Best NFL Landing Spots for 2023 NFL Draft's 2nd- and 3rd-Tier QB Prospects

Brent SobleskiJanuary 12, 2023

Best NFL Landing Spots for 2023 NFL Draft's 2nd- and 3rd-Tier QB Prospects

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    Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) looks for a receiver during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Ball State Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
    AP Photo/Wade Payne

    Every NFL draft investment in a quarterback brings the potential to find something special.

    For years, this approach hung its hat on Tom Brady being the greatest of all time after being a sixth-round selection. A new example can be thrown into the mix based on this season's postseason setup.

    The San Francisco 49ers drafted Brock Purdy with the very last pick of the 2022 class. The latest Mr. Irrelevant has been anything but since stepping into the lineup for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo.

    After becoming the starter in Week 14, Purdy either leads or is tied for the NFL lead with a 119 passer rating, 11 passing touchdowns, 8.9 touchdown percentage and an average of 8.9 passing yards per attempt, as NFL on CBS noted. The 49ers are 5-0 during that stretch.

    Typically, first-round investments are necessary to address quarterback because of the position's value. As such, six of those participating—the number would be seven if Tua Tagovailoa had been cleared from the concussion protocol, which he hasn't—in this weekend's Wild Card round are former first-round picks. However, the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota are currently lead by later-round selections in Geno Smith and Kirk Cousins, respectively.

    For the the 2023 draft class, not every quarterback-needy team will address the game's most important position during the opening frame, with the likes of Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, Kentucky's Will Levis or Florida's Anthony Richardson—all of whom appear in Bleacher Report's latest first-round mock draft . Everyone can safely assume the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts will be out of the mix as the two quarterback-needy teams with the highest draft picks.

    Other franchises looking to address quarterback will scramble to select one from the best of the rest and possibly land a quality option without going the traditional route. Six quarterbacks consist of B/R's second- and third-tier prospects, with the hope of landing in the ideal spot, as Purdy did with the 49ers.

Tanner McKee, Stanford

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    BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 19: Tanner McKee #18 of the Stanford Cardinal throws a pass against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at California Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2022 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Best Landing Spot: New Orleans Saints

    Tanner McKee's draft status has suffered from three factors that are mostly beyond his control.

    First, the Stanford Cardinal program trended downward, which eventually cost David Shaw his job as a head coach. Inconsistency, poor recruiting and lack of player development took what was once a consistent program usually found somewhere among the Top 20 to a team that finished with a losing record in three of the last four seasons.

    Second, a lack of talent became a byproduct of the previous point. For years, the Cardinal were known for their hulking offensive line, strong run game, talented tight ends and big targets on the outside. Cracks began to show in each of those examples over time and made life far more difficult on the quarterback.

    Finally, the 6'6", 230-pound McKee doesn't fit the evolution of the quarterback position. He's a pure pocket passer with marginal mobility. Stanford's O-line allowed 73 sacks over the last two seasons, and McKee posted minus rushing stats during his collegiate career.

    Despite the negatives, the 22-year-old's feel for the game is obvious. McKee hangs tough in the pocket and he works well in rhythm, with the capability of passing into tight windows and layering throws.

    The New Orleans Saints have showed over time that the system once orchestrated by Sean Payton and now Pete Carmichael can thrive with a true pocket passer, whether it's Drew Brees or even Jameis Winston for a time. Besides, New Orleans doesn't own a first-round pick in this year's draft and McKee's value during the second day may be very tempting as the franchise moves past its current quarterback setup.

Jaren Hall, BYU

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    BYU quarterback Jaren Hall (3) looks to throw under pressure from the Boise State defense in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)
    AP Photo/Steve Conner

    Best Landing Spot: Washington Commanders

    Jared Hall played exemplary football for the BYU Cougars over the last two seasons. In fact, his touchdown-to-interception ratio during the previous two campaigns (51-to-11) bettered that of Zach Wilson's final two years in Provo (44-to-12).

    BYU's latest starter also ran for 236 more yards during that same stretch.

    While any comparison with Wilson doesn't exactly help Hall, considering how poorly the 2021 second-overall pick has played for the New York Jets to date, the numbers are meant to highlight the playmaking ability in Hall's game and his overall effectiveness for the program.

    Like Wilson, his successor possesses significant natural arm talent to make throws at all three levels, outside the numbers and from different arm angles. His background as a BYU baseball player is readily apparent. After all, his best moments tended to come when he extended plays.

    A lack of size, a significant injury history and Hall's age all play a factor in how he's viewed overall.

    BYU listed its quarterback at 6'1" and 205 pounds, and Hall's body didn't hold up well during his time in Provo. He suffered two concussions during the 2019 campaign, took a medical redshirt in 2020, dealt with bruised ribs in 2021 and battled an ankle issue this past season.

    The soon-to-be 25-year-old prospect can certainly throw a football. But decision-makers might be scared away because they're not sure whether he can handle the NFL's physicality.

