his frame largely filled out and years of experience, his average arm strength and velocity likely aren’t getting any better. Limited physical tools diminish his upside substantially, but a floor as a backup quarterback who will be on NFL rosters for a decade and can be a fill-in starter is a viable career.
He handles pressure quite well, throwing for over 1,000 yards with a 60.1% completion rate when blitzed in 2022, per Pro Football Focus. O’Connell tends to keep his eyes downfield when pressured, not allowing the bodies and arms surrounding him to disrupt his mechanics.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see O’Connell make a few starts for an NFL team in 2023, either by a coaching staff that wants to evaluate him at the end of the season or him coming in as a short-term injury replacement.
2023 NFL Draft QB rankings
- Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide
- C.J. Stroud, Ohio State Buckeyes
- Anthony Richardson, Florida Gators
- Will Levis, Kentucky Wildcats
- Hendon Hooker, Tennessee Volunteers
- Tanner McKee, Stanford Cardinal
- Jake Haener, Fresno State
- Aidan O’Connell, Purdue Boilermakers
- Jaren Hall, BYU Cougars
- Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia Bulldogs