In our Scouting Reports, we will give you a quick debrief to get you the information you need to know. We’ll also take it a step further and provide an in-depth review showing off examples of what we like, and what we don’t. Included is a date from the initial scouting report, this is so new notes can be added as the year goes on. Those new notes will be dated as well. With that, welcome to the Will Levis scouting report!
If you’d like to see more, below are all the completed scouting reports for this season:
|Will Levis||Tank Bigsby||Jordan Addison||TBD|
|Spencer Rattler* (2024)||Sean Tucker||Quentin Johnston|
|Anthony Richardson||Zach Charbonnet||Jaxon Smith-Njigba|
|Michael Penix Jr.* (2024)||Blake Corum* (2024)||Jalin Hyatt|
I doubt many could have predicted the rise that Will Levis has had since transferring from Penn State to Kentucky. Starting the 2021 season as the guy tasked with putting the football in Wan’Dale Robinson and Chris Rodriguez Jr’s hands, he ended up showcasing a big arm, put in a decent year, and brought the Wildcats to a Citrus Bowl win. He’s continued that success into the 2022 season, and some have even mentioned him as the possible #1 QB in 2023. What do we think? Let’s take a look.
Details: Will Levis | QB | Kentucky #7
DOB: 06.27.1999 | 23 years old
H/W: 6’4” | 229 lbs
NFL Combine results (updated 03.06.2023):
40-yd dash: N/A
10-yd split: N/A
Vertical jump: 34″
Broad jump: 10′ 4″
|Year||Completions||Attempts||Comp %||Yards||TD||INT||Rush Attempts||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
NFL Draft Projection (updated 03.06.2023):
1st to 2nd Round Pick – Last year’s draft class may have flipped the quarterback position draft stock on its head. Watching multiple quarterbacks pegged as top in class slide, round after round, it suggested ownership and coaches may (finally) be recognizing the massive impact of overdrafting, and tracking the lost opportunity of missing a better position player. As a Vikings fan I ask, “Where was this turnabout in the 2011 draft? Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, and Blaine Gabbert…really?”. As for Levis, this could mean he’s in for a surprising tumble when considering his flaws and shortcomings. Many are projecting Levis early in the 1st due to his physical profile and big arm…but that feels like a major Todd McShay overdraft to me. I’ve bumped this projection (previously a 2nd-3rd Round projection) to accommodate, but I don’t personally think he warrants a 1st – let alone a top 10 pick – even with all this smoke.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – 1QB (updated 03.06.2023):
Mid 2nd to 3rd Round Pick – With the issues he’s shown in the passing game, and only enough athleticism to provide a slight supplemental boost as a running threat, he shouldn’t be drafted any earlier than the 3rd round in 1QB leagues. His projected draft capital could see him going in the middle of round 2 though.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – Superflex/2QB (updated 03.06.2023):
Mid 1st – Early 2nd Round Pick – 2QB/SF league draft location will be heavily dependent on his landing spot in the NFL draft. Ideally he lands in a spot where he can get good with a clipboard for a couple years, in which case a 2nd is appropriate. If he’s forced into starting action immediately, he could warrant a late 1st. If he does end up being Todd McShay-level of over drafted, that could rise to a mid 1st…though buyer beware.
Don’t let the recent talk of Levis being “QB1” fool you, he’s nowhere near a prospect worthy of being the first quarterback off the board. His progressions involve one to two reads, rarely more, and he almost never scans more than half the field.
Further, he’s slow getting through those progressions – sometimes never even leaving his first route, as if it’s predetermined and locked – and was often a tick late in getting the ball where it needed to be.
Actually getting the ball there was no issue, as Levis possesses one of the stronger arms in this draft class. He can chuck it deep, but more important, he can sling a fastball to the sideline from the far hash with no issues. Driving a football through a collapsing window is easy with his arm strength.
Unfortunately, he leaves a lot of throws on the field – and sometimes in defenders’ hands – because he can ONLY throw fastballs. Possessing almost zero touch on his throws, Levis routinely puts his backs and receivers in difficult positions, especially on short throws, with the football coming in too hot to handle.
It may be easier on them if his accuracy was consistently between the numbers, but that’s just not the case. He shows inconsistent, occasionally poor ball placement even on simple throws. It doesn’t matter if it’s an arrow to the running back, a tight end in the flat, or a wide receiver running a crosser, Levis can make an easy pitch-and-catch look difficult.
Having said all that, it’s not all doom-and-gloom for Levis. He has a number of positive traits to his name. In addition to the aforementioned arm strength, his ability to navigate a pocket is excellent. He can escape pressure, identify a running lane, or just slide around a sloppy pocket and deliver the football.
