This article of the series Prototypes vs Anomalies will dive into how the top backfield prospects of the 2023 NFL Draft meet the athletic testing numbers and common traits of the successful 1st-round prospects of the last 10 years that have been selected to at least 1 Pro Bowl:
Height: 6’3’’ (5’10’’ ⅛ – 6’6’’ ¼ )
Weight: 222 lbs (207 lbs – 237 lbs)
Speed: 4.77 40 yd dash (4.66s-4.97s)
Explosiveness: 31’’ vert (27’’-36’’)/ 9 ft 7 broad jump (8 ft 7 – 10 ft 3)
Agility: 4.31 sec 20 yd shuttle (4.08s – 4.47s)/ 7.01 sec/ 3 cone drill ( 6.86s – 7.17s)
Experience: 963 college pass attempts (519 – 1568)
C.J. STROUD / WILL LEVIS / HENDON HOOKER
BRYCE YOUNG (SIZE) / ANTHONY RICHARDSON (OTHER-WORLDLY ATHLETICISM, LACK OF PASS ATTEMPTS)
– There are as many QBs who threw over 1000 passes in college as those who have thrown under that mark who have been Pro Bowlers.
The QBs who had under 1000 college pass attempts: Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz, Mitch Trubisky, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Mac Jones
The QBs with Over 1000 college pass attempts: Teddy Bridgewater, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and Trevor Lawrence.
Thus, the argument for a QB to need a required number of pass attempts to validate whether a QB is NFL-ready is a 50/50 split to me with those numbers. This helps favorable the case of guys like Anthony Richardson (393 pass attempts) and Will Levis (738 pass attempts), who have the lowest career pass attempts amongst the consensus top 5 QB prospects (which includes Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Hendon Hooker). In 2021, Trey Lance of North Dakota State was drafted 3rd overall by the San Francisco 49ers after only attempting 318 passes at the FCS level.
-Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs – amazing agility numbers that translate into his pocket elusiveness, 4.08s 20 yd shuttle (best in the group) & 6.88s 3 cone drill (top 3)
-Kyler Murray is the only QB in the group who is under 6’2’’, and he also has the lowest pass attempts of all the Pro Bowl QBs drafted in the first round in the last 10 years.
Key Traits on tape: Above average Arm talent, Processing skills, leadership abilities, maneuvering the pocket & footwork, ability to layer throws at all levels, downfield passing accuracy, throwing receivers open and in strides, elusiveness to evade defenders
C.J. STROUD: Stroud is the top prototypical QB prospect of the 2023 NFL Draft with his blend of size, arm talent, ability to layer throws at all levels and overall accuracy. Has gotten better over the last two years at displaying his elusiveness in and out of the pocket and improved throwing to his receivers in strides (an area I wasn’t high on him in his 2021 tape)
WILL LEVIS: Chiseled, super-athletic passer with an extremely strong arm; great deep-ball thrower (see the game winning-throw at Flordia), but needs to learn how to layer throws with better control on the short and intermediate routes; and he needs learn to maneuver the pocket to avoid unnecessary hits (many times where he dives for more yards, and even a few times he has been hit in mid-air, helicopter-style…_) that will expose him to too many injuries in the NFL if he doesn’t learn to protect himself; holds the ball too long before making decisions through progressions and lacks the improvisational skills to create a play out of nothing
HENDON HOOKER: Protypical-sized pocket passer with underrated athleticism and mobility. Similar to Stroud, looks to win mainly from the pocket, but has shown more willingness to escape the pocket; smart runner who either slides, or times bracing for hits efficiently; best downfield thrower in the draft; arm strength is good, not elite; older QB prospect who will turn 26 years old during his rookie season; but brings tons of NCAA D-1 starting experience at two Power 5 schools (Virginia Tech and Tennessee).Great footwork and maneuverability from the pocket
BRYCE YOUNG: Best improvisational passer to come out of the draft since Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson back in 2017; the best at throwing his receivers open at all levels of the field; possesses a good, not great arm; really an outlier size wise, as he matches Kyler Murray height-wise, but weighed 3 lbs lighter than Murray is, and even at that, there are many pundits who believe he plays more around the 190-195 lbs range; even with the size concerns; has not missed many games, and only missed 1 game after the injury sustained vs Arkansas and still came back efficient the rest of the season; advanced processor and decision-maker from the pocket, best in the draft
ANTHONY RICHARDSON: Not many QBs possess the physical gifts and dimensions Richardson possesses. His height his prototypical of Pro Bowl 1st round Qbs, but his weight, chiseled frame, explosiveness and speed are way above the best times and measurements of the successful QBs. Can we say he is TOO athletic for the position? Probably. But he still nonetheless possesses a few key traits the best QBs have: elite arm strength, probably the best in the draft competing with Will Levis; compact and quick release; maneuvers in and out of the pocket really well and has the instincts to know when its time to evade pressure with elusiveness, and when it’s time to throw the ball away, knows how to protect himself from hits, and has the size and frame to dish out punishment as a runner, and the open field speed to get away from even the fastest defenders. He needs to be coached up in his decision-making from the pocket but shows promise in becoming an efficient passer
1st-round projection: I believe that C.J. Stroud, Hendon Hooker, Bryce Young, and Anthony Richardson warrant serious 1st-round consideration in the top 20s due to their blend of skillset and potential. I would rather draft Will Levis in the 2nd round rather than the first not because he is not a talented QB, but because I am not comfortable with an athletic QB who needs time and patience to process from the pocket, has accuracy issues and a propensity to taking huge hits. He is really athletically gifted, but not otherworldly and rare like Richardson, and he definitely ranks below Stroud, Young, and Hooker when comparing their play from the pocket. But I wouldn’t be against a team like the Minnesota Vikings, or any other team willing to take him past the top 20 in a sit-and-learn situation similar to what the Packers did with QB Jordan Love sitting 3 years behind Aaron Rodgers, just like the latter did his first 3 years behind Brett Favre. I believe Stroud, Hooker and Young can be day 1 starters in that they are able to process from the pocket in the NFL based on what I have seen on tape. With Richardson, I believe he can come in as a Justin Fields/Lamar Jackson/Josh Allen-type of rookie where the offense can be catered around his running instincts and abilities while he picks up the intricacies of winning games from the pocket as a QB.
