Will Levis NFL Draft Odds, Scouting Report: Don’t Buy the Hype on Kentucky QB
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Levis.
It happens every year. NFL Draft “experts” fall in love with a player, and that player flies up the board leading up to the draft despite not really doing anything. That should be a red flag in and of itself. When people continue to think highly of a player the longer they have gone without playing football, that should be a problem.
Maybe it is because of social media or maybe it’s just groupthink, but every year the media seems to get behind the alleged traits a player possesses, which makes people who watch college football a bit puzzled. Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel, Paxton Lynch, Daniel Jones, Jordan Love, Trey Lance. Last year, it was Malik Willis. All of these players flew up draft boards for seemingly no reason, other than what they looked like throwing a football in shorts and a T-shirt.
This year, that player is Will Levis.
After a disappointing season at Kentucky, Levis is now projected to be a top-10 pick, with some mock drafts slotting him at No. 2 overall. I’m not buying it.
I am not an NFL Draft expert. I hate the combine and I do not watch it. I am a die-hard college football fan who watches the sport religiously. My opinion of these players has not changed at all since December, when they last played football.
These are some of the reasons why I am fading Levis, and why I think you should be concerned if your team drafts him in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Why People Love Levis
This part is simple – he looks the part. Levis is 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds. He has a cannon for an arm and claims he can throw the ball 80 yards. He is built like a tight end and has the mobility to move around in the pocket and also runs people over if he needs to.
He throws the ball with zip, he has a quick release, and his arm strength gives him the ability to throw the ball over the top of a secondary. His arm talent also gives him the ability to push the ball downfield while on the run, even with his legs off platform. There is no debate that he has the strongest arm in this draft class.
Will Levis has RIDICULOUS arm strength 😳
The Kentucky QB made this throw with hardly any effort.
Levis is currently prepping for the NFL Combine with QB’s coach Jordan Palmer. pic.twitter.com/rMDfRw4oAx
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) February 17, 2023
Another thing scouts love is that he played in a pro-style offense at Kentucky. He would huddle up the offense, call a play like in the NFL, make checks at the line of scrimmage, and take snaps under center. With Levis’ size and comfort taking snaps under center, people who watched Jalen Hurts have success with the Eagles’ push sneak play are understandably excited about the Kentucky product doing the same.
Everything you read about Levis makes him sound like a great kid – besides the mayo in coffee thing – who’s loved by his teammates. He became an instant leader when he transferred to Kentucky, voted a team captain in his two seasons there.
Why I Don’t
As I mentioned above, a player randomly skyrocketing happens every year. While everybody loves to point at Josh Allen as a reason to bet on the upside of arm talent, I think that is incredibly disrespectful to the Bills quarterback.
He is the exception to the rule, not the pattern going forward. We all remember the one that worked out. Nobody talks about the long list of wasted draft picks on guys who were not stars in college. The ones people magically hoped would turn into one against elite competition.
Again, Levis has all the arm talent in the world, but to be frank, he just is not that good at football. Despite being 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds in high school, he was just a three-star recruit and received minimal Power 5 offers. He went to Penn State, and after redshirting behind Trace McSorley in 2018, lost the QB battle to Sean Clifford in 2019.
Will Levis slingin’ it at UK’s Pro Day.pic.twitter.com/LMYIuZjDVA
— CatsCoverage.com (@Cats_Coverage) March 24, 2023
Despite Clifford struggling and receiving constant criticism, Levis still wasn’t able to take his job – and he had multiple opportunities to do so.
First, he lost the initial battle in 2019. Then he got the chance to start against a horrible Rutgers team; he rushed for over 100 yards but threw for just 81 yards with a touchdown and interception.
He couldn’t take the job during the 2020 offseason but got another chance when Clifford was benched against Nebraska. He went just 14-for-31, completing 45% of his passes, and he was outplayed by Luke McCaffrey in the loss. People love to bring up Justin Fields and Joe Burrow also losing QB battles, but they lost them to very good college quarterbacks that had a ton of success. Think to yourself how you view Clifford as a quarterback, and then ask yourself why he gave Penn State a better chance to win than Levis did.
The biggest calling card for Levis is his arm. But can someone remind me again why throwing the ball 80 yards is an important skill for an NFL quarterback? You don’t see many Long Drive Champions winning the Masters. How often will he be asked to throw the ball 80 yards in a season?
Throwing the ball far at a pro day looks cool, but how effective is he when there is actually a defense on the other side?
On passes 20 yards or more down the field last season, Levis had a 41% completion rate with one touchdown and two interceptions. In 2021, when he had a much better offensive line and speedster Wan’Dale Robinson, he still completed just 43.6% of deep balls for six touchdowns and six interceptions.
