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NFL Teams Must Do Extra Homework on Will Levis’ Roller-Coaster Play

Former NFL head coach and offensive guru Marc Trestman is evaluating the top quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft. This is the third in a series of his evaluations.

Others in Series:

As I continue to dive into the 2023 NFL quarterback class, one player I was encouraged to look at was Kentucky’s Will Levis (scouting report), who is currently being mocked as a top-10 pick.

In what’s shaping up to be an intriguing class, four quarterbacks have been discussed as potential first-round picks: C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson and Levis.

With several NFL teams at the top of the draft looking for a quarterback, and the Carolina Panthers already making a trade up to No. 1 overall to get their pick of the bunch, Levis will be discussed heavily by teams at the top of the draft.

In my previous evaluations of Stroud and Richardson, I looked at three games, but for Levis, I added a fourth. Although not close to being conclusive, the video I watched painted a clearer picture and gave a better understanding of this 23-year-old Penn State transfer’s talent and areas for improvement.

>>READ MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Will Levis Evaluation

2022 Games Watched

  • Mississippi State
  • Tennessee
  • Georgia
  • Louisville

Levis’ Credentials

Let’s take a quick look at Levis’ background to contextualize what we see on video.

The fifth-year senior transferred to Kentucky from Penn State, where he could not beat out the Nittany Lions’ incumbent starter, Sean Clifford, in his three years in State College. In his two final collegiate seasons in Lexington, Levis was a two-time captain and won 17 of his 24 starts.

He had two offensive coordinators at Kentucky — Liam Coen in 2021 and Rich Scangarello in 2022. While his numbers remained relatively consistent each year, it’s not a stretch to say Levis and his Wildcats team faced more adversity in 2022. The offensive supporting cast around him diminished due to graduations and transfers. His OC last season also was fired after Kentucky's final regular-season game.

Despite operating out of shotgun 92 percent of the time (per PFF) — more than both Stroud (85 percent) and Richardson (72 percent) — it was clear Levis was functioning in an NFL-style offense that included shifts and motions, forcing him to direct pre-snap traffic. His 2022 offense also included many quick screens, potentially inflating his 65.4 percent completion mark.

Levis’ pass protection was largely insufficient in 2022, at times looking structurally unsound and exhibiting a lack of SEC-level talent. Both issues inhibited his ability to complete passes and get through reads. As the hits accumulated, Levis often played hurt with shoulder, foot and finger injuries that likely adversely impacted his performance. Teams will undoubtedly weigh these factors as they evaluate him.

Arm Talent, Accuracy

When you turn on the video of Levis, one of the first things you notice, aside from his excellent 6-foot-4, 229-pound frame, is his quick release. While his staging of the ball is often too low (with the top tip of the ball below the top of his jersey number), there are some plays where he stages the ball at the "V" of his neck and releases passes quickly and accurately.

A critical aspect of evaluating a quarterback is to observe him throwing the ball at an in-person workout. Having not seen him in person to validate his video, it does appear Levis has high-end NFL arm talent. This combination of a quick release and velocity allows him to consistently win on the quick-timing slants over the middle. It enables him to get the ball up and out rapidly while under immediate duress.

While it’s easy to get excited about that combination, some inconsistencies hold him back.

As I’ve discussed in other articles this year, accuracy is the most important trait any quarterback can have. Accuracy is the inherent and physical ability to place the ball in a location to protect the ball from the nearest defender and maximize the receivers’ run after the catch.

Levis is erratic at times in this area. Though there are indicators he can accurately make all the necessary NFL throws, his accuracy is average on a play-to-play basis. There are various reasons for his lack of accuracy, starting with a narrow base, arm angles and the ability to process and finish progressions consistently.

Knowing Levis threw 10 interceptions last season, I went back and looked at all of them. Of those 10, it’s arguable eight resulted from quarterback errors, including poor decision-making and ball placement.

