Falcons 2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Quarterbacks

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It’s draft season! I already covered some free agent options for the Falcons, but a few more candidates have become available via cuts. Now, we’re going over strictly draft picks. That series is linked below if you’re interested:

My mock drafts for this cycle are also linked below:

I’ll be evaluating players by multiple criteria. Since I’m studying for the bar exam and I don’t have as much time to watch film as I would like, these lists may be shorter than in years past. I like to mainly focus on traits and intangibles. Since we don’t get access to one-on-one team interviews and medicals, unfortunately, I just have to do my best in that aspect. Additionally, I’ll be doing prospects the Falcons may not be in range for. For example, even though Jalen Carter likely won’t be available with the 8th overall pick, I’ll act as if the Falcons could trade up for any player.

I’ll also be referencing Relative Athletic Score, which is a number from 0 to 10 that combines athletic scores from the combine, with 10 being the best. If you want to check it out, click the link here. Let’s get started!

Current Rostered Quarterbacks

QB Desmond Ridder

QB Logan Woodside

This isn’t a strong class for quarterbacks, and with Desmond Ridder in the fold, the Falcons are probably going to either take a swing on someone they think is a franchise guy or not take one at all.

15. Malik Cunningham — Louisville

Cunningham is a guy who’s traits a team would be betting on. He has pretty shotty mechanics, but he’s a good runner and has a solid deep ball. He typically lived and died by the short passing game, but with some technical refinement, he could be an NFL starter. There’s a lot of work to do, though.



14. Aidan O’Connell — Purdue

O’Connell has a pretty cool story. He came to Purdue and was around 7th on the depth chart before earning the starting job. His arm isn’t super impressive, and he isn’t going to kill teams with his legs, but he can make the short to intermediate throws and keep an offense on schedule. It was clear he was constantly in control of Purdue’s offense. He’s a guy someone can stash as a backup and have him run the show in a pinch.



13. Max Duggan — TCU

I’m a Max Duggan fan. The kid was not supposed to be TCU’s starter going into the 2022 season, but he led the Horned Frogs to a National Championship — and a lot of the time he straight up put the team on his back. He is a tough, athletic kid that can make a lot of NFL throws. However, his mechanics are pretty bad, and he has a tendency to stare down his receivers. He’s a lot more raw than people realize. Additionally, as tough as he is, he’s not going to be able to just run the ball 12-15 times a game in the NFL at his size. I still like him as a project quarterback, and it’s clear he has very high character. However, his throws at the combine weren’t very inspiring, which is something he really needed to improve on. I’d still take a risk with a late-round pick or UDFA spot.

RAS: 7.24


12. Jaren Hall — BYU

Don’t let Zach Wilson‘s failures distract you from Hall’s potential — he’s a good looking quarterback. The former baseball player has good velocity on his throws, and he was surprisingly accurate for a first-year quarterback. BYU often cut the field in half for Hall, so he’s going to need a little more seasoning before he’s ready to be a full-time NFL quarterback. Like a few of the other guys we’ll talk about in this class, he’s 25 years old, so that could hurt him in this process. Regardless, he’s a very dynamic player and looks to be worthy of a backup role as a developmental project.



11. Tyson Bagent — Shepherd

You’re probably wondering who in the world this is, and that’s fair. However, don’t sleep on Bagent as a developmental project. He threw for a gaudy 16,869 passing yards, 159 touchdowns, and completed 70% of his passes over his four years at D-II Shepherd. He had a great combine and was pretty impressive during the throwing drills. He has a crazy strong arm and posted a 4.7 40-yard dash with great splits, but he has a long way to go before being an NFL starter.

RAS: 9.15


10. Dorian Thompson-Robinson — UCLA

I really liked DTR’s game in college, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that will translate to the NFL. He’s a good athlete that can pepper the ball to his receivers quickly, but NFL quarterbacks need to do a lot more than that. He’s not consistent when throwing the deep ball, and his arm isn’t anything impressive. Still, he’s a great runner and can run an offense efficiently. His ball placement is his biggest strength. I think he’s worth a look later in the draft, especially after posting the fastest throw in terms of MPH at the whole combine.

RAS: 7.86


9. Jake Haener — Fresno State

I was pretty high on Haener going into the last draft, but he came back to school, entered the transfer portal, and eventually returned to Fresno State after testing the waters. I like a lot of what Haener offers, and I think he’ll be this cycle’s Bailey Zappe. He isn’t as decorated as Zappe, but he did throw for 9,013 yards and 67 touchdowns over three years for the Bulldogs. He’s pretty accurate and can put the ball in the right spot on easy throws. I like his upside as a backup; his traits may not pop off the screen, but he’s a guy who can run an offense.



