Ceilings, floors for every second-year NFL quarterback ahead of the 2024 season

2RTK6KC Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) celebrates after a rushing touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

• Bryce Young retains a Pro-Bowl ceiling after his lackluster 2023: While his rookie season was concerning, top prospects have struggled as badly as he did before and turned it around.

• C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson have All-Pro ceilings: Stroud was the obvious top rookie signal-caller of 2023, and Richardson flashed tons of potential before going down with a season-ending injury.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

In this PFF article, we dive into the potential outcomes for second-year NFL quarterbacks, projecting their floor and ceiling.

C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young enjoyed radically different rookie experiences, but how does each affect their projection going forward?

We will focus on the ‘big four’ quarterbacks from the 2023 NFL Draft class, and throw in Aidan O’Connell after his surprise campaign and potential starting situation heading into year two.

Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Ceiling: Pro Bowl
Floor: Bust

You would be crazy to watch Bryce Young’s rookie season and not be concerned. He posted a 56.0 PFF overall grade, propped up by some effective rushing. He made 22 turnover-worthy plays and averaged just 5.5 yards per passing attempt.

The solace comes in the form of knowledge that the situation around him was terrible — people were fired as a result of it — and the Panthers have overhauled all three pillars of his support structure this offseason: coaching, protection and weaponry.

Top prospects have struggled as badly as he did as a rookie before and turned it around — Jared Goff is one example — but most who falter to that degree do not. Young’s accuracy and anticipation still give him a Tua Tagovailoa-esque ceiling if he can take advantage of that improved support system, but the floor has been substantially lowered based on his rookie season.

C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

Ceiling: All-Pro
Floor: Derek Carr

Stroud was generally considered the second-best prospect in last year’s draft, but his rookie season showed that he could hit the ground running very close to his projected ceiling, which was always extremely high. Stroud’s rookie year was essentially a season-long demonstration of his elite College Football Playoff performance against Georgia.

Stroud averaged 8.2 yards per attempt in one of the most effective passing offenses in the game while earning a 92.4 PFF grade from a clean pocket. If he takes another small step forward, or even if the offseason additions for the Texans make an impact, he could place himself among the elite quarterbacks this season.

His rookie season was so impressive that his floor has been raised to the point where, at a very minimum, he should be a solid starting NFL quarterback, even factoring in variance and potential regression.

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Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

Ceiling: All-Pro
Floor: Robert Griffin III

Richardson’s ceiling was always sky-high. He is the most athletically gifted quarterback to ever enter the NFL by some measures, with a cannon for an arm and a high-end rushing threat.

The only note of caution when it comes to potential is his below-average accuracy, but Josh Allen has shown that’s not always a permanent feature of a player.

Richardson has always been generally miscategorized because of those athletic gifts, and he showed in his brief rookie season a high-level ability to read defenses, process and work from within the pocket. Nothing we saw from him changes his potential to be an elite NFL player.

What did change was how concerned the Colts may now have to be about exposing him to hits and their potential risk appetite for injuries. Richardson played in four games as a rookie and was knocked out of two of them with injuries, the second of which ended his season.

If he can no longer be deployed in certain ways because of that injury risk, you lose part of why his athleticism makes him special. Josh Allen would still be a great quarterback if you removed his ability to run around and play Superman, but he wouldn’t be special. The risk is that one significant injury fundamentally changed what Richardson can be in the NFL and may force him to be a more conventional quarterback.

Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

Ceiling: Pro Bowl
Floor: Blaine Gabbert

Levis made an obvious immediate impact when he came in for the Titans last season, but that impact didn’t last. He threw four touchdown passes in his debut, and then four total over the remaining eight games.

Where things get complicated is in factoring in the supporting cast. Tennessee had the league's worst offensive line for the second straight season, negating the strength of the team’s best player on offense (Derrick Henry) as well as putting Levis under an unreasonable amount of pressure. DeAndre Hopkins showed he can still make plays, but the receiving corps featured little else.

Tennessee has done a great job of upgrading the key areas around Levis this offseason, and the flashes we saw from him as a rookie suggest his ceiling is very high. His arm talent is truly elite, and he’s a powerful and effective, if a little reckless, scrambler.

His floor, however, remains low. His struggles could be explained away by the supporting cast, but the risk is that is just a better indication of his baseline, and the worst-case scenario is he has all the athletic tools for the position but can never put it together consistently.

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Aidan O’Connell, Las Vegas Raiders

Ceiling: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Floor: Short-career backup

O’Connell was a fascinating prospect. He made 48 big-time throws over his final two seasons at Purdue, and his highlight reel matched any quarterback in the draft class.

The problem was that his lowlight reel was almost equally as spectacular and undermined all of his positives. He has the tools to be a starting-caliber NFL quarterback, but he may be an inherently streaky player.

Even last season, we saw a similar story with the Raiders. O’Connell earned an unremarkable 65.9 PFF overall grade, but within that season was an elite 85.5 PFF game grade (against the Super Bowl-winning Chiefs) and another two high-end games of 79.0 and 75.2. It also featured game grades of 39.8 and 51.7.

O’Connell could potentially become the next Ryan Fitzpatrick — a quarterback on the borderline of being an NFL starter yet one capable of catching fire and going on a run of high-level play. When that player catches the low end of his variance, he gets relegated back to backup status and often bumped from the roster entirely, forced to move on to a new team to begin the cycle anew.


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