Is Will Levis Really Worth the Hype in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Around this time last year, Will Levis’ name was named not only as the first QB in the 2023 NFL Draft, but also in the 2022 NFL Draft. The senior QB for the Kentucky Wildcats threw for 2,826 passing yards and 24 touchdowns as Kentucky won 10 games, including their bowl win over Iowa.

Levis returned to school, and by midyear his wildcats are spinning in spirals. After losing at home to Vanderbilt, Kentucky is suddenly below .500 in the SEC and Levis’ game was underwhelming to say the least. Despite this, Levis’ name is still mentioned not just as a first-round pick, but possibly as the first QB off the board in the 2023 draft. The 33rd Team has ranked him as the sixth best prospect and first QB, with 33rd Team representative TJ McCreight standing high on his ability to get hit and bounce back.

Is Will Levis really worthy of a high pick, or is he willing to be another QB to lead the draft and ultimately disappoint the team that picks him? Let’s dive into what we’ve seen from Levis this season.

What was lost in the off-season

The biggest person in the development of Will Levis lost during the offseason is former offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Coming from the Los Angeles Rams (where he returned as offensive coordinator during the offseason), Coen helped install a pro-style offense very similar to McVay’s Rams offense with lots of movement and game action. According to Sports Information Solutions, Kentucky used game action in 37 percent of its dropbacks last year. This year, that number has dropped to 26 percent. Although Coen was replaced by Rich Scangarello, coming from the San Francisco 49ers, the offense didn’t click at all right away.

The next problem Levis encountered is twofold. Former offensive line coach Eric Wolford is now in Alabama, and an offensive line that was a strength lost its coach and several players to the NFL, including Darian Kinnard and Luke Fortner. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops replaced him with Zach Yenser and several new starters on the line. Add in the loss of receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and you have a supporting cast that just doesn’t have as much as last season as the QB adjusts to a new system.

That said, we can still figure out what Levis is and isn’t. We understand what’s been lost and what he’s working with, so let’s take a look at what he’s doing.

Will Levi’s scouting report: What Kentucky QB is doing well

Levis is a tall, strong passer at 6’3 and 232 pounds. Levis has a strong arm with a good release that unlocks levels of the field previously lost to some offenses. He can put the ball into windows that were closed for most QBs, but his arm talent means he can make those throws.

Where Will Levis excels is in play-action gaming. For the play-action dropbacks he has this season, his EPA per attempt is higher than last year. Levi is a good athlete who can throw in both directions without losing momentum on his passes and still be able to get the ball to all three levels of the field.

I also think Will Levis is a little underrated as a runner. He’s not someone you’d want to map out a game plan on the ground around, but the occasional tug at zone reading or goal-line running wouldn’t hurt the team. He’s a big guy, also with some agility.

Will Levin Scouting Repot: Where Kentucky QB Fights

Without game action, Will Levis is a completely different QB.

Will Levis with and without Play Action, 2021-2022

Year Completion percentage with PA Completion percentage without PA On Target Throw Percentage W/O PA On target throw percentage with PA EPA/att with PA EPA/att without PA avg Casting depth without PA avg Casting depth with PA TD’s with PA TD’s without PA INT is with PA INT without PA
Year Completion percentage with PA Completion percentage without PA On Target Throw Percentage W/O PA On target throw percentage with PA EPA/att with PA EPA/att without PA avg Casting depth without PA avg Casting depth with PA TD’s with PA TD’s without PA INT is with PA INT without PA
2021 67.60% 64.80% 74.00% 76.30% 0.13 -0.04 7.8 10.9 13 11 5 8th
2022 70.50% 64.50% 64.90% 75.40% 0.19 -0.07 8.1 9.5 5 11 1 8th

The benefits of using play action is that it creates defined windows in which defenders move based on run action. When Levis needs to throw the ball without the defenders moving due to running action, processing slows down significantly. His sack percentage has increased since last year, but even in 2021 his sack percentage increases when he’s in off-game situations. Levis is still learning how to progress quickly and on time, and his no-game-action decision-making is questionable.

Levis also tends to stare down his target, making a lot of bad decisions by not using his eyes to manipulate defenders. Working in a pro-style attack has its perks, but one of its downsides is that the troubles he’s experiencing in college could well be troubles that still haunt him at the next level. Levis can execute NFL passing concepts when the read is defined for him and he’s being told where to go with the ball, but once the picture starts to cloud over he morphs into another QB.

Levis’ game has deteriorated under pressure. According to SIS, his positive play percentage under pressure in 2021 was five points higher than this year, and his shot percentage on target dropped four points. Levi’s under pressure has had good moments, but it’s a bit alarming that there’s so much negative underpressure.

Now that we have listed the pros and cons of Will Levis, let’s answer the question: what is Will Levis?

What is Will Levis in the NFL Draft?

Coming from a pro style system, Will Levis is a tall, physically talented QB with a strong arm to reach all levels of the field. However, he needs the picture defined for him in the passing game, otherwise he makes a lot of mistakes. Levis still needs time to figure out the NFL’s processing speed and improve his accuracy under pressure.

He’s not Josh Allen and he’s not Justin Herbert. Josh Allen’s development is one of those things that may never happen again in the NFL. I think Levis can work in the NFL, but he’s not a day one starter right now.