Will Levis was perceived to be in the first-round conversation throughout the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. Yet, when it was all said and done, he fell to Round 2 and was selected 33rd overall by the Tennessee Titans. With his first NFL start behind him, what about Levis’ scouting report generated that first-round excitement, and does he have the tools to be the Titans’ franchise quarterback despite his slide?
Will Levis’ NFL Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- Team: Tennessee Titans
After sitting behind Ryan Tannehill for most of the season, Levis got his first start in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons and shined. Levis completed 19 of his 29 passes for 238 yards and a whopping four touchdowns in his debut, making him the first rookie quarterback to throw a debut TD quartet since Marcus Mariota.
With Tannehill’s future with the team uncertain and the Titans appearing ready for a reset, Levis can cement his status as the team’s starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.
He will get his second start against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9, and another big outing could lock in his place.
Will Levis’ NFL Draft Background
- School: Kentucky
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’4, 229 pounds
- Length: 32″
- Hand: 10 5/8″
Levis’ career track is different from that of most early-round QB prospects. The Titans QB was a 2018 recruit in the same class as Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Yet, 2021 was his first season as a starting signal-caller at the collegiate level.
While other quarterbacks found immediate stardom, Levis took the longer road to prominence. Levis was a 4.0 student at Xavier in Connecticut and had offers from several Ivy League schools, including Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Columbia. But Levis wanted to pursue a D1 football career and signed with Penn State instead.
Three years passed. Levis redshirted in 2018 and started two games total through 2019 and 2020. At the end of that stretch, Levis transferred to Kentucky. In Lexington, he finally emerged as a legitimate draft prospect.
Levis only carried 102 career attempts into the 2021 season, but he picked things up quickly. A team captain in his first year at Kentucky, Levis collected 2,826 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions in 13 starts. He also added 376 yards and nine scores on the ground.
Levis exited 2021 as a polarizing but exciting QB prospect, and 2022 only brought more of that sentiment. In 2022, Levis completed 185 of 283 attempts (65.4%) for 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He never experienced the true breakout that often accompanies future NFL starters, but along the way, he provided regular glimpses of his ultimate potential.
Levis Scouting Report
Levis would’ve been undrafted had it been for his eating habits alone. He eats bananas with the peel on, and he puts mayonnaise in his coffee. But we’ll let all that slide because, on the field, Levis brings plenty of talent.
Levis has very exciting tools as a passer and a creator. The Kentucky QB stands at 6’4″, 229 pounds, with a strong, dense frame that can withstand contact. With his frame, Levis brings elite arm talent to the fold.
He generates elite velocity on throws easily and has a quick, crisp 3/4 sidearm release. His velocity carries well to all levels of the field and travels with immediacy in the short and intermediate ranges.
Levis has a supremely strong arm — strong enough to generate high levels of velocity even when off-platform and rolling against his dominant side. Beyond that, his arm is also noticeably elastic.
The Kentucky QB is very natural and comfortable throwing from different arm angles, generating high-velocity levels from various arm angles. Levis can throw with pace and accuracy off-platform and can correct incongruent mechanics with his arm talent.
Levis doesn’t just have high-end arm talent, either. He’s a legitimate athlete with a potential 4.6 speed at his size. He shows great burst and speed in the open field and has enough agility to make single cuts.
The physical edge Levis plays with as a runner is even more enticing. For a QB, he breaks tackles with more consistency than expected. He plays strong in the pocket, churns his legs through tackle attempts, and frequently extends plays with his frame, play strength, and athleticism.
Levis didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but he did participate in explosiveness drills, where he came away with the second-best broad jump among 2023 QBs, behind only Anthony Richardson. Levis jumped 34″ in the vertical and 10’4″ in the broad. Both numbers exemplify the athleticism he possesses at his size.
Levis’ arm talent is a central part of his game, but he’s also proficient at properly channeling that arm talent with strong mechanics. Levis consistently gets excellent hip rotation on his throws, which allows him to generate maximum velocity.
He can also stay in phase with his base, keep his feet active, and place his front foot properly for placement and rotation. Moreover, Levis continually keeps his shoulders level on release and level off-platform.Not only does Levis have good mechanics, but he also actively manipulates his mechanics to influence ball placement. He adjusts his shoulder alignment situationally to manipulate the trajectory of his throws — a tendency that shows up most often on seam routes and boundary fades.
On those throws, he mixes velocity and touch to arc the ball into small windows. Similarly, Levis has shown to lead WRs low in tight situations to minimize the threat of contact and disruption.
There are sometimes lapses with precision from Levis, which we’ll get to later. But overall, he’s underrated with his general accuracy. He consistently throws within the receiver’s wheelhouse and doesn’t often throw uncatchable balls.
Levis is a reliable rhythm passer with snappy lower body mechanics off the snap and leads receivers for run-after-catch yards with great velocity in the short range. And over the middle of the field, he’s displayed the ability to lead into space, away from contact.
Processing and field vision are areas where Levis could improve. But even there, the Kentucky QB has shown glimpses of promise.