His mechanics are pretty good though ,occasionally, he gets off balance trying to deliver the football at light speed. Where he shines in this area is in his lightning quick release. It’s so quick I’d argue it’s borderline elite, and – when combined with his arm strength – it has allowed him to get away with some of his previously mentioned issues where other quarterbacks would be throwing picks.
While I think he needs to work on his ball placement, it’s worth mentioning that not every throw is a mis-fire. He has shown the ability to make throws with pinpoint precision. I think improving his balance by taking a bit of juice off some of his throws would help his accuracy get more consistent. Dialing in the ball placement with his natural arm strength could be deadly.
Possibly his best trait isn’t one that shows up on the stat sheet. The kid loves football, and plays with the same passion that a whole lot of greats have. When Levis plays, he reminds me of Brady or Rivers getting fired up on the field or sidelines. That passion translates in his play too. He’s a gamer, willing to do anything and everything to win, even if it means getting knocked around reaching for a first down.
While he’s certainly got enough size and build (6′ 3″, 232 lbs.) to take the occasional punishing blow, Levis needs to learn to make a few more business decisions and maybe not dive headfirst into a charging linebacker. He won’t do any good sitting in the injury tent.
If he can get a couple years to learn the intricacies of a playbook, to widen his field vision, and learn how to read a defense instead of a simple route combination, he could show up with all the tools needed to be successful. However, if he’s thrown onto the top of a depth chart before fixing these issues, he will almost certainly struggle mightily on Sundays.
I watched five games of Will Levis, and tracked six deep throws of 40 or more air yards. A couple were poor decisions into double-coverage, one was wildly inaccurate, but three of them were really nice.
He’s certainly got the arm strength to throw downfield. Watch our first clip as Levis takes on Florida in Week Two of the 2022 season. Kentucky is running a post/dig route combination which really stresses the middle-field safety of a Cover-1/Cover-3 shell.
After the snap, Florida rotates into a 3 deep look, and the deep middle safety drives hard on the dig route, leaving the post route with a 1-on-1. The route is run by Kentucky freshman Dane Key (WR #6), who – take note – stood out a number of times while watching Levis.
Key does a great job getting vertical and framing out the defender to come down with this catch. Levis does a great job getting the ball downfield allowing Key to make a play. Overall this was ~62 air yards, suggesting that Levis certainly has the arm for a vertical style offense, even if it doesn’t get utilized often now.
Deep routes from a five or seven step drop aren’t required to take advantage of Levis’ arm strength. He’s equally capable of slinging fastballs while on the move or rolling out.
He shows a great ability to disconnect his lower half from his upper half when throwing, which allows him to zip throws from off platform. Our next clip is one example.
Playing against Georgia and their vaunted defense in 2021, Kentucky is now in scoring range and looking to take advantage. Levis fakes the handoff and rolls out to the offense’s left. As a right-handed thrower, this is a super difficult throw to make. Either you take time to reset your foundation after rolling out, then make the throw…or you inevitably have to throw from an imbalanced platform. Neither situation is ideal under normal circumstances.
Fortunately for Levis, his ability to disconnect his upper half allows him to whip his hips around even while fading to his left. With that, he’s able to generate excellent velocity on this throw.
Levis not only delivers this ball with heat behind it, but he puts it in a small window just out of the defender’s reach. What would normally be an extremely difficult throw – impossible for some – is just another 1st and Goal for Levis.
Levis also comes to play with a lightning quick and extremely compact release. There’s zero wasted motion in his release as he brings his arm back, drives hard off his back foot, and whips forward to put some serious spin on the ball.
This here is a simple clip. Miami of Ohio is playing cover-3, and the aforementioned Dane Key (WR #6) is running a slant. The goal is to break with his third step and look for the ball immediately heading his way – squeezing it in a slim lane up the seam between the corner and the safety.
Levis gets to the top of his drop, takes a slight hitch/balancing step, and fires the ball for a picture perfect 15 yard connection.
I like this clip because there are many quarterbacks who couldn’t afford to hitch before throwing here. Either their throwing motion takes longer or they don’t have the velocity, which means they have to start their throw right when they hit the top of their drop. In this regard, throws like this are typically seen as an anticipation throw, because often the receiver may not even be out of their break by the time the ball comes out.
Levis rarely, if ever, throws with anticipation. His quick release and fast ball speed let him get away with taking just an extra tick longer before releasing. While this is occasionally a benefit, it can also be a drawback for throws which require precise timing. We’ll get into those later. For now just enjoy this crisp Levis-Key connection.
One of Levis’ issues involves that very arm strength just praised. While he throws a great fastball, he doesn’t have any other speeds. It’s like he’s completely incapable of throwing with touch. In the five games I watched, I didn’t see a single instance of Levis feathering a throw between levels.