For a quarterback with such an amazing arm, Levis’ average depth of target (aDOT) ranked 108th (tied with Clifford). He had a big-time throw rate of just 2.3%, compared to a turnover-worthy play rate of 3.6%. He had 13 turnover-worthy plays with just seven big-time throws. His biggest strength is his ability to throw the ball far, but he was actually one of the worst deep-ball passers in the entire country last season. His passer grade on deep throws ranked 164th.
Levis can hit an open receiver, but he has not demonstrated the ability to consistently read coverages and go through a progression. He tends to lock onto his primary receiver and try to use his arm to force the ball into space that isn’t there. This is only going to be more difficult in the NFL, where coverage is tighter, and the secondary can take advantage of him staring down his target.
Not sure what Will Levis was trying to accomplish with this ball, it’s an easy interception for Kelee Ringo.
Who then flashes his athletic ability with a nice return. pic.twitter.com/xJUt3vDdYg
— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) November 19, 2022
Alontae Taylor reads Will Levis from depth. A flat-footed break to take this interception to the crib!
Levis continued to stare down Robinson this game and it bit him here.
Great play by Taylor. Nickel, Outside, & Safety versatility. #WatchTheTapepic.twitter.com/Y9Srivs7MT
— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) March 26, 2022
If you are in love with Levis’ size and mobility, well he was sacked 34 times last year – 14th most in the country. He rushed for a grand total of -107 yards last season with just two touchdowns. In college, sacks do count against rushing total, but if you remove the sacks, he still totaled just 119 yards rushing, going over 10 yards in a game just three times all year (one against Youngstown State).
He had twice as many fumbles as touchdowns when he left the pocket. He chose not to run the 40-yard dash at the combine or his pro day, which I’m guessing is an indication he is slower than people think.
People will defend Levis by blaming his lack of weapons and weak supporting cast. First off, who do you think is picking in the top five? Have you seen the Texans roster?
Also, when you look at 2021, when Levis had a much better offensive line and weapons on the outside, his completion percentage was just one percent better, his yards per attempt were worse, his passer rating was worse, and he threw more interceptions. Great players carry bad teams to success. Look at the supporting cast Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson had in college, and they still dominated.
I saw a tweet from one NFL Draft expert that said, “If Will Levis went to Alabama or Ohio State, he’d be a slam dunk as the top pick in the draft.” The problem is, Levis wouldn’t have played at those schools. He would have sat on the bench behind Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud because he’s not as good as them. He had weapons at Penn State, and he watched them from the sidelines.
Do not fall for it. Do not fall into the trap of expecting a player who wasn’t a star in college to magically turn into one in the NFL. If you watched Levis struggle in a loss to Vanderbilt last November, do not suddenly believe he is going to carve up NFL defenses.
Despite what NFL Draft “experts” say, NFL GMs and head coaches are smarter than them. In the final round of mock drafts just before last year’s NFL draft, Lance Zierlein had Malik Willis going No. 17. Mel Kiper, Peter Schrager, Will Brinson and Pete Prisco all had Willis going No. 20. Daniel Jeremiah had him going No. 32. Austin Gayle and Mike Renner at Pro Football Focus both had him in the top 10.
Well, what happened? Willis fell to the third round and got benched for a playoff game in favor of Josh Dobbs.
I think we see that again this year. This is the National Football League.
When you watch Young, Stroud and Levis play football, it is very clear that Young and Stroud are better at it.
If you want to bank on pure traits and upside, do it with the 20-year-old Anthony Richardson. He is much more athletic, had more than double the big-time throw rate and threw nine touchdowns to two interceptions on deep balls.
He has just one year as a starter and is much more of a raw prospect with room for growth. Levis should be the fourth quarterback taken in this draft, and if Hendon Hooker didn’t tear his ACL he probably goes fifth.
NFL Draft markets are a bit all over the place. Each book offers different options, and the odds tend to move quickly. My betting recommendation is to fade Will Levis in any way you can.
As of Sunday night, he is currently favored to go No. 2 overall. I would bet against that. DraftKings is offering Stroud to be the second quarterback selected at +230, and I love that.
At FanDuel, you can also take Stroud at +750 to be the No. 2 pick, or if you think the Texans go defense, take your pick between Tyree Wilson (+225) and Will Anderson (+400).
As more odds become available, take your pick on the best way to bet Stroud over Levis, as well as the over on Levis’ draft position.
Pick: C.J. Stroud — No. 2 Overall Pick (+750)
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