8. Clayton Tune — Houston

Tune was much faster and much more agile than I expected going into the combine, so he got a late bump here. He’s great with short and intermediate routes, something you’d expect in a Dana Holgorsen offense. There’s still some concerns with his deep ball, but he’d make for a fine project quarterback in a system that fits his strengths. We’ve seen a guy like Brock Purdy come in and run an offense in a way that Tune can, but it’s important to remember that the 49ers are a pretty big exception for plugging and playing quarterbacks.

RAS: 9.72


7. Tanner McKee — Stanford

McKee feels like the guy who’s going to go a lot higher than folks expect right now, much like his former teammate Davis Mills. McKee is a big kid at 6’6 and 250, and he can pepper the football all over the field. He can make just about any throw you ask of him. McKee’s biggest flaws are his ability to withstand pressure and his lack of mobility. He basically NEEDS a clean pocket. If some team can offer him that, he should have success. If they don’t, he’s going to have issues in the NFL. Don’t let his RAS fool you, it’s heavily tilted by his size, but his arm is for real.

RAS: 8.69


6. Hendon Hooker — Tennessee

Typically, I’d have Hendon Hooker a bit higher on this list, but tearing an ACL at 25 years old is going to create an even bigger challenge for him. There’s a lot to like about the kid, though. He has great size for the position, he’s mobile, and he can absolutely sling the ball all over the field. His mechanics can be a little wonky — it drives me insane how flat footed he stands. He also tends to be less accurate when throwing on the run. Apparently he’s a very good guy that’s well-liked by his teammates, which is always a plus. I like the prospect, and hopefully his knee is healed enough that he gets the look he deserves in the draft. I wish I could have seen him at the combine, but his injury limits him on the board for now.



5. Stetson Bennett IV — Georgia

Bennett is going to be the most polarizing prospect in this class, but his resumé speaks for itself. He’s a two-time National Champion that matched the record for total touchdowns in National Championship games. The last time we saw Bennett, he threw for 4 touchdowns, ran for 2 more, and accounted for 343 total yards in about 3 quarters. He consistently showed up for Georgia in big moments. His January arrest isn’t going to help his case, but the player is a lot better than a lot of fans would let their bias admit. Size isn’t that big of a concern for me, but he is going to be almost 30 years old before his second contract. Regardless, in 2022 Bennett showed that he can make NFL throws and be ‘the guy’ on a championship team. His mobility is a plus, and he has a lot of trust in his own arm. That can be a plus and a negative. I think he can be a quality backup; think somebody like Case Keenum. He was one of the best performers at the 2023 combine for quarterbacks for workouts and throwing drills, so I had to give him a slight bump.

RAS: 7.71


4. Will Levis — Kentucky

I don’t think Will Levis is some can’t miss prospect, but the pendulum swing to the other side of the spectrum is out of control. I think he’s somewhere in the middle of being the first overall pick and being undraftable, which seems to be the two sides of this argument. Yes, Levis does have a great arm and mobility, but he played pretty poorly in 2022. Remember, Josh Allen is the exception, not the rule. In terms of mechanics, especially his eyes and feet, Levis could use some work. I do think he has franchise quarterback potential so long that he isn’t thrust into the spotlight from day one. He has a live arm that he showed off at the combine, and I think he’s worth a first round pick in the latter half.



3. Anthony Richardson — Florida

You can pretty much copy and paste those first few lines about Levis here, but I like Richardson’s upside enough to roll the dice on him and put him third. There are some things you can’t coach. 6’4, 230 pounds, great speed, and the ability to flick the ball 80 yards downfield falls under that category. Are there concerns? Absolutely. Do I think he could start day one in the NFL? Absolutely not. Do his traits make him worth the risk? You bet. NFL quarterbacks are all about traits, and Richardson has some of the best in this entire draft — not just for quarterbacks. He cannot be a day one starter in the NFL; there’s too much pre-snap and mechanical work to be done. In the right system with the right mentor, he could be an All-Pro. He posted a perfect Relative Athletic Score at the combine — all of the skills are there for him to succeed.

RAS: 10.00


2. CJ Stroud — Ohio State

I really struggled choosing between Stroud and QB1, Bryce Young (spoiler alert). In terms of recency bias, of course Stroud wins out. He absolutely balled out against Georgia in the Peach Bowl and showed off his legs. Stroud has a great arm and throws with anticipation to go along with ideal size for the position. He does come from a one-read offense, but we have seen similar prospects make the adjustment. Just like with about every quarterback prospect, I think Stroud would benefit from sitting a year before taking over. I think he’s going to be a great NFL quarterback.



1. Bryce Young — Alabama

There are some concerns with Young, but don’t try to outsmart your own eyes. Young is one of the best pure throwers of the football in recent memory. He shows incredible touch and anticipation — he throws into some outrageous windows. I do agree that size can be an issue, but there are smaller quarterbacks who have had success in the NFL. Keeping him upright will be important. Young is mobile, so he can help alleviate some of those issues on his own. He posted a decent weight at the combine (204 pounds) and checked in at 5’10 and 1/8th — I’m not worried about his size.


Photographer: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire

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