Thursday, October 6, 2022

2023 NFL Draft QB Stock Watch: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis untested in tune-ups for conference play

College football is still at the portion of the season where power programs are playing a weaker out-of-conference schedule so it is difficult to learn much about these quarterbacks each week. The next two to three months of the season will be more telling.

Through the course of the season, CBSSports.com will be doing stock up and stock down for top NFL Draft quarterback prospects. The designations come with heavy context, however, because it is more of a weekly evaluation rather a reflection of actual draft prospects, which is based on each player’s collegiate body of work.   

Will Levis, Kentucky: Stock up

Stats (31-0 win vs. Youngstown State): 27 of 35 passes completed, 377 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT; 9 carries, 7 yards, 1 TD

Levis did a nice job working through his progressions all afternoon but his eyes suggested that he may have been reading his receivers rather than the defense. There were a few plays where the Penn State transfer should have gotten to his second read quicker based on what the defense was showing him. Levis threw with touch and good ball placement. 

Kentucky’s offensive line continued to have issues against Youngstown State and lost a few more bodies Saturday. In the face of pressure, Levis stood tall, identified single coverage and threw a ball out there for his wide receivers to make a play. It was a showing of good awareness and completions in that moment can be deflating for the defense. His second interception was a result of throwing off his back foot unnecessarily. 

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Aidan O’Connell, Purdue: Stock down

Stats (32-29 loss at Syracuse): 39 of 55 passes completed, 424 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT; 1 carry, 7 yards

O’Connell stood tall in the pocket and delivered throws into coverage against Syracuse, but that was a result of forcing attempts to his first read. The Illinois native was able to drive the football allowing his pass catchers the opportunity to make plays in space. Iowa wide receiver transfer Charlie Jones has been a tremendous addition for the Boilermakers’ offense. In 2021, he recorded just 21 receptions for 323 yards and three touchdowns for the Hawkeyes. Through the first three games of his Purdue career, he has compiled 32 receptions for 474 yards and five touchdowns. One of those touchdowns came when the team needed it most down the right boundary on a throw from O’Connell. 

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State: Stock up

Stats (77-21 win vs. Toledo): 22 of 27 passes completed, 367 yards, 5 TD; 2 carries, 9 yards

Stroud was in control against Toledo all day. He delivered a few nice touch throws to senior tight end Cade Stover. The stats were a bit misleading, though. One of the touchdown passes to wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. had no business being completed, or even attempted. It is still unclear how Toledo allowed the throw through triple coverage. The Rockets dropped another interception midway through the third quarter. The junior left the game not long after with a 56-21 lead. Overall, Stroud looked good in a tune-up game for Big Ten play. 

The California native ranks second in passer efficiency, according to TruMedia.

Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami: Stock down

Stats (17-9 loss at No. 24 Texas A&M): 21 of 41 passes completed, 217 yards; 5 carries, 14 yards

Quarterback and skill talent were equally destructive toward each other. Ball placement was off for Van Dyke and his pass catchers dropped their fair share of targets. The Connecticut native had one throw to tight end Elijah Arroyo that was reminiscent of a bullet curve from ‘Wanted.’ The angle of his throw allowed the pass to land directly in Arroyo’s hands despite not having a tremendous amount of arc. Van Dyke had an opportunity to will his team to victory and fell short.

According to TruMedia, Van Dyke ranks No. 71 among quarterbacks in passer efficiency. He is being blitzed on 14.7% of dropbacks this season, which is the second lowest mark among FBS starters. Defenses are dropping into zone and forcing him pick them apart.

Bryce Young, Alabama: Stock stagnant

Stats (63-7 win vs. Louisiana-Monroe): 13 of 18 passes completed, 236 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT; 3 carries, 6 yards, 1 TD

Young’s deep ball accuracy was a bit off early in this affair. He would have had an easy touchdown but led the wide receiver a bit too much. Fortunately, points were not hard to come by for the Crimson Tide against Louisiana-Monroe. The talent gap between these two teams may have empowered Young a bit too much in the pocket. He was holding on to the ball to long and that often led to mistakes. He took a sack, threw an interception and made it challenging for his offensive linemen to block without holding. The junior did eventually hit on a deep ball to tight end Cameron Latu, who has emerged as one of his most reliable targets.

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