At the Kentucky quarterback Will Levis was traded as a first round contender and potential No 1 overall last spring, with most reckoning he was having a statistically incredible year and would need to lead Britain to another 10-win season to do so.
Things haven’t quite worked out that way for Levis and the Wildcats this season.
Levis has dealt with various foot, finger and shoulder injuries while running for his life from behind one of the worst offensive lines at the Power Five conferences.
But NFL teams still rate the Kentucky signal caller very highly, and many believe he can still be the first quarterback picked in the 2023 NFL draft.
“I did an impromptu poll with four NFL scouts I trust, and three of them told me he was the best quarterback in the draft,” wrote The 33rd Team’s TJ McCreight. “An NFC scout told me, ‘That [season] is an audition for him to go to a poor NFL team. He’s proven he can take a beating and get back up again and again. Added another NFC scout: “It’s a wonder he keeps playing every week after all the hits he’s taking. He’s worse than people think – a lot more.'”
McCreight compared Levis to the former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger.
“Levis has all the tools that NFL teams are looking for. He’s got the arm, the size, the toughness, the intelligence and enough athletic ability. He runs an NFL offense in Kentucky and can create a scrum that a lot of people neglect.”
This season, Levis has completed a career-high 66.1 percent of his passes for 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. But he also threw nine interceptions and the second half of last week’s loss to Vanderbilt that ended the Commodores’ 26-game SEC losing streak. Levis completed just 2 of 10 passes for 18 yards in the second half as the Wildcats fell to 6-. 4 in the season.
“When you study Levis, there are some ugly games; that was the history of Kentucky football. As an evaluator, you have to look at what surrounds the quarterback and who he’s playing week-to-week,” McCreight wrote.
McCreight wrote that playing against superior talent in the SEC is the perfect dress rehearsal for getting drafted by a bad NFL team, where he will find himself in a similar situation against superior opponents.
“In the NFL, quarterbacks will have dysfunction and things won’t always go well. You’ll have defenders in your face and pockets aren’t always clean. People underestimate how valuable the experience of playing on a team like Kentucky is for Levis to feel the stress. He must overcome and carry the offense when hit by players from Alabama, LSU and Georgia. His receivers aren’t as fast as the corners they’re facing, and his offensive linemen aren’t as good as the fronts they’re facing.”
Despite an up and down season for Levis, ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has him as the No. 2 quarterback behind Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and No. 4 overall as Levis could become Kentucky’s first top-5 pick since then Dewayne Robertson in 2003.
Levis is 16-5 as a starter in Kentucky and Saturday and is only the fifth quarterback in school history with 40 career touchdown passes. He also ranks in the top 10 all-time in passing yards, rushing touchdowns, and total offense.
“If I had to bet on who’s going to be the number one pick in the 2023 NFL draft right now, folks, it would be on Kentucky’s Will Levis,” Kiper Jr. said last month.
In his first full season as a starter in 2021, Levis completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,826 yards and 24 touchdowns while also rushing for 376 yards and nine points to lead Britain to its second season with 10 wins and the Citrus Bowl win last four years. His 2021 season ranked fourth all-time in the UK for total touchdowns (34) and sixth for total tackles (3,202 yards).
His 2,826 passing yards and 24 scoring strikes are the most by a British quarterback since Mike Hartline in 2010.
He also became just the seventh player in school history to rush for 3,000 yards in a season, tying with Tim Couch (twice). Jared Lorenz (twice), Andre Woodson (twice), Hartline, Dusty Bonner and Patrick Towles.
In four November games last season, Levis led an offense in Kentucky, averaging 46 points and 560 total offensive yards per game.