After a “down year” for quarterbacks this draft cycle, everyone is clamoring for the next class to arrive. The consensus thought is that 2023’s class is head and shoulders above what we saw for 2022. In reality, next year’s group hinges on tier 2 and 3 quarterbacks taking a jump into the next available tier.
Everyone knows about reigning Heisman Winner Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. But now lower-tiered passers like Anthony Richardson, Will Levis and Tyler Van Dyke are heating up in the mainstream media, though there remains uncertainty with all three.
There is immense potential for this next class but potential is the key word. And there are more worthy talents with which to become acquainted. I have 5 names to add to the potential 2023 melting pot of quarterback prospects.
Jake Haener, Fresno St, Super Senior
After beginning his career at the University of Washington, Haener transferred to Fresno State in 2019, but sat out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. Haener boasts good size with his 6-foot-1 and 210-pound frame but as most ‘Covid-seniors’, Haener is an older prospect. He will be 24 years old a month before the 2023 draft. Nonetheless, he has showcased his talents as a collegiate passer this past season.
He threw for nearly 4,100 yards with 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2021. His tough and gritty competitiveness shows up consistently. I would describe Haener as a “gun slinger” with a funky throwing motion that packs some zip behind it. His willingness to battle and keep his team competitive is infectious, though. Just look at his final drives against UCLA this season. Haener combines arm strength, accuracy, mobility and ball placement into one well-rounded prospect and his name deserves more notoriety. If he has a repeat performance in 2022, we could easily find him in first round discussions.
Devin Leary, NC St, Redshirt Junior
The leader of the North Carolina St. Wolfpack, Devin Leary is a fun study coming off his most productive season in 2021. The New Jersey native is an accurate and tough passer and though he does not possess the greatest set of physical tools, he is more than capable of making big-time throws.
Against Clemson in double overtime, Leary made an incredible throw to essentially win the game against a ‘hi-lo’ coverage. He knows how to effectively place the football where only his receivers can make a play on it. Another prospect that has “gun slinger” tendencies, Leary can test windows that should have resulted in turnovers. It will be interesting to see Leary’s growth and how it affects his draft stock next year.
Malik Cunningham, Louisville, Super Senior
Cunningham is one of the best and most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in college football. It is fitting that he followed in the footsteps of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson enrolling at Louisville. Cunningham has improved his passing statistics over the last three seasons and though he has yet to throw over 3,000 yards, he makes up for it with his production as a runner.
Cunningham’s accuracy can be described as above average. He does have a live arm to make the majority of the throws the NFL covets but his overall game has some rawness to it and needs refining heading into his final season. In 2021, he accounted for 39 total touchdowns and 20 of them were rushing – just to show how dangerous he is with the ball in his hands. This coming season can set Cunningham up to have a positive 2023 draft.
Hendon Hooker, Tennessee, Super Senior
From one dynamic dual-threat to another, Hooker transferred from Virginia Tech ahead of the 2021 season. He did not start until Week 3 but ended up a Davey O’Brian semifinalist. At 6-foot-4 and 218 pounds, Hooker has the frame and athleticism to become a weapon on offense.
Hooker did a good job with ball security throwing just three interceptions all season. He opens an offense’s playbook with quarterback draws, sweeps and power runs while also having the arm strength to drive the ball into tight windows and the touch to layer it over defenders. The Vols signal caller has the physical tools combined with height and weight to make defenses pay all 2022.
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina, Red Shirt Senior
McCall has won his share of accolades during his time at CCU. The reigning 2021 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and All-Sun Belt First-Team stood out, posting great numbers in back-to-back seasons. He also steadily improved each of the last two seasons.
McCall is in command of CCU’s triple-option and RPO-centric offense. His mobility allows him to keep defenses honest with coverages and pass rush, while his 6-foot-3 and 210-pound frame gives the signal caller flexibility with designed quarterback runs. One hurdle that McCall must clear is proving the offense does not hinder his ability to read and process defenses. I would say, to operate this offense as the quarterback, McCall has to retain a high amount of information. I would not classify his arm talent as “special” but it is strong enough to attack all three-levels of the defense. Where will McCall be drafted after the 2022 season? We will see.
Overall, the 2023 quarterbacks class has an abundance of untapped talent. One area it trumps the 2022 class is depth. There will be more options to choose from and potentially wait for on Day 2. We can remain excited about this upcoming class of quarterbacks but remain realistic with expectations. There is a lot of rawness and development that must take place before we crown this class as superior. Buckle up, it is going to be a fun ride.