We’re weeks away from the serious start of the draft season, but the 2023 NFL draft debate has already gotten off to a heated start. A polarizing perspective is Kentucky’s quarterback Will Levis — anonymous scouts still peddle citations about his potential as the No. 1 overall draft, but the mock draft’s industrial complex has chilled him amid a difficult senior season for the Wildcats.
Levis even fell past the New Orleans Saints in a recent draft by our own Luke Easterling over at Draft Wire. The Saints picked Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker 43rd overall, whom we sided with despite his season-ending knee injury, with Levis falling to the Washington Commanders at 48th. Would the Saints let Levis pass them? when you get that opportunity?
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Maybe like this. He matches their established prototype for the position as a seasoned college passer with height and athleticism at 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds and real arm talent. Levis entered his senior year with plenty of momentum, having completed 66% of his attempts last year while throwing for 2,826 yards on 24 touchdown passes and adding another 376 rushing yards and 9 touchdown runs on the ground. It was a strong start for the Penn State transfer.
The issue was whether he could reduce turnovers (throw 13 interceptions in 13 games and fumble 3 times) and endure many changes in his supporting cast: Levis lost his offensive coordinator Liam Coen (who was once in the mix for a job with the Saints) , his offensive line coach Eric Wolford (ironically replacing Saints line coach Doug Marrone in Alabama), several starters along the offensive line, and his lead receiver Wan’Dale Robinson.
He responded to all of that adversity by throwing for 2,218 yards and 17 touchdown passes in 10 games and notching 10 interceptions in those 10 games. Levis completed 65.9% of his passes and improved his average yards per attempt (from 8.0 to 8.4), but he wasn’t a factor as a runner with only 2 touchdown carries and more yards lost on the ground than gained – He’s actually at minus 97 rushing yards right now. Make 3 fumbles (same as last year but in 3 fewer games; Levis fumbled twice in an ugly last-minute sequence during Kentucky’s loss to Ole Miss in October) and it’s not looking pretty.
Still, Boy Scouts claim they love him when they can’t add their names to this testimonial where the public can read, and he’s routinely selected in the first round of mock drafts. He wouldn’t be the first quarterback to enjoy greater stability and thrive in a better situation at the pro level. But is that the kind of prospect you hand out a first-round pick for? What about a second round?
It’s an odd situation, and it’s going to take months to figure out. There are still games to play, not to mention all-star events like the Senior Bowl, interviews and athletic tests at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, and private meetings and workouts with interested teams in the spring. Levis should be on the Saints’ radar like any other quarterback in the upcoming draft class, but they may have better options. The next step for Levis comes in Saturday’s Governor Cup rivalry game against the Louisville Cardinals, with kick-off scheduled for 2 p.m. CT on SEC Network.