How bad can that be?…at the time of this writing, he’s got a 68.8% completion percentage and he’s thrown for 12 touchdowns to only four interceptions…
Yes, he does. Now watch the below clips and think how much better he could be with the ability to take a bit off and improve his ball placement.
We’re heading back to the Miami of Ohio game, now into the second quarter, and once again we see a slant against a cover-3 shell. Once again, Levis throws right in the window up the seam, except this time the receiver can’t reel it in.
Immediately it’s clear the throw is a burner, because again, Levis doesn’t have any other speed. If it was between the numbers, even thrown too hot, at least there’s a chance the receiver can reel this one in. Unfortunately, when that speed is coupled with poor ball placement, it makes for a very tough catch.
It’s not just missed opportunities in the redzone though. These issues accounted for three of the four interceptions I tracked. Below is just another example.
Now we’ve got Kentucky taking on Mizzou in 2021. We see a single high safety and the DBs are looking at Levis, once again we see a cover-3 shell. This time the slot runs a slant and squeezes behind and between the hook zones.
Levis throws another dart right up the center of the field, but once again he’s off the mark. Once again the ball is too high and too far behind, coming in too hot for the receiver to make the adjustment. Except this time, it ends in a pick.
I also noticed he looks off the out-and-up route from his tight end, which would absolutely destroy a cover-3 defense. The reason, I speculate, is because it’s a much harder throw if you can’t layer the ball between the hook and deep zones.
And just for good measure, here’s another interception thanks to extremely poor ball placement. This time, 4th and 2 from the 4 yard line, Kentucky runs a rub concept to free up the tight end in the flat. The concept works to perfection, the tight end gets a free release and a step on the defender, but a late and terribly thrown ball negate all that and turn up an interception instead.
In all fairness, Levis’ timing may have been thrown off thanks to the low snap, which further required a step to come to balance before throwing the ball…though as we’ve seen, and will see again, he’s perfectly capable of getting the ball out just a tick late on his own, even without a poor snap.
The real kicker here was the terrible, awful ball placement. You just can’t miss a route to the flat low and behind the receiver, and definitely not one that is essentially a guaranteed touchdown. Note how the receiver lets him know his frustrations as he throws his hands up after the pick…
Piling on the negatives, we’re going to see another one of the common mistakes Levis shows. This time, watch as he stares down his intended route.
Heading back to the Mizzou game from 2021, we see a split field coverage from the defense. Boundary side looks to be manned up, field side is running 2-read/palms coverage.
Immediately off the snap, Levis looks to his slot route who is running a quick hitch. The backer sees his eyes heading into his zone and looks to the slot receiver, cheating toward him.
As soon as the slot receiver snaps down, the backer knows the play and sprints to undercut the throw and pick it off. Fortunately for Levis, the strength of his arm is able to overcome his eyes, and he burns the ball past the backer for a great pick-up.
If this was a one-time scenario, I’d have brushed it off as an anomaly and moved on. Unfortunately, this happened often enough that it was noteworthy and easy to find a near disaster.
On the bright side, this is a common trait in young quarterbacks and there are a myriad of current NFL players who have overcome this. It’s not an immediate fix though, muscle memory and bad habits take time and a concerted effort to resolve.
Another issue is one we’ve already seen; processing speed is just a tick slow. It’s not egregious, but there’s room to improve.
Here we see the Florida/Kentucky game from 2021. Wan’Dale Robinson is the pre-snap motion running across the field. This shows the defense is in zone coverage, and brings the linebacker back into the box. This backer’s position is key on this play.
The receiver at the bottom of the screen runs a snag which incidentally runs right through the linebacker, running a pick/rub that creates loads of space in the flat for the running back.
Levis looks right at the linebacker who drifts right into the pick. It’s a perfect opportunity to float the ball to the flat and let his running back pick up an easy 8+ yards. However, despite watching it play out exactly as designed, Levis doesn’t make the throw until after the backer has cleared the pick.
To make things worse, this easy pitch and catch is dropped due to an unnecessary velocity and bad ball placement…sound familiar?
While processing speed is a major component to successful quarterbacks, I don’t think Levis’ will outright prevent success…I do think it could be a hindrance early in his career though.
Another issue I noticed is that Levis is typically limited to reading simple route combinations, and almost always limited to a half-field. Similar to the eye manipulation, or lack thereof, a condensed field is not uncommon for young quarterbacks – even at the highest levels of college ball. More complex offenses involving the whole field and attacking all levels can certainly be taught, but again, it comes down to time and concentrated effort.
Next up I’ve put together a short compilation of plays which show this issue.
