Thursday, February 22, 2024

NFL Draft – Who Is the Best Quarterback on the Board?

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Once THE top quarterback prospect, Bryce Young led the charge into the NFL Combine last month, unanimously tipped as the prohibitive favorite to go first overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.

But that was then. Everything changed since the conclusion of the so-called “Underwear Olympics” in Indianapolis. And most especially, following the blockbuster trade between the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers, swapping the No. 1 overall pick for a King’s ransom.

With the Panthers now in possession of the first selection, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud emerges as the odds-on favorite across sports betting markets. BetUS sportsbook tips Stroud at -300 to come off the board first.

Young drops back behind Stroud as the next-best bet at +225. It’s worth noting that the Houston Texans currently hold the No. 2 selection.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson and Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, both having separated themselves from the pack in Indy, are tipped as the third- and fourth-best bets in this NFL Draft betting online market.

NFL Draft 1st Overall Pick

  • C.J. Stroud -300
  • Bryce Young +225
  • Anthony Richardson +650
  • Will Levis +4000

Perception is a funny thing, wholly subjective and individual. At this point in time, Stroud is clearly the bookmakers’ top quarterback and the best sports bet to go first overall next month in Kansas City. At the same time, there are those that look upon Young in a similar fashion, believing he’s the best candidate of the 2023 quarterback draft class.

In the end, it comes down to perception. One size doesn’t fit all, as the saying goes. There are many quarterback-needy teams in the league that will be delighted to land one of these top two.

Similarly, Richardson and Levis are sure to be in demand as well. The fact that neither one isn’t favored to come off the board first must not take away from their otherwise credible resumes as Top 5 candidates.

1. C.J. Stroud -300

Stroud, a Heisman finalist and Big Ten Offensive Player of the year, is a tremendously talented passer. Of all the passers, he’s arguably the most accurate thrower from the pocket. He can hit targets at all levels of the field and rifle it down field with the precision of a heat-seeking missile. If there’s one aspect of his game that is slightly underdeveloped or underutilized, it’s his mobility. It’s not often that he’ll scramble out of the pocket or ad-lib plays on the fly.

Stroud limited himself in the combine to just passing drills, but in those, he showed enough potential and promise that elevated him in the depth charts. Along with his college resume, he’s earning comparisons to quarterbacks currently playing in the league.

NFL news media personality Colin Cowherd recently compared Stroud to Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. The LA quarterback is a star on the rise. He has excited the Chargers fan base with his stellar performance since being drafted two years ago.

Stroud stands 6-foot-3 tall and weighs in at 218 Ibs. He’s coming off a college season that saw him throw for 3,688 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and six interceptions. In two seasons in Ohio, he’s passed for 8,123 yards and thrown for 85 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

2. Bryce Young +225

Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, stands out statistically and performance-wise. The fresh-faced product of Nick Saban’s widely respected Alabama program finished second overall in college history with a passing yard tally of 8,356 yards and 80 touchdowns. The fact that he accomplished the feat in only two years as a starter is nothing to sniff at.

Young is only 21 years old, but he’s proven to be an intuitive passer, boasting an accurate arm, exceptional dexterity, presence and poise. He reads defenses well, adapts on the fly, and relishes the spotlight.

Playing in Saban’s system has helped define Young’s skill set. So, too dare it be said, the elite talent surrounding him on the offensive side of the ball helped make his journey easier. Saban is a master at identifying and developing talent.

NFL experts, scouts and various team decision-makers have all flagged one teeny, weeny detail where Young is concerned that could be challenging. His size. ESPN’s player profile page lists the signal caller at 6’0” and 194 Ibs. However, other sources list him at 5’10”.

Granted, 5’10” or 6-foot tall isn’t small by most measuring sticks. But, in the NFL, his height, combined with slightness of build, is going to be a concern for any team interested in him because it will require them to weigh up the offensive line as well. When making as important of an investment as a franchise quarterback, protecting him is going to be paramount.

Should Young be selected as the No. 1 pick or at any point in the first round, he would become the smallest quarterback ever to be drafted that early.

3. Anthony Richardson +650

Florida quarterback Richardson improved his stock during the NFL combine, but not enough to supersede Stroud or Young.

As well, Richardson’s college resume is a bit light, having only played 13 games. As such, the 21-year-old’s stats can’t be compared meaningfully against Stroud’s or Young’s stats, which works against him in his rankings for the 2023 NFL Draft.

What he brings to the table, however, is raw talent that could be harnessed under the right management team. At 6’4” and 232 Ibs, he has a rocket of an arm, an intimidating physique, good pocket awareness and an ability to thread the needle. Alternatively, his game is riddled with inconsistencies, his decision-making is often impatient and his throwing can be erratic and inconsistent.

4. Will Levis +4000

As the NFL odds suggest, Levis is the wild card of this group and a longshot to go first overall in the NFL Draft. Color the world shocked if he does.

Beady-eyed scouts have spotted fundamental issues in Levis’ game, but nothing significant that a good coach and staff can’t sort out.

He fits the league’s prototype for a quarterback at 6’4” and 229 pounds. He’s physical, athletic, tough and has a rocket of an arm that can hit targets at all levels of the field. Inaccuracy, placement and consistency are some of the areas that will need improving.

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