The quarterback position is the most important on a football field. When a team has a quarterback unfit to lead a team to its ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl, it becomes a priority to correct it. Several teams are being linked to the position as the 2023 NFL Draft is set to kick off Thursday night.
In this article, CBSSports.com examines ideal fits mixed with a twinge of reality.
Jake Haener, Fresno State: Miami Dolphins
It should come as no surprise that Haener was one of the top performers at the Reese's Senior Bowl. Haener does not have prototypical size or arm strength, but he is intelligent and competitive; the type of player who could be expected to step off the plane and give a team the chance to win. Miami could have used that this season having used multiple quarterbacks and having concerns over the long-term health of Tua Tagovailoa.
Miami is said to be committed to Tagovailoa, but it needs a player capable of stepping in to play at a moment's notice. Haener is that player. Last week, Tagovailoa acknowledged that he pondered the idea of retirement. Haener is a bit undersized, so a team is not going to ask him to be a traditional passer sitting back in the pocket. The Dolphins used play-action on 24.1% of plays last season, according to TruMedia, which was the most in the NFL. Getting Haener in space would allow him to create his own passing lanes.
Hendon Hooker, Tennessee: Minnesota Vikings
Hooker is not back to football activities yet after suffering a torn ACL during the season. In an ideal world, Hooker would land in a situation where he did not have to play in Year 1. Minnesota can offer that with Kirk Cousins under contract. Hooker would be afforded the time necessary to fully heal and grow more comfortable in the offensive structure. Coming off a significant injury, the Vikings will need to continue stocking the offensive line with talent to protect Hooker.
Minnesota also has capable skill talent in the form of wide receiver Justin Jefferson and tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Will Levis, Kentucky: Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis hired former Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen as its next head coach, but general manager Chris Ballard is the key figure in that organization. Since Ballard has arrived, the Colts have turned to a very specific body type at quarterback: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. There has been buzz about the franchise's interest in Levis even before it hired Steichen.
Levis stands 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and has great arm strength. He has more mobility now than any of the aforementioned quarterbacks during their respective careers with the AFC South franchise.
For more draft content, check out our latest prospect rankings and mock drafts, as well as our NFL Draft podcast, "With the First Pick," featuring former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. (Check out the latest episode below.)
Anthony Richardson, Florida: Seattle Seahawks
Veteran quarterback Geno Smith signed a contract extension with Seattle, but do not rule out the possibility of the team drafting a quarterback. With two picks in the first round, including No. 5 overall, the Seahawks would be wise to prepare for life after the incumbent 32-year-old starter. Richardson is the most naturally talented quarterback in the draft, but he has little more than one year of starting experience and is incredibly raw. The opportunity to sit behind and learn from Smith would be beneficial to Richardson.
The Gainesville native averaged 8.6 carries per game this season. To maximize his skillset, a team would design opportunities for his massive frame to be in space against a smaller defensive back. Seattle ran play-action on 15.9% of plays last season.
Levis also makes sense in Seattle, as Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen worked alongside Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron in Los Angeles.
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State: Houston Texans
One would imagine that new head coach DeMeco Ryans favors the wide-zone blocking scheme that he has seen in practice over the past seven years. Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik will value accuracy and decision-making at the quarterback position. Those are a few of the Ohio State quarterback's best qualities. Stroud comes from a situation in which he had an ample amount of protection and skill talent. The situation awaiting in Houston is unlike anything he has contended with to this point in his career.
Bryce Young, Alabama: Carolina Panthers
Young spent 99.4% of offensive plays in the shotgun last season. New Panthers head coach Frank Reich comes from Indianapolis, where he has not had great mobility at the quarterback position. The Colts were in shotgun formation on 75.5% of offensive plays last season. Young is a pass-first quarterback who prefers to sit back in the pocket and distribute the football.
Indianapolis ran play-action on just 11.7% of plays, according to TruMedia, which was the sixth-least in the NFL. Would it utilize it more with Young to create passing lanes?
Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer was in Seattle when the team drafted Russell Wilson. so there are some in the organization who are not shy to think outside of the box. The biggest concern with Young is not necessarily his height, but his lack of body mass. Carolina will need to invest heavily in its offensive line.
The 2023 NFL Draft will be held from April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri.
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