Day 2/Day 3 sleepers to keep an eye on Jaren Hall, BYU; Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA; Max Duggan, TCU; Tyson Bageant, Shepherd.
Overall, I believe the only two prospects that are slam dunk #1 overall pick candidates are C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young, whom I would favor in that spot even though he is a true outlier prospect size-wise for the position. I believe his skillset will shine and translate even better in the NFL than it did in his successful career at Alabama. Anthony Richardson is a darkhorse #1 overall pick prospect that should he be coached up properly, could not only become the best player to come out of this class, but even compete to be the best player in the NFL period, but a lot of coaching and resources are anticipated to be invested in him, so he may not be a fit for most coaching situations who may not have the timeline required to be patient with him. I think he would be a great fit with the Indianapolis Colts on that end, where it would allow GM Chris Ballard to equip new head coach Shane Steichen with a Jalen Hurts-type of weapon to develop for an organization and fan base starving for a long-term answer at QB since Andrew Luck surprisingly retired. Will Levis has definite Pro Bowl traits and a Ryan Tannehill-type potential, but his reckless style of play both as a passer and as a runner makes me question how many situations would fit his need to be developed and how he can be coached to harness his reckless tendencies. If Levis is able to get that part corrected and process the field quicker from the pocket, he has All-Pro level abilities.
The Running Backs:
As previously mentioned, I have sorted out the Rbs in two different categories: the bell cows (Prototypes) vs scat backs (Outliers)
The Bell Cows:
Notable 2022 NFL Draft picks who met most of these measurements: Breece Hall, Iowa St, 2nd round pick of the New York Jets/ Rachaad White, Arizona State, 3rd round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable 1st-round Pro Bowlers: Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Melvin Gordon.
Height:6’0’’ (5’10’’ – 6’1’’)
Weight: 225 lbs (215 lbs – 232 lbs)
Speed: 4.46s 40-yard dash(4.40s – 4.52s)
Agility: 4.16s 20 yd shuttle (4.07s – 4.24s)/ 7.04 3 cone drill
Explosiveness: 36’’ vertical jump (32’5’’- 41’’)/ 10 ft 3 broad jump (9 ft 10 – 10 ft 6)
Strength: 22 reps bench press (17-29)
Scat back: Christian McCaffrey is the only RB I would label a scat back to be drafted in the first round in the last 10 years, making him a true outlier. Although he clearly lacks in weight and strength (see bench press reps below), he clearly demonstrated the skillset on tape and the explosiveness that validate why CMC is one of the most dynamic playmakers at any position in the NFL.
Height: 5’’11’’/202 lbs
Speed: 4.48s 40-yard dash
Agility: 4.22s 20 yd shuttle/ 6.57s 3 cone-drill
Explosiveness: 37’5’’ vertical jump/ 10 ft 1 Broad jump
Strength: 10 Bench press reps
Notable 2022 NFL Draft picks who met most of these measurements: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State, 2nd round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks / James Cook, 2nd round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills
– only 7 RBs drafted in the first round in the last 10 years have made the Pro Bowl vs 8 from Round 2
-7 out of 11 running backs drafted in the 1st round since 2013 have been selected to at least a Pro Bowl (64%)
Common traits on tape: Tackle-breaking ability/Yards after contact/Playing speed/Foot quickness/Agility/Contact balance/Elusiveness/Running instincts/Playing strength/Route running and hands out of the backfield/Pass protection
2023 1st-round prospects at RB:
BIJAN ROBINSON: -The top bell cow prospect with scat back ability, will remind you of Hall of Fame backs like Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson.
-Elite tackle-breaking and rare elusiveness and change of direction skills for a big back. -Consistently makes the first defender miss
-Pretty good open-field speed to break and superb acceleration to break off long runs, a home-run hitter who can tilt the outcome of a game in one play.
-Pretty natural pass catcher out of the backfield
JAHMYR GIBBS: -Top scat back prospect in the draft with bell cow abilities
-Best Run game + pass game versatility
-Exceptional mix of speed, agility, and open-field acceleration.
-Pretty good contact balance for a smaller back, similar to Alvin Kamara, can withstand contact, not easily brought down compared to similar small backs
-Legit route runner out wide and from the slot with nifty footwork and cuts to lose defenders in man coverage
Sleeper RB prospects who don’t meet all of the measurables but could outperform their draft slots:
Zach Charbonnet, UCLA (Bell Cow)
Roschon Johnson, Texas (Bell Cow)
Devon Achane, Texas A&M (Scat back)
Tyjae Spears, Tulane (Scat back)
Overall, I believe this draft has at least 4-5 slam dunk starting caliber RBs in Roschon Johnson, Charbonnet, and, of course, the top two prospects in Gibbs and Robinson whom I believe are almost guaranteed to be Pro Bowl-type players in almost any situations. Yes, they are that good!
Future All-Pros/Franchise players/MVP-level players: Bryce Young, Bijan Robinson, C.J. Stroud
Pro Bowl-level players: Jahmyr Gibbs, Anthony Richardson, Hendon Hooker
Starter potential, not sure if they will land in the ideal situation to be a star: Will Levis