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Is Will Levis really worth the hype in the 2023 NFL Draft?

SB Nation logo SB Nation 11/19/2022 Joseph Acosta
© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Around this time last year, Will Levis’ name was not only being brought up to be the first QB taken in the 2023 NFL Draft, but in the 2022 NFL Draft as well. The senior QB for the Kentucky Wildcats threw for 2,826 passing yards and 24 touchdowns as Kentucky won 10 games, including their bowl victory over Iowa.

Levis returned to school, and midway through the year his Wildcats are spiraling. After losing to Vanderbilt at home, Kentucky is suddenly under .500 in the SEC and Levis’ play has been underwhelming to say the least. Despite this, Levis’ name is still being brought up not only as a first round pick, but potentially the first QB off the board in the 2023 draft. The 33rd Team has him ranked as the sixth best prospect and the first ranked QB, with 33rd Team representative TJ McCreight high on his ability to get hit and pick himself back up.

Is Will Levis really worth a high pick, or is primed to be another QB taken near the top of the draft who ultimately disappoints the team that selects him? Let’s dive into what we’ve seen from Levis this season.

What was lost in the offseason

The biggest person for Will Levis’ development that was lost in the offseason is former offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Coen came from the Los Angeles Rams (where he returned to be the offensive coordinator in the offseason) and helped install a pro style offense very similar to McVay’s Rams offense with a lot of motion and play action. Last year, according to Sports Information Solutions, Kentucky used play action on 37 percent of their dropbacks. This year, that number has dropped to 26 percent. Despite replacing Coen with Rich Scangarello, who comes from the San Francisco 49ers, the offense hasn’t clicked the same at all.

The next problem Levis encountered is twofold. Former offensive line coach Eric Wolford is now at Alabama, and an offensive line that was a strength lost their coach and multiple players to the NFL such as Darian Kinnard and Luke Fortner. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops replaced him with Zach Yenser and multiple new starters on the line. Add in the loss of receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, and you have a supporting cast that simply doesn’t have as much as last season as the QB adjusts to a new system.

Despite this, we can still figure out what Levis is and what he isn’t. We understand what’s been lost and what he’s working with, so let’s see what he’s doing.

Will Levis scouting report: What Kentucky QB does well

Levis is a big, strong passer listed at 6’3 and 232 pounds. Levis has a strong arm with a good release, which unlocks levels of the field lost before for some offenses. He can fire the ball into windows that were closed to most QBs, but with his arm talent he can make those throws.

Where Will Levis excels is in the play action game. On the play action dropbacks he has this season, his EPA per attempt is higher than it was even last year. Levis a good athlete who can throw on the move both ways without losing any RPMs on his passes, and can still get the ball to all three levels of the field.

I also think Will Levis is a little underrated as a runner. He’s not someone you want to design a gameplan around on the ground, but the occasional pull on the zone read or goal line run wouldn’t hurt the team. He’s a big dude, with some agility as well.

Will Levin scouting repot: Where Kentucky QB struggles

Without play action, Will Levis is a completely different QB.

The benefits of using play action are it creates defined windows where defenders are moved based on the run action. When Levis has to throw the ball without defenders being moved based on run action, the processing slows down a lot. His sack percentage has gone up since last year, but even in 2021 his sack percentage goes higher when in non-play action situations. Levis is still learning how to get through progressions quickly and on time, and his decision making without play action is questionable.

Levis also has a tendency to stare down his target, creating a lot of bad decisions by not using his eyes to manipulate defenders. Working in a pro style offense has its pros, but one of its cons is that the issues he’s experiencing in college could very well be issues that still haunt him at the next level. Levis can work NFL passing concepts when the read is defined for him and he’s told where to go with the ball, but once the picture looks a bit cloudier, he turns into a different QB.

Levis’ play has gotten worse under pressure. According to SIS, his positive play percentage under pressure in 2021 was five points higher than it is this year, and his on target throw percentage dropped about four points. Levis under pressure has flashed good moments, but it’s a bit alarming that there’s so much negative under pressure.

So, now that we’ve listed the pros and cons of Will Levis, let’s answer the question: what is Will Levis?

What is Will Levis in the NFL Draft?

Will Levis is a big, physically talented QB who comes from a pro style system with a strong arm to reach all levels of the field. However, he needs the picture defined for him in the passing game or he makes a lot of mistakes. Levis still needs time to figure out the processing speed of the NFL and improve his accuracy under pressure.

He’s not Josh Allen, and he’s not Justin Herbert. The development of Josh Allen is a one of one thing that might never happen again in the NFL. I do think Levis can work in the NFL, but he isn’t a day one starter right now.

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