MOBILE, Ala. ― With the NFL Draft just under three months away, there have already been a lot of quarterback discussions. It’s not going to stop anytime soon.
Should Alabama football quarterback Bryce Young be first off the board? Or should Will Levis from Kentucky be the first chosen signal caller? Maybe even Ohio State’s CJ Stroud?
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is an analyst who has Levis on the helm, ahead of Young and Stroud. In his latest big board, Kiper has Georgia’s defensive tackle Jalen Carter at #1, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. at #2, then Levis, Young and Stroud rounding out the top 5.
That’s not necessarily the order Kiper thinks they’ll go in. So he regards them as general prospects.
It will come down to who a quarterback-needy team likes best and who is available.
At the Senior Bowl, The Tuscaloosa News asked a handful of SEC defense attorneys who faced Young and Levis in college who they would pick if they were an NFL general manager.
“I would say Bryce Young,” said Tennessee defenseman Byron Young. “Of any quarterback I would take Bryce Young because he came to Neyland Stadium, the way he played we were undefeated at Neyland this year. I looked him in the face every time. No fear. No fear in his heart. I feel like an NFL team needs a guy like that. You need a guy that the fans can’t upset him at any cost.”
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Byron Young faced Bryce Young and Levis twice each. He said Levis impressed him with his big arm and believes the Kentucky player will make a good quarterback in the NFL. But the Tennessee defenseman recalls how difficult it was for him to fire Young. Byron Young managed only one in the two games.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever played against,” said Byron Young. “I feel like he’s the perfect candidate for NFL teams.”
Last season, the Alabama quarterback rushed for 3,328 yards, 32 touchdowns and five interceptions in 12 games. Meanwhile, Levis threw for 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 11 games.
In 2021, Levis rushed for 2,826 yards with 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 13 games. Bryce Young threw for 4,872 yards with 47 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 15 games.
LSU security Jay Ward also said he will call up Bryce Young before Levis. Ward played Levis once and Bryce Young twice.
“He knows how to win,” Ward said.
Mississippi State defensive tackle Cameron Young understands this well. He lost twice to Bryce Young. The Bulldogs lineman noted that Levis is a good quarterback who has some of the best pocket awareness he’s faced, but Cameron Young would still draft Bryce Young instead.
“I think he had the better weapons, but I also think he handles the field better in my opinion,” said Cameron Young. “He’s a big player and he made the big throws and he was in big games. That’s the guy I’m going with.”
Defense attorneys Ali Gaye (LSU) and Tavius Robinson (Ole Miss) also played Levis and Bryce Young in college, but both declined to answer who they would draft first.
“I’ll leave that decision to the GMs,” Gaye said. “I’m not a GM. I don’t know what goes into decision making and how they pick quarterbacks.”
Many don’t. That depends on the manager. But if a general manager values the opinion of Byron Young, Cameron Young and Ward, Bryce Young would be the first quarterback pick next April.
Nick Kelly reports on Alabama football and men’s basketball for The Tuscaloosa News/USA TODAY Network. Reach him via email: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly.