With the 2023 NFL Draft's top quarterback prospects (Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and Florida's Anthony Richardson) all selected in the first round, there are some quarterbacks set to come off the board at the end of Day 2 (Round 3) or on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) who could play crucial roles during the 2023 season. Brock Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, ended up winning a couple playoff games, perhaps changing the long-term future at his position for the 49ers. Granted, Purdy's situation was the perfect marriage of opportunity plus a phenomenal supporting cast and offensive play-caller, but other rookies could end up with spot starts or extended play time if similar injuries occur in front of them like they did for Purdy.
Fourth-round picks like Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins are two of the higher-paid players in the entire NFL, and who knows, maybe a Day 3 quarterback in this year's draft eventually follows in their footsteps. Here's a look at six of the more promising mid-round quarterbacks, each with a light scouting report and potential NFL team fit.
* All QB measurables are from the NFL Scouting Combine
- Height: 6-2 1/2"
- Weight: 220 pounds
- Hand size: 9 3/8"
Clayton Tune has the size and agility NFL teams are looking when evaluating quarterbacks. He always remains balanced when throwing, thanks to great movement inside the pocket, which allows him to create just enough time for his intended targets to come open. Tune was incredibly productive in college, as his 104 touchdown passes were the second-most in school history behind Case Keenum's 155, the most in college football history. He had his best season in 2022 with a career-high 4,074 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns, tied for the third most in college football, trailing only Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud. Tune's knocks are that he will stare down receivers, resulting in double-digit interceptions in each of his past three seasons, and he isn't nearly as good while throwing on the run. If he improves his decision-making, Tune could have a nice NFL career.
Potential Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tune could compete for the Buccaneers' starting spot right away in Tampa Bay with Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield. Even if he doesn't win, Tune would be in a nice spot to develop with receivers like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin around. Mayfield is only on a one-year deal, so Tune could get chances at playing time in 2024 if it doesn't materialize in 2023.
- Height: 6-1 1/2"
- Weight: 207 pounds
- Hand size: 9 7/8"
TCU quarterback Max Duggan being a 2023 NFL Draft prospect would've sounded ludicrous after his first three seasons from 2019-2021. His season high in passing touchdowns across his first three seasons was 16 in 2021. Then, Duggan became a changed man in Year 1 of the Sonny Dykes Era in Fort Worth, throwing 32 touchdowns to only eight interceptions while rushing for nine scores. That led to a Heisman runner-up run as the Horned Frogs reached the National Championship. What changed? Duggan became a more accurate passer, locating his high-velocity passes with much more regularity while playing in a much more nuanced offensive scheme. He led college football in touchdown passes of 20 or more yards (17) and 50 or more yards (nine). His 4.52 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine matches his tape where he consistently runs by and through defenders while putting his body on the line for extra yards at all times.
The cons would be that Duggan needs a decent amount of work with his touch on throws, but he continues to work on cleaning up his footwork and throwing mechanics. He's a project who needs to develop at the next level, but he could surprise the NFL world like he did the college football world if provided the right environment to grow.
Potential Fit: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers were one of a few teams interested in Duggan at TCU's Pro Day on March 30. Los Angeles quarterback coach Doug Nussmeier had an extended chat with the quarterback following his passing drills. Newly hired offensive coordinator Kellen Moore helped Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott develop from a fourth-round pick to one of the more prolific passers in the NFC. The Chargers just drafted wide receiver Quentin Johnston, Duggan's , in Round 1 with the 21st overall pick. Adapting to NFL life alongside Johnston while learning from Moore and starting quarterback Justin Herbert couldn't be a much better setup for Duggan.
- Height: 6-0
- Weight: 207 pounds
- Hand size: 9 3/8"
Jake Haener doesn't have prototypical NFL size, but his timing and accuracy as a passer more than make up it. He moves through his route progressions quickly and has strong anticipation skills. Haener's mechanics are consistent under pressure, and his mobility is strong enough to evade pressure and allow him to reset his arm angles. His best year in college came in 2021 when he rolled to 4,096 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. The highlight was a jaw-dropping 40-37 upset win at UCLA in which he totaled 455 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and an interception on 39 of 53 passing (73.6%). Every third down or big moment seemed to end with Haener making another gutsy throw under pressure. His field vision and anticipation allowed him to carve up the Bruins' defense like a Halloween Jack-o'-lantern.
