2024 NFL Draft: Is J.J. McCarthy This Year’s Will Levis?

2024 NFL Draft: Is J.J. McCarthy This Year’s Will Levis? article feature image

Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images. Pictured: J.J. McCarthy.

We often see massive swings in betting markets ahead of the NFL Draft, especially with the quarterback position. This year, we’ve seen significant movement in J.J. McCarthy’s odds as the Michigan product has skyrocketed. As of April 9, McCarthy can be found with odds as short as +350 to be the No. 2 pick on DraftKings.

Naturally, there's plenty of doubt surrounding a two-year starter who never threw for over 3,000 yards at Michigan. Is this all truly a smoke screen? Or is there truth to McCarthy’s meteoric rise? And what can the Will Levis experience from last season teach us about McCarthy’s situation?

Let’s break it down.

Will Levis’ Bizarre 2023 Odds Rise

After the Panthers traded to acquire the first overall pick from the Bears in last year’s draft, the discussion centered around Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. That is, until two days before the draft.

A Reddit user by the name of “SaleAgreeable2834” created an account and posted on r/sportsbook, claiming that Levis was telling his friends and family that the Panthers would take him first overall.

One of the top trending posts on Reddit is from 'SaleAgreeable2834' — an account created six days ago.

It claims that Kentucky QB Will Levis has told people he will be drafted #1 overall by Carolina.

Odds for Levis to go #1 have shifted from +4000 to +400 within hours. pic.twitter.com/qbAW9M6uqC

— Front Office Sports (@FOS) April 25, 2023

The betting market reacted swiftly. Within an hour, DraftKings dropped the odds for Levis to go first overall from +4000 to +400. The NFL Draft market is known for volatility as it’s highly reactive to social media, mock drafts, media statements and more. However, never before had such a sudden move come as a result of an anonymous post on Reddit.

“Given the nature of the draft, we drastically cut the price based on this action and eventually came to a price where the bets stopped,” DraftKings told ESPN’s David Purdum. “We are still seeing some small bets trickle through at the current price, but the speculation is all the action was off the back of a Reddit post.”

Of course, Levis ended up missing the first round entirely, eventually selected by the Titans with the 33rd overall pick in the second round.

His long wait in the green room became one of the biggest stories of NFL Draft night. Will McCarthy suffer a similar fate?

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J.J. McCarthy’s Current Odds Market

Sportsbooks have begun to open more betting markets for the NFL Draft, including odds on players to be a top-five pick.

Caesars Sportsbook has McCarthy listed at -300 to be a top-five pick, while FanDuel is offering -240 odds. The Bears are listed at -8000 to pick USC’s Caleb Williams first overall, while LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye are favored to be the second and third overall picks, respectively.

The Cardinals (Kyler Murray) and Chargers (Justin Herbert) aren’t in the quarterback market with established starters in place. However, the overwhelming expectation is that one of those picks will be traded to a team looking to move up for a quarterback.

The Vikings are expected to be significant players in a potential move-up spot for McCarthy — they are listed as short as +100 on BetMGM to be the team to draft the Michigan product.

The next two teams in odds to draft McCarthy are the Patriots (+325) and Commanders (+350), which makes sense given their needs at quarterback. As more time passes, the potential for McCarthy to go ahead of either Daniels or Maye (or both) has seemingly increased.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that NFL executives are expecting the Commanders to show significant interest in McCarthy with the No. 2 pick.

J.J. McCarthy’s Prospect Profile

Having recently turned 21 years old, McCarthy is far from a finished product. However, the former four-star recruit showed tremendous growth in the 2023 season as part of Michigan’s 15-0 national championship campaign. He showed significant improvement in his mechanics, from his footwork and pocket presence to throwing motion and downfield accuracy.

The Wolverines promoted Kirk Campbell to quarterbacks coach last year, and one of his biggest contributions was helping McCarthy improve as a traditional dropback passer.

Check out the numbers in McCarthy’s non-play-action dropbacks:

YearYards Per AttemptAdjusted Completion RateBig-Time Throw RateTurnover-Worthy Play Rate


— Brandon Koretz (@BrandonKoretz) April 4, 2024

McCarthy is adept at buying time in the pocket with his legs while keeping his eyes downfield. While he didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, he reportedly clocked in at 4.48 seconds last offseason, and that speed is evident in the film.

McCarthy’s film is filled with anticipatory throws showcasing plenty of touch, and he shows patience working through progressions to find the open receiver.

Final Verdict

The comparison to Levis doesn’t hold much weight to me.

Levis was two years older than McCarthy, a three-star recruit out of high school and needed to transfer to find a starting opportunity. McCarthy was hand-selected by Jim Harbaugh, who has raved about him for years.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has had McCarthy as his QB3 in this class since July 2023. I’d argue the hype surrounding the Michigan product is simply a result of everyone finally watching the film and realizing the true talent McCarthy possesses as he has crushed the pre-draft process.

McCarthy went 27-1 as a starter at Michigan, the best winning percentage of any college quarterback since 1971, and he led the Wolverines to their first undisputed national championship since 1948. That didn’t happen by accident. McCarthy is tough as nails and doesn’t care about the spotlight. Simply put, he’s a winner.

The most common refrain you’ll hear from fans regarding McCarthy is that his production just doesn’t stack up to the other top prospects in this class. While that’s true, NFL teams care more about traits — arm talent, footwork, mechanics, athleticism — than they do production. McCarthy checks all of the boxes.

As far as betting value, there isn’t much that’s actionable in the current markets.

BetMGM is offering +450 odds on McCarthy to go No. 3, and DraftKings has that priced as low as +330. A flier at those +450 odds makes sense. Otherwise, I’m waiting for the over/under markets to become available for specific players with eyes on a potential under bet on McCarthy, depending on the price.

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