When moving outside the pocket, Levis showed inconsistencies throwing the ball on the move to his right. In the four games I evaluated, there was never a single play call where the movement or bootleg outside the pocket asked him to throw moving to his left.

When you compare him to Stroud, you see Levis’ inconsistent and, at times, insufficient drop-back footwork, as well as a typically narrow base, which often reduces his power and accuracy on up-field throws.

Because he doesn’t have a strong base, he’s often left throwing with only his arm and does not consistently engage his legs or core on his windup. That shows up on movement throws outside the pocket. The video clearly shows he has the arm talent to make some elite throws, even while throwing with just his arm, but this also causes him to be inconsistent in locating the ball to intended targets.

Looking more closely at his arm mechanics, Levis has shown the ability to vary his arm slot to throw over the top, with a three-quarter release or sidearm. Still, he is unquestionably more accurate throwing with an over-the-top motion.

At times on upfield throws, the video shows a tendency to aim or almost shot-put the ball instead of simply cutting it loose. Once again, in fairness to Levis and all the other quarterbacks in the draft process, this is a primary reason why the in-person workouts are so crucial.

While there are high-end flashes, it is impossible to know how much injuries impacted him. Levis’ inconsistent accuracy and mechanics are a reason to watch all the video and do the proper vetting that goes into QB evaluations.

Athleticism, Escapability

Levis has been lauded as a good athlete, and he certainly has sufficient running ability. But I do not see his athleticism as close to Richardson’s, and Stroud is arguably better in this area as well. Based on the video, he looks only sufficient athletically.

As coaches look at the video, they must answer whether Levis' athleticism is enough to extend plays and whether he can make good decisions and accurate throws on the run to the right and left. Just as important is whether he can use his legs to capture a few first downs and extend drives. After watching four games, I'm not convinced he can, though I hope a complete evaluation will show otherwise.

In the games I watched, he was courageous in the pocket but struggled to escape pressure. One has to question whether he has the sudden, quick-twitch feet to effectively maneuver the pocket at the highest level. He does not sense pressure consistently, often drifting into pressure rather than stepping into the quiet area of the pocket.

Yet, other times, he moved to a quiet area to make the throw or escaped and made an excellent play to advance the football, overcoming poor pass protection to keep drives alive.

His courage and toughness in the pocket are unquestioned. When on the move, Levis is too willing to take direct hits from the defense. Though he does have the frame to withstand punishment from NFL defenders, he must be willing to slide to avoid unnecessary hits.


Like other facets of his game, Levis has some highs and lows from a mental perspective.

Before the snap, he shows a good command of the offense, making calls and lining up players at the line of scrimmage. During the play, he can be seen looking off a safety, getting through his progressions or finding his flare control in the flat. He can be decisive, particularly in the quick game, though he may take longer to process outside of that.

One of the most critical aspects of Levis' evaluation will be the time he spends with coaching staffs around the league. On video, there are plays where it appears he is forcing throws into coverage or missing reads he should easily make. It will be necessary for coaches to ask the right questions and listen closely to Levis' answers. His football intelligence, vulnerability, authenticity and humility will come to the forefront in many of his answers.

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

Overall Thoughts

Watching Levis play is somewhat of a roller-coaster ride. He’s extremely impressive in many ways with flashes of excellence, but he has a lot of room to grow in other areas.

It is unfair to compare him to the elite, jaw-dropping athleticism of Richardson. Levis simply is not as polished from a technical, accuracy or decision-making perspective as Stroud, who I feel will start Day 1 as a rookie.

With only sufficient athleticism and accuracy, I simply do not see Levis as an immediate NFL starter, though I will leave his draft number to the experts. While I feel confident about my assessment of Stroud and Richardson, I feel much less comfortable making an overall assessment in this case due to the high-variance nature of Levis’ game and the environment he played in at Kentucky. In any event, as I always note, there is so much work to be done.