In the first clip, watch the bottom of the screen. The point receiver at the top of the stack looks to be trying to clear out the first defender with his route, which suggests he’s not intended to be a viable target on this play. That leaves Wan’Dale Robinson (WR #1) as the only viable route on this side of the field…which Levis is locked onto despite three defenders in the area.
In the second clip, Levis moves off the snag/slant route and locks onto the running back wheel route, which is blanketed. What he misses is that, at the top of the screen they’re running a variation of snag, a simple 3 route combination. Against the man coverage, the curl being run under the deep defender is an easy pitch and catch with a clean throwing lane.
Finally in the third clip, Levis stares down his receiver, never moving off the left-side of the field. Against the cover-2 shell being run, the slot post route from the right side is money…especially considering the mike backer, who is responsible for the deep middle, is locked onto Levis’ eyes and doesn’t even see the deep post or bother to carry it! This could have been a walk-in touchdown if Levis wasn’t limited in his ability to read the field.
All told, we see a pair of missed opportunities centered around a quarterback with limited field vision and average processing. These are the reasons Levis isn’t giving me the “QB1” vibes I’ve seen thrown around.
Though likely not “QB1”, Levis is still a solid prospect, and brings a handful of other desirable traits to a future NFL team. His pocket navigation, for example, is actually pretty great.
Levis often played the quick game which limited the amount of snaps that he really had to deal with a shifting, collapsing, or muddied pocket. Thankfully, we have the game against Georgia to reference. No surprise, I’m sure, but this game alone provided enough evidence of quick, decisive, and precise navigation ability to eliminate any concerns.
This play, I don’t know that any individual block really held up against the Georgia rush. In particular, Devonte Wyatt (DL #95) – 1st round pick in 2022 – and Channing Tindall (LB #41) – 3rd round pick in 2022 – really put the screws to Levis.
Wyatt breaks through immediately, and with the edges containing Levis, he’s forced to move forward. Sliding around Wyatt, Levis then has to deal with Tindall who is breaking through as well. Levis handles both perfectly in extremely tight quarters, spots a running lane and takes off for 7 yards.
Georgia was in Levis’ face for much of the game, and really muddied his pocket all day, so it’s a great case study to see more of plays like this.
Almost as much as his arm, you’ve got to love his passion and fire. He’s an absolute gamer who clearly loves football, the competition, and winning, and it shows on the field.
There were lots of clips to choose from, but man it’s hard to top this one against Miami of Ohio. It’s 4th and 7 in the redzone, tie ballgame; this drive has been kept alive because of penalties against Maimi (OH), and now Kentucky is going to risk it for the biscuit to go up by six.
Levis locks on to the receivers to his left…the ones surrounded by four defenders…until pressure comes off the stunt. He sidesteps the defender then takes off, looking to pick up the seven yards with his feet.
I like the decision to run, there wasn’t much available and the opportunity presented itself. Though, he may want to start making some business decisions to save his body. Even a non-throwing shoulder injury can take him out for a few weeks, and it won’t do anyone any good if he’s in plain clothes on the sideline.
Looking at his running ability, he’s got OK athleticism for a college program. Here, for example, is another 4th down that he’s able to pick up with his feet, against Georgia no-less.
However, it would be unrealistic to think he’s going to be able to offer anything significant for Sundays. Escaping a pocket, maybe a few first downs here and there…sure. Just don’t expect him to be a threat that will keep defensive coordinators up at night.
For fantasy players, if you see him pegged as an athletic quarterback, don’t believe the hype. Maybe – with his size – he’ll get you a handful of rushing touchdowns on the season, but it won’t be enough to warrant special consideration for your rookie or start-up draft.
To sum it up, Levis has enough potential to keep an eye on. His arm strength, quick release, pocket navigation, escapability, and decent athleticism all point toward someone who can do damage in the right scheme. However, he needs LOTS of work on touch, ball placement, reading a defense, processing speed, and field vision.
For the NFL, I can see someone taking him potentially in the 2nd round, with the hope that he hold a clipboard and expand his skillset. Think Kyle Trask sitting behind Brady. However, if last year’s draft class is an indicator – where the “top of class” quarterbacks tumbled round after round – I think a 3rd round pick is more likely.
Hopefully, wherever and whenever he goes, he gets an opportunity to stay off the field for a couple years and work on his drawbacks, because he does have some great tools to build on.
If not Levis, who is “QB1” in 2023? Drop a comment in the comment box below to let us know your thoughts!
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That guy who wraps up the #1 seed by week 13, dominates the points scored column, and gets blown out by the #8 seed in the first round of playoffs…annually. That’s Ben.
He’s also the guy who constructs a trade calculator for fun, and builds a fantasy football website when he wants to share his thoughts with the world.
As a Vikings fan and a poor golfer, Ben lives in a perpetual state of frustration. In his fun-time he’s a husband and proud father of two.