Exiting the combine, we are digging into this incoming rookie class for Dynasty Rookie Drafts, startups, and the potential these young players can have on the 2023 seasonal formats.
Even prior to the actual NFL Draft in April, rookies are available in Best Ball formats across all platforms.
Now that the NFL combine has passed, we have a plethora of new athletic data on this upcoming rookie class. That information can be applied in athletic models and used to shape the full portfolio for prospects to go along with production profiles, which is a general overlay of what these players put on tape for NFL teams.
The quarterback position for fantasy is also much different than that in real life. Scouting and analyzing how collegiate passers will translate to the next NFL has been a long-losing endeavor.
With SuperFlex and 2QB formats rising in popularity to add relevancy to the position, the top of the position has become more pertinent to invest into in Dynasty Rookie Drafts. While continuing to grow, until those formats become industry standard the quarterback position still remains a supply-and-demand game that lends favor to suppressing incoming rookies at the position since so many leagues still start one quarterback.
Post-draft, we will have the influence of draft investment and landing spot to add to the layout. That will be relevant for this class, especially, because we have a few tighter tiers at the top with some upside.
From a top-down perspective, this quarterback class is massively better on paper than the one we had a year ago when only Kenny Pickett was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft and the lone quarterback selected in the first 73 picks.
This year, we are going to have at least two locked-in selections in C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young selected with premium draft capital while Anthony Richardson and Will Levis will surely garner enough steam based on their physical attributes to also be selected in the first round.
1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State, Final Year Age: 21.2 (Tier 1)
Even for Ohio State standards, the amount of passing production from Stroud accrued over the past two seasons was lofty. Starting 25 games the past two seasons, Stroud threw 85 touchdown passes to just 12 interceptions. Comparing Stroud to all quarterback prospects to be invited to the combine since 2000 puts him among elite company.
- 9.8 career yards per pass attempt (98th percentile)
- 7.1:1 TD:INT ratio (97th percentile)
- 69.3% completion rate (96th percentile)
Stroud thrived in the play-action-heavy approach that the Buckeyes incorporated. With the use of play-action in 2022, Stroud averaged 12.4 adjusted net passing yards per attempt with a 139.8 rating, the highest rate in this draft class.
Stroud also led this class with a 9.1% touchdown rate under pressure.
When he was not pressured, Stroud led the class with an 11.0% touchdown rate while throwing for 10.2 yards per pass attempt (second to Herndon Hooker).
In the pocket, he led the class with 10.0 yards per pass attempt while no quarterback in this draft class had a higher rating this past season (129.6) on throws 10 yards or further downfield than Stroud.
On throws 10 yards or further downfield outside of the numbers, Stroud led this class with an on-target rate of 65.2%.
Where Stroud takes some heat is playing out of structure. But he posted a 72.1% on-target rate on throws outside of the pocket (fourth in this class) while averaging 6.9 yards per pass attempt (third). When we last saw Stroud play against Georgia in the playoffs, he completed 5-of-9 passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns outside of the pocket. In that game against the No. 5 defense in the country, Stroud completed 23-of-34 passes (67.6%) for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
Stroud will have to shake the stigma of previous Ohio State quarterbacks to enter the NFL in recent seasons. Those quarterbacks with lofty production have struggled to translate at the next level in the passing game. Ohio State has fielded a quarterback-friendly scheme surrounded by NFL-level wide receivers. Until someone tears down that wall, the question of how much this passing environment elevated performance will be asked.
The other area for Stroud as it pertains to his fantasy football ceiling is how much running are we going to get out of him.
He scrambled just 34 times the past two seasons for 189 yards. Bryce Young scrambled 69 times for 592 yards the past two years. Anthony Richardson scrambled 32 times for 378 yards just last season.
Stroud has the size and athleticism to create with his legs (he did scramble six times for 66 yards in that game against Georgia) but is more on the Justin Herbert spectrum of sprinkling that in than using it as a consistent outlet. That could change in the NFL removed from his collegiate environment, but Stroud escaping the pass rush or being used in the designed running game was not something we had a large sample of in college and takes some projection.