Levis flashes the ability to anticipate windows and go through progression work. He can read defender spacing pre-snap and identify favorable matchups based on route concepts. Particularly on quick reads over the middle, Levis’ game translates well.
Levis can be relatively dependent on rhythm and timing throws, but he did go through high-to-low reads on occasion in 2021 and 2022, and he can process and progress through options.
In select situations, particularly against zone coverage, Levis displayed the wherewithal to wait ahead of his release to let overlapping route concepts play out and neutralize the threat of an underneath defender.
Levis’ work in the pocket can visibly improve, but he flashes the requisite toughness and pressure detection. The Kentucky QB has flashed the ability to detect penetrating rushers and step into lanes to avoid contact. He’s also shown he can manage space in the pocket to buy more time, although he can be more consistent there.
While Levis can sometimes be skittish, there are awesome glimpses of poise in the pocket. Furthermore, Levis shows the steadiness to stand in as the pocket condenses. While consistency is still desired, he can step forward into tightening lanes and deliver throws amidst direct contact.
Among other things, Levis can keep his eyes forward on the dropback to hold safeties and use subtle bursts of eye manipulation to open the field. Additionally, he’s willing to throw the ball away when plays collapse and nothing is there.
On the ground, Levis is a supremely tough competitor who fights to stay on his feet and gain extra yards. In both phases, there are definite clutch moments on tape. More than once in 2021, Levis delivered in late-down, high-distance situations, and there were promising moments of conversion as well in 2022.
Levis’ Areas for Improvement
Right now, the most pressing concern with Levis is his inconsistent field vision and anticipation. The Tennessee QB can do a better job anticipating overall. He often experiences slight but notable delays between his recognition and trigger as a passer.
His late trigger and lack of anticipation, combined with his inconsistent processing, give defenders more time to close in, minimize RAC, or make plays on the ball. On layered throws over the middle and outside the numbers, Levis’ frozen eyes can lead defenders to undercut late throws.
Timing is a major issue on NFL throws with Levis, and his decision-making, in tandem, can also improve. He sometimes locks onto receivers pre-snap and will prematurely commit to routes even when they’re covered up. He occasionally stares down his primary receiver, inviting defenders to close in early with his eyes, and he’ll look to force ill-advised throws with his arm.
Overall, Levis’ field vision is questionable. He sometimes misses open receivers and occasionally forces intermediate and deep throws with defenders looming. He’s effective off play-action and on timing throws with his fast, crip release, but Levis can accrue more experience with full-field reads and progressions.
As a thrower, Levis could be more precise. Particularly over the middle, he sometimes fails to lead receivers and forces high-difficulty adjustments in congested areas.
He’s still learning to mix velocity and touch, and he sometimes puts too much heat and too little loft on passes. His release is fast but can sometimes be concave, pushing passes high.
Elsewhere, Levis’ pressure detection can fluctuate both ways. He can be spooked into prematurely dropping his eyes and running. Conversely, he occasionally has lapses in pressure detection and takes hard hits on the blindside. Levis can be rushed into making non-ideal decisions by pressure and occasionally fades back as he throws, eroding his mechanics.
Especially in 2022, Levis struggled with processing and navigation in the pocket, and it affected his overall process as a thrower. He has the toughness and size to stand in, but his internal clock can be slow, and threats of pressure will sometimes cause him to freeze.
Going further, Levis doesn’t often make the necessary positioning adjustments to buy time for himself, inviting sacks and turnover opportunities for the defense.
Overall, Levis could process pressure more quickly and more effectively manage the pocket in response to said pressure. Lastly, while Levis’ toughness as a runner is appealing, he has room to preserve himself on the ground better. And while he has enough agility to sidestep rushers, he’s more of a linear athlete who lacks elite evasive twitch in tight spaces.
Levis’ 2023 NFL Outlook
On my 2023 NFL Draft board, though Levis was a top-four QB, he was comfortably the QB4 of the group, well behind Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson.
His Round 2 capital reflected that, and it created some uncertainty with Levis’ long-term projection. The good news is that Levis is already seeing the field despite being a rookie.
Though Levis is 24 years old, with two years of starting experience, the game is still slowing down for him. A lack of consistent anticipation and field vision was noticeable on his college tape, as was poor pocket feel and navigation ability.
The Titans starting QB Tannehill is set to hit free agency in 2024, complicating the long-term situation for Tennessee. The Titans may be more keen to see Levis step up over putting Tannehill back in or playing Willis, given that he has an extra year left on his rookie deal compared to Willis.
Levis doesn’t quite have Willis’ elite creation capacity, but he is an athletic, resilient passer with crisp mechanics, a hyper-efficient release, and a laser-like elastic arm.
Tennessee’s offensive line is suspect, which won’t help Levis if the rookie is given the reigns for the rest of the season after Tannehill’s latest injury. The Titans’ staff should view his reps through this lens: He’s just getting his feet wet, and any experience gained in 2023 would help lay the foundation for a potential elevation as a starter down the line.
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