Haener performed well at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, completing 12 of 19 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. That performance earned him MVP honors. His lesser physical traits relative to other pro quarterbacks hurt him when throwing deep, but on underneath and intermediate throws, Haener is a baller.
Potential Fit: Las Vegas Raiders
Haener could be a fit in Vegas as Jimmy Garoppolo's backup early on. The Raiders have stockpiled slot receivers who are great over the middle and underneath in Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow, Phillip Dorsett and DeAndre Carter. Not to mention All-Pro Davante Adams. That's Haener's wheelhouse, throwing with timing and anticipation underneath and on intermediate throws over the middle. Josh McDaniels could enjoy working with a quarterback who is stylistically tailor-made for his offense.
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- Height: 6-2
- Weight: 203 pounds
- Hand size: 9 7/8"
UCLA's all-time leader in total offensive yards (12,537), touchdown passes (88) and total touchdowns (116), Dorian Thompson-Robinson brings a wealth of experience and production to the NFL as a five-year collegiate starter. He finished well in Westwood with career-highs in completion percentage (69.6%, sixth best in the NCAA), passing touchdowns (27), passing yards (3,169), passer rating (157.4) and rushing touchdowns (12). He and Oregon quarterback Bo Nix were the only players in college football with 25 or more passing touchdowns and 11 or more rushing touchdowns in 2022.
His throws fly out of his hand in tight spirals, and his accuracy on short and intermediate is strong. As a runner, Thompson-Robinson is also strong and elusive in the open field. His timing on throws over the middle and anticipation on throws in general needs to improve. His throwing mechanics and footwork can get rattled a little too quickly, leading to too many mistakes under pressure. Thompson-Robinson could be a solid backup early on in his career with decent upside in the right system.
Potential Fit: Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford is now 35 years old and coming off an injury-plagued 2022 in which he dealt with neck and head injuries. The Rams need a backup they can develop and who could be available to play in 2023 in case Stafford gets banged up again. Thompson-Robinson is a nice prospect who head coach Sean McVay could enjoy molding down the road.
- Height: 5-11
- Weight: 192 pounds
- Hand size: 10"
The starting quarterback for the back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs has smooth throwing mechanics with a quick release. Bennett regularly anticipates throws before his pass-catchers are out of their breaks, delivering the ball with plenty of touch. However, his smaller stature and his age (he'll turn 26 in October) hurt his case as prospect. Off the field, there are maturity concerns that come withwhile training for the draft in Dallas.
Potential Fit: Baltimore Ravens
While it doesn't make sense initially for someone like Bennett to be Lamar Jackson's backup, the fit in Baltimore makes sense upon further examination. Bennett would be reunited with college offensive coordinator, now in the same role with the Ravens, in Todd Monken. Plus the Ravens personnel is stylistically similar to what Bennett had at Georgia: a punishing offensive line, a dominant tight end (Mark Andrews) and speed at the wide receiver position (Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay and James Proche).
- Height: 6-3
- Weight: 213 pounds
- Hand size: 9 3/4"
Aidan O'Connell excelled as a rhythm passer in Purdue's spread offense under former head coach Jeff Brohm, now Louisville's head coach. He's an accurate passer with nice touch and gets the ball out of his hand quickly. O'Connell's accuracy doesn't decline on rollouts off of play-action. The cons are that he'll force a number of passes and that he sometimes fades away when throwing against pressure. The spread and spacing offense at Purdue allowed O'Connell to digest progressions in halves across the field, allowing him to play the game on easy mode. That's great in college, but he'll be asked to do a lot more reading the field in the NFL. His arm strength is solid, and he projects to be a nice backup in the NFL. Being a 25-year-old rookie is a knock against him given that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts became , three seasons into his NFL career.
Potential Fit: Minnesota Vikings
A Shanahan offense disciple is the perfect place for O'Connell to end up. The route concepts and formations are all designed to appear similar, relying on the duplicity in simplicity. This lulls defenses to sleep, allowing a player like O'Connell to pick apart the defense, thanks to a schematic advantage. There's also plenty of play-action, as the Vikings had the fourth-highest play-action rate in the league (19.3% of plays) under first-year head coach Kevin O'Connell. That bodes well for a young quarterback like O'Connell, as route progressions are easier to digest before he unloads the throw. He would be in a great spot developing behind Kirk Cousins.