With that, Stroud is someone who will have to rely on passing efficiency to get him there firsthand for fantasy. That is often a tightrope walk. Big picture, Stroud has the upside and physical ability to press for multiple QB1 seasons, but is he going to regularly compete with the QB1 tier in fantasy football or reside in that lower-end QB1 portion of the field?
2. Bryce Young, Alabama, Final Year Age: 21.4 (Tier 1)
Young is another decorated quarterback from one of the largest programs in the country. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2021 and then followed that up last season as the only quarterback in Alabama history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. From a career production stance, Young is right in line with Stroud as he ranks in the 98th percentile in career passing production in my prospect model.
Unlike Stroud, Young has been at his best outside of structure. He is one of the best prospects in terms of moving behind the line of scrimmage and that shows up objectively. Outside of the pocket in 2022, Young had a class-high 14.9% touchdown rate while throwing for 7.7 yards per pass attempt (second). His 7.8 yards per pass attempt under pressure were also second. Young is almost inviting some of the pressure due to his playstyle. Per Pro Football Focus, 32.4% of the pressures Young had this season were credited to himself, the highest rate of any quarterback in this class.
As noted above, Young can and will move around, scrambling for 592 yards the past two seasons.
Young’s mobility and pocket movement can flash both those traits come into question when paired with his lack of prototypical size at the position. At 5-foot-10 and an inflated 204 pounds this weekend at the combine, does Young have to compensate and make concessions in his game to adjust for his lack of size?
If Young did not have the production he has had I believe we could raise those questions to a higher degree. In the pocket on throws over the middle of the field, Young has completed 72.1% of his passes for 10.5 yards per pass attempt.
Young may not be built in the laboratory, but he has done nothing but produce at every level thus far while his career metrics throwing the football are objectively better than both Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson, two passers with similar measured physical stature.
Where we do see some of the potential questions raised surrounding his size is that Young did miss time in 2022 due to a shoulder injury while his downfield passing output outside of the numbers does take a step back compared to his other areas of production.
In 2022, only three quarterbacks in this class had a lower completion rate on throws 10 yards or further downfield and outside of the numbers than Young’s 39.6% while his on-target rate (53.1%) was 10th out of the 15 quarterbacks invited to the combine.
When placed in a tier with Stroud, that size can be used as one of the tiebreakers, but Young has shown more than enough on-field ability and production to use his lack of size as a full-on negative. We have plenty of proof that his size has not hindered his overall production.
3. Anthony Richardson, Florida, Final Year Age: 21.6 (Tier 2)
Now the real fun begins.
The upside argument for Richardson is so strong that I believe we could easily look back at this class after their rookie contract cycle and ask how he wasn’t the consensus 1.01 in rookie drafts (even 1QB formats).
The upside argument is nearly entirely projection based. When talking about fantasy football, Richardson’s trump cards can create a high floor while his ceiling can rival the front end of the position.
Richardson made major noise this past weekend at the combine when he checked in at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds. Not only was he built as a create-a-player in Madden, but Richardson also checked out of Indianapolis with the highest athletic score I have ever registered in my prospect model at the position.
At that size, Richardson ran a 4.43 forty, logging the second-best speed score (accounting for player size) behind Robert Griffin. For good measure, Richardson then tacked on the highest vertical (40.5”) and broad jumps (11’9”) for any quarterback ever at the combine.
With his size and mobility, Richardson will undoubtedly draw instant comparisons to both Cam Newton and Daunte Culpepper.
This blend of size and athletic ability places Richardson in rarified air, but he also comes without the passing production that both Newton or Culpepper possessed objectively entering the NFL. Newton had an 88th percentile career passing score in the prospect model while Culpepper checked out in the 84th percentile. Richardson is in the 20th percentile. Even comparing Richardson to someone such as Jalen Hurts from a few years ago is a stretch. Hurts was in the 72nd percentile of career collegiate passing output.
