Quarterbacks are always under the biggest microscope in football, that’s a given. And there’s not a more unnecessary magnifying glass on signal callers than the NFL Combine. Going through all the scouting drills appears important for about five minutes. How many analysts quoted Tom Brady or Peyton Manning’s time in the 40-yard dash? Or how far they soared in the broad jump? Both probably did terribly in both disciplines and they’ve won nine total Super Bowls. And the hype train this year for quarterbacks won’t be more based on unimportant factors than for former Kentucky quarterback Will Levis.
Some believe the mayonnaise-in-coffee-loving Levis will be the first quarterback taken in April’s draft, and some believe he’s not a guaranteed first-round selection with the rising stock of former Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, alongside the perceived top duo of C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young. Levis looks phenomenal on paper ahead of the draft and if possessing all the physical tools were the only things necessary to be a quarterback, he’s a slam-dunk pick. But that’s where the curious case of Mr. Mayo comes into play.
Levis was never consistently great at Kentucky. He looked impressive at times throughout his stay in Lexington, but ordinary SEC defenses picked him apart too often for Miracle Whip to gain any nationwide recognition. He’s got the arm strength for sure, he’s mobile and clearly had a deep understanding of every playbook assigned with the Wildcats’ rotation of offensive coordinators in 2021 and 2022. Blame the change in scheme all you want, but what year in the NFL will look the same as the last? Patrick Mahomes just won a Super Bowl in his first season without Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs didn’t bring in a truly suitable replacement.
Levis has to show his consistency during Saturday’s on-field workout. He’s throwing against the air. Every throw will count for something and how could he be expected to disarm an NFL defense if he can’t do it in Indianapolis? Levis will of course have another chance at Kentucky’s pro day, where he’ll be more comfortable and receive much more 1-on-1 attention. The trouble with that scenario is the lasting legacy of a pro day. You know who had the best pro day of all time? JaMarcus Russell, and Lamar Jackson’s pro day at Louisville was panned for him not being ready for the NFL. Levis has the potential to dominate at Lucas Oil Stadium and solidify himself as a top-10 selection after this weekend. Anything less will crater his draft stock.
In 2021, with Liam Coen as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator, he thrived with 24 touchdown passes. Coen is a disciple of Rams’ coach Sean McVay and returned to Los Angeles in 2022. Under Rich Scangarello, who was fired in Lexington after one season, that total dropped to 19. And throwing two more touchdowns in a season than there are NFL regular-season games isn’t the biggest confidence boost for a team drafting him. However, what quarterback in this year’s draft doesn’t have a legitimate red flag? Young’s weight and overall size will be discussed and what number appears on the NFL’s scales will determine how his stock rises or falls in the coming weeks. Stroud is expected to be one of the slowest quarterbacks at the 40-yard dash and Richardson didn’t have enough success at Florida to give NFL higher-ups enough confidence to hand him the reins to their franchise. Every other draft-eligible quarterback didn’t show enough in college to be highly regarded.
Levis has been compared to both Josh Allen and Mitch Trubisky. Both were drafted in the top 10, one that flamed out and one that looks to be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. That’s the risk that comes with drafting a quarterback that high in general. The Bills and Bengals have skyrocketed in legitimacy in the NFL by making those selections on players that have paid off. The Commanders are hoping Sam Howell bucks the trend of waiting three decades for the franchise’s next star quarterback. Levis wreaks of boom-or-bust potential. And if he stinks in Indianapolis, it’s clear which side of that coin he’ll fall on.
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