Estimated reading time: 16 minutes
A year after many were doing their best to find nice things to say about the crop of draft quarterbacks, the 2023 class has a little something for everyone. This year’s class has freakishly talented projects, polished pocket passers, proverbial 10-year backups, and all-around stars. Let’s see which prospects fit those bills:
Note: Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. was ranked seventh on this list prior to his announcement to return to school
10. Clayton Tune, Houston (RS Senior | 6-3, 220)
- 2022 Grade: 91.4
- Play Style: Volume Passer
- Initial Round Projection: Day 3
Tune isn’t your run-of-the-mill noodle-armed small schooler putting up big numbers against lesser competition. He can spin it, as his six completions targeted 40-plus yards downfield were fourth most in the country and his 29 completions 20-plus yards downfield ranked 12th.
Clayton Tune DEEP to Tank Dell????????
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 10, 2022
Arguably, the most impressive aspect of Tune’s game going forward is his ability to succeed when the entire offense is put squarely on his shoulders. He has 1,739 dropbacks in his career, as he averaged 45.4 dropbacks per game in 2022. That experience showed in two-minute drills where he had one of the best passing grades in the class (82.4).
Tune isn’t going to have many fans of his short-arm release. It’s not into dangerous territory, but not ideal. He has a tendency to lock in on certain receivers and too often has to see them break open before he’s willing to let it rip, which leads to hesitancy when attacking tight windows, as he had one of the lowest grades in the class in that regard.
Tune has the propensity to bail quickly from pockets and scramble. 9.4% of his dropbacks resulted in scrambles past the line in 2022. He’s not nearly the kind of athlete that can get away with that at the next level.
Tune has a similar sort of pro/cons profile to Bailey Zappe coming out of Western Kentucky last year. The high-end may not be anything to write home about, but if you want to put a lot of the passing game on his plate, he can handle it.
9. Jake Haener, Fresno State (Sixth Year | 6-1, 200)
- 2022 Grade: 90.4
- Play Style: Gamer
- Initial Round Projection: Day 3
Haener is fearless. He may not look the part of an NFL quarterback at his size, but he routinely showed all the intangibles of one. He’s not afraid to work the middle of the field or throw with anticipation into tight windows. Despite his less-than-imposing size, Haener possesses more than adequate NFL arm strength that can touch every level of the field.
He’s also proven that he can go out and win games with his arm. Haener has the type of moxie that makes a team think its never out of a game with him under center.
???? DOWN GOES NO. 13 UCLA ????
Fresno State QB Jake Haener — in some noticeable pain — leads his team 6 plays, 75 yards in 40 seconds for the go-ahead touchdown.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 19, 2021
Haener’s size, age, injury this season (missed five weeks with a high-ankle sprain), and level of competition are all working against him. His propensity to not give up on plays has led to a good deal of sacks over the years as he took 23 in nine games this season. It’s also not doing him any favors that his only two games against Power-Five schools — Oregon State and USC — were nothing special with a number of misses downfield against the Beavers.
Jake Haener is the new mayor of #Pac12AfterDark
WHAT A GUTSY COMEBACK WIN BY FRESNO pic.twitter.com/ZWvEJ0nWG4
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) September 19, 2021
If I had to vote for which quarterback in the class was most likely to end up a Taylor Heinicke-esque lightning-in-a-bottle backup quarterback it would be Haener. He’s come up in crunch time on multiple occasions (2021 UCLA most notably) and is the definition of a gamer.
8. Aidan O’Connell, Purdue (Sixth Year | 6-3, 210)
- 2022 Grade: 67.0
- Play Style: Downfield Pocket Passer
- Initial Round Projection: Early Day 3
O’Connell is one of the most fearless passers from the pocket in the class, as very little can shake his confidence. He gets the ball out of his hands quickly (2.45 career average time to throw is the lowest on this list) and can operate from collapsing pockets. He’ll step into throws with free runners bearing down on him often as if they’re not there at all.
Aidan O’Connell really had 534 yards and 5 TDs without his top two receivers pic.twitter.com/lG2hl83OaB
— . (@whodatboiler) July 5, 2022
O’Connell is also one of the more experienced passers in the class with 1,320 dropbacks to his name. He peaked from a grading perspective back in 2021 when he completed 71.7% of his passes and earned a 90.0 passing grade.
This past weekend’s game against Michigan in the Big 10 title did a great job of highlighting the full O’Connel experience. He can seemingly only play safe, smart football for so long before he’s inevitably heaving one up for grabs. O’Connell’s 25 turnover-worthy plays this past season were the second-most in all of college football. Without the kind of athletic profile that suggests he’ll be able to consistently avoid pressure at the NFL level, those prayer throws may only get more frequent. We saw that play out in real time this past season after losing his top receiver David Bell. O’Connell went from a 3.5% turnover-worthy play rate in 2021 to 4.4% this season.
O’Connell has trusted backup written all over him. He may be a little more high-variance than some coaches like, but he will give you a chance to win games in a pinch.
7. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (Sixth Year | 6-4, 218)