This is where the projection comes fully in for Richardson. In terms of all combine invites since 2000, here are Richardson’s career core passing metrics:
- 7.9 yards per pass attempt (50th percentile)
- 1.6 TD:INT ratio (13th percentile)
- 54.7% completion rate (third percentile)
Among all 15 2022 combine invites, Richardson was:
- 14th in on-target rate under pressure (52.5%)
- 15th in on-target rate without pressure (70.3%)
- 15th in on-target rate inside of the pocket (67.6%)
- 13th in on-target rate outside of the pocket (55.6%)
When tasked to punch up last season against a strong defensive test like Georgia, Richardson completed 48.6% of his passes. In the red zone, Richardson completed just 18-of-40 passes (45.0%), the lowest rate in this class in 2022.
Richardson’s passing inefficiency raises many of the same questions surrounding Malik Willis from a year ago. The difference, of course, being that Richardson remained in the SEC through college while having a significant spade in terms of size and physical traits.
Per Sports Info Solutions, Richardson was pressured on a class-high 37.1% of his dropbacks but was sacked on a class-low 10.1% of those pressures. If you are thinking that Richardson invited much of that pressure due to his playing style, Pro Football Focus credited Richardson with being responsible for just 19.4% of his pressures, which was a lower rate than both Young and Stroud and the sixth-lowest rate in this class. Richardson will need to work on his turnovers but was tremendous at avoiding negative plays on sacks.
While Richardson may be a complete roll of the dice as a passer, those physical gifts paired with a 90th percentile career rushing production score gives him a potential high floor and ceiling in fantasy football.
Whereas both Stroud and Young will have to retain a level of high passing efficiency to compete for QB1 output in fantasy, Richardson has much more leeway in that department. If the passing efficiency does come along, then his ceiling breaks through the roof. I would not overly push back on any gamer wanting to use the 1.01 in SuperFLEX on Richardson solely for what it means if you hit on that selection in those formats.
Both Stroud and Young provide more insulation right now based on locked-in projected draft capital (which simultaneously provides an accelerated clock on playing time and a longer leash on job security) but Richardson’s apex outcome is the highest for fantasy purposes.
4. Will Levis, Kentucky, Final Year Age: 23.5 (Tier 3)
From one projection-based passer to another.
Levis is a throwback traits-based projection due to his physical stature (6-foot-4, 229 pounds with 10 5/8 hands) paired with a howitzer.
The production for Levis to this point makes him another projection bet based on those physical attributes versus the output we have seen so far.
Levis is nearly a full two years older than Richardson while posting a career 7.9 Y/A (52nd percentile) and 1.8 TD:INT ratio (23rd). He does have a 64.9% career completion rate (71st percentile) as some efficiency ointment, but Levis has a collective career passing output in the second percentile among all prospects invited to the combine since 2000.
Levis gets comped to Josh Allen on a frequent basis, but Allen was two years younger as a prospect and logged a 40th-percentile passing production score. If Levis is selected in the first round as projected, it will be the lowest career passing score from my model to be selected in the first round, trumping Jason Campbell.
On throws 10 yards or further downfield this past season, no quarterback in this class has a lower on-target rate than Levis (55.8%) while he is also last in on-target rate on throws 10-plus yards on the outside (47.1%).
One of the biggest issues with Levis has been his ability, or lack thereof, to punch up versus top opponents over the past two seasons at Kentucky. Here are his career splits against Power-5 opponents versus non-Power-5 teams.
In 18 games against Power-5 opponents the past two seasons, Levis has seen his production fall off while getting fat against subpar opponents. The one thing that sticks out here the most is the negative plays in both splits, which has been the largest bugaboo for Levis so far. Taking sacks and turning the ball over as highly sticky stats entering the next level.
Levis was sacked on a class-high 30.4% of his pressures in 2022. No quarterback we have mentioned to this point was sacked on more than 13.6% of their pressures. In the red zone in 2022, Levis took a class-high 10 sacks while throwing a class-high four interceptions.
That is not to say there isn’t at least some good here with Levis to squint and see. He averaged 8.9 Y/A in the pocket in 2022 (the same as Bryce Young) while his on-target rate inside of the pocket (75.9%) was higher than C.J. Stroud’s. Levis also averaged 7.8 Y/A under pressure in 2022, which was second in this class.
Levis was under pressure a lot as well. He was pressured on 34.4% of his dropbacks, which was the second-highest rate in this draft class per SIS.
Levis also has some athleticism. The number of sacks that he took dragged his 2022 rushing output into the abyss, but he did scramble 62 times for 338 yards the past two seasons.
There is a wide cavern of outcomes for Levis, but he is expected to be drafted in the front half of the first round, which provides the runway to land a starting job in year one. The Josh Allen outcome has been something that many teams have pursued and have failed to convert often. More often prospects from this bucket end up similar to Drew Lock.
5. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee, Final Year Age: 25.0 (Tier 3)
Hooker is one of the more intriguing players here since his draft capital is up in the air compared to the others paired with one of the more unique profiles of this class.
Hooker had a massive breakout the past two seasons at Tennessee but is the oldest quarterback here by far (he just turned 25 this January) while he is coming off a torn ACL that he had surgery on in December.
From a production stance, Hooker has a stellar resume. He threw 58 touchdowns to just five interceptions the past two seasons while he averaged at least 8.9 yards per pass attempt in each of his final four college seasons. Hooker exits college with career marks of 9.5 Y/A (96th percentile), a 6.7:1 TD:INT ratio (96th percentile), and 66.9% completion rate (85th percentile).
Hooker also tacked on 2,079 yards and 25 touchdowns over his career on the ground.
Outside of the age adjustment to his passing production, Hooker also played In a favorable spread offense littered with play-action and RPOs. He was not asked to play outside of structure often. Even with his injury and missing the final two games of the season, Hooker led this draft class in play-action pass attempts (181) while only Stetson Bennett (63) had more RPO attempts than Hooker’s 60.
In 11 games, Hooker had just 12 pass attempts outside of the pocket per SIS in 2022, by far the fewest in this draft class.
Hooker was pressured on just 22.6% of his dropbacks (second lowest in this class) while his 5.4 Y/A under pressure were ahead of only Anthony Richardson, Malik Cunningham, and Jaren Hall. 26.1% of his pressures were sacks taken, the third highest rate in this class.
While we haven’t seen Hooker forced to do a ton off script or has been forced to run an offense that he will have to adjust for in the NFL, it should not be a major penalty for doing what he was tasked to do at a high level. Paired with his lack of turnovers, those elements are going to carry appeal for a number of teams to take a shot on him on Day 2.
Hooker could land in a spot with a short-term starter and potential opening that is sooner than later (Seattle or Detroit as examples) that fit giving Hooker the time needed to recover from his knee injury while still offering a desirable opportunity beyond this season. If that happens in April, then Hooker will be a target with second-round rookie picks in SuperFLEX leagues.
Rest of the Class…
6. Clayton Tune, Houston, Final Year Age: 23.8 (Tier 4)
7. Max Duggan, TCU, Final Year Age: 22.8 (Tier 4)
8. Tanner McKee, Stanford, Final Year Age: 22.7 (Tier 4)
9. Stetson Bennett, Georgia, Final Year Age: 25.2 (Tier 4)
10. Jaren Hall, BYU, Final Year Age: 24.8 (Tier 4)
11. Jake Haener, Fresno State, Final Year Age: 23.8 (Tier 4)
12. Tyson Bagent, Shepherd, Final Year Age: 22.6 (Tier 4)
13. Malik Cunningham, Louisville, Final Year Age: 24.2 (Tier 4)
14. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA, Final Year Age: 23.1 (Tier 4)
15. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue, Final Year Age: 24.3 (Tier 4)
The remaining quarterbacks of this class are all anticipated to be selected on Day 3 or signed after the draft. If that happens, then they fall into a bucket where they will have to cut their teeth as QB2 or QB3 options on their rosters, leaving them with fantasy appeal in 2QB and SuperFLEX formats with later-round picks. Many of the options here will need to fall into initial opportunity through injuries and lackluster performances by the incumbent quarterbacks on their future NFL rosters.
Two guys that I will be keeping tabs on here from this group are Clayton Tune and Jalen Hall.
Clayton Tune is a five-year senior with 1,497 career pass attempts. Only the small-school Tyson Bagent has played more career snaps and thrown more passes than Tune did in college. Tune has modest production, exiting college with a 68th percentile TD:INT ratio (4.0:1) paired with a 76th percentile completion rate (67.0%) in his final season. Per SIS, Tune had the highest on-target rate (78.1%) in this draft class with the highest on-target rate (79.5%) in the pocket. Only C.J. Stroud had a higher on-target rate than Tune’s 62.4% on throws 10 yards or further downfield and outside of the numbers.
Tune also was a strong athlete at the combine, logging a 90th-percentile athletic score. Not only did Tune throw for 4,074 yards this past season, but he added 544 rushing yards, which was fourth in this draft class.
Jaren Hall followed up Zach Wilson at BYU with back-to-back seasons over 9.0 adjusted net passing yards per attempt. He leaves college ranking in the 79th percentile in career yards per pass attempt (8.6 Y/A), 93rd percentile in TD:INT ratio (4.7:1), and 74th percentile in career completion rate (65.2%). Hall is another solid athlete with a passing resume, logging a 73rd-percentile career rushing score.
Both Max Duggan and Stetson Bennett were Heisman Trophy finalists this season and squared off in the National Championship game.
After throwing 41 touchdowns over his first three seasons at TCU, Duggan threw 32 scores in 2022 while adding 423 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Even with that solid close to his career, Duggan still enters the draft in the 46th percentile in career yards per pass attempt (7.9 Y/A), 55th percentile in TD:INT rate (2.6:1), and 32nd percentile in completion rate (60.3%). Duggan’s 70.6% on-target rate in 2022 was ahead of just Malik Cunningham and Anthony Richardson. Where he stands out is being a reliable athlete on the ground, registering a 76th-percentile career rushing score.
I will stop short of calling Bennett an overachiever, but he was in the right place at the right time in a similar fashion as collegiate quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Greg McElroy. Bennett turned 25 years old in October. There is not much of a physical profile here at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds while his 2022 on-target rate (71.8%) was just ahead Duggan’s. Bennett projects as more of a career backup with limited fantasy upside even if he does work his way into a starting opportunity.
Tanner McKee is the old-school prototypical quarterback archetype that scouts will love at 6-foot-6 and 231 pounds. It is hard not to draw similar parallels to McKee from what we saw orbiting Davis Mills just two years ago. McKee was on some poor Stanford offenses, but also was a part of those limited units. His career 7.1 yards per pass attempt is the lowest in this draft class while his 7.3 Y/A without pressure also were dead last from this group.
McKee’s physical attributes paired with being a 4-star recruit will have him drafted higher than some of the more productive players here, but just as was the case with Mills, even if McKee does get an earlier opportunity than some names here, is his archetype of quarterback something that is just dying out in modern football? At least for fantasy football, McKee will have to significantly boost his projection as a passer, while players in his position are often pushed into opportunity on poor football teams.
Both Malik Cunningham and Dorian Thompson-Robinson are run-first options that carry initial appeal as prospects for fantasy due to their ability to produce on the ground. Cunningham ran for a class-high 3,179 yards and 50 touchdowns at Louisville, but also is attached to a 44th-percentile career TD:INT rate (2.4:1) and 51st-percentile completion rate (62.6%).
Both Cunningham (192 pounds) and Thompson-Robinson (203 pounds) even checked out lighter than Bryce Young at the combine with the two lowest BMIs among the quarterbacks in this class.
Despite still being a longshot, it is hard not to root for Tyson Bagent. Similar to Bailey Zappe a year ago, Bagent has oodles of experience and a solid resume of stacking production at an even smaller school in Division II. Bagent threw over 2,000 passes (2,040) in his career at Shepherd, which is 543 more pass attempts than the next closest quarterback in this class. In the shotgun-rich spread offense, Bagent turned in 17,034 career passing yards to go along with 159 touchdown passes.
Bagent has seemingly raised his stock at all of the pre-draft events, setting himself up as the first D2 quarterback to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1999. At the Senior Bowl, Bagent completed a game-high 17 passes despite throwing an interception.
2023 Pre-Draft Quarterback Rankings
|Rank||Player||College||Final Year Age||Tier|
|1||C.J. Stroud||Ohio State||21.2||1|
|11||Jake Haener||Fresno State||23.8||4|