    A potential pairing with the Washington Commanders is based on Hall's natural upside and likely availability a little later in the process. So much uncertainty swirls around the Commanders regarding how they'll look both behind center and what offensive they'll employ after Scott Turner's dismissal.

    A mature prospect with superior arm talent yet a somewhat similar skill set to Taylor Heinicke makes for an intriguing pairing.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

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    College Football: Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) in action, drops back to pass vs Georgia at Sanford Stadium. 
Athens, GA 11/5/2022 
CREDIT: Carlos M. Saavedra (Photo by Carlos M. Saavedra/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) 
(Set Number: X164231)
    Set Number: X164231

    Best Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Hendon Hooker deserved all the recognition he received until a torn ACL prematurely ended a program-defining season. Hooker helped revive a Tennessee Volunteers program that had been struggling for pretty much the last two decades.

    Sure, a handful of odd nine-win (or more) seasons are sprinkled in there, but the Volunteers haven't been a part of the college football's national conscience since Tee Martin led the way.

    Hooker deserves so much credit for playing at a high level, putting up huge numbers, helping Tennessee overcome the Alabama Crimson Tide in Knoxville and working his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation.

    As a prospect, he isn't quite as rosy.

    "Not only will Hooker be 25 years old on draft day, but he is also neither a pro-ready prospect nor a supremely toolsy one," Bleacher Report scout Derrik Klassen said. "Hooker comes from Vols head coach Josh Heupel's offense, which is a simplified vertical attack that regularly cuts the field in half and/or plays with wide splits that will never be the base of an NFL scheme.

    "The reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year also appears unprepared for NFL pockets, as his footwork and accuracy greatly suffer anytime his throwing area gets crowded or rushed."

    What does Hooker do well? He finds throwing lanes and drives the ball down the field. Let him play in a vertical passing attack, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, and maybe he can compete with Kyle Trask to start if/when Tom Brady finally leaves or retires.

Clayton Tune, Houston

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 26: Clayton Tune #3 of the Houston Cougars throws a pass against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane during the first half at TDECU Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Best Landing Spot: Las Vegas Raiders

    Houston's Clayton Tune provided one of the most productive seasons by a collegiate quarterback this year with very little fanfare. The first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection finished among the top-seven quarterbacks this past season with 4,074 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes.

    Typically a prospect like Tune would receive far more attention as a 6'3", 200-pound signal-caller who operates consistently and well in the system, with the ability to create thanks to solid athleticism.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Tune's 33 touchdown passes from a clean pocket led major college football coming out of the regular season. He tends to get the ball out quickly and accurately, though he can push the ball downfield despite an abbreviated throwing motion. The Houston signal-caller completed six passes of 40 yards down the field or longer, which ranked fourth among this year's quarterbacks, per PFF's Michael Renner.

    The previous descriptions sound a little like other quarterbacks Josh McDaniels has previously coached.

    Tune's usage in the designed run game and willingness to create with his feet increased this past season as well. The quarterback led the Cougars with 546 rushing yards.

    The Las Vegas Raiders are in an interesting position because the team could legitimately undertake multiple paths toward fixing what's quickly become a problem behind center. First, the team must decide what to do with incumbent Derek Carr, though he's almost certainly gone this offseason.

    Las Vegas should be interested in Tom Brady and/or Jimmy Garoppolo to reunite one with McDaniels. Either potential signing could use a developmental quarterback behind them as part of the franchise's future plans.

    Interestingly, none of those quarterbacks mentioned were first-round draft picks. The addition of a mid-round talent to develop, especially with Jarrett Stidham's pending free agency, makes Tune an interesting fit.

Jake Haener, Fresno State

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 17: Quarterback Jake Haener #9 of the Fresno State Bulldogs throws a pass against the Washington State Cougars during the first half of the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel at SoFi Stadium on December 17, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Best Landing Spot: Detroit Lions

    Fresno State's Jake Haener is this year's version of "if he was only a little bit bigger with a slightly bigger arm."

    No one can deny how well the first-team All-Mountain West quarterback plays the position. His feel for the game is second only to Alabama's Bryce Young among this year's class. He throws with anticipation and excellent ball placement. Haener's receivers benefit greatly from his touch and precision, and the three-year starter is fearless in the pocket and as a passer.

    The soon-to-be 24-year-old also does the little things at the position to manipulate defenses and create opportunities for his targets. As a result, he threw for 9,013 yards and 67 touchdowns in his 29 games leading the Bulldogs offense.

    However, Fresno State listed Haener at 6'1" and 200 pounds. His final season on campus was shortened because of a high ankle sprain, too. Obviously, the injury itself isn't something to worry about long term or a byproduct of a smaller stature, but Haener's build will be a concern.

    Young is an outlier because of how special his creativity and pocket presence are. Haener falls more in line with the Bailey Zappes or Case Keenums of the world.

    For the Detroit Lions, Haener can slide right behind Jared Goff on the depth chart and provide the upstart franchise with a quality, younger backup option. Goff has thrived in Detroit.

    "He's really a perfect fit for what we do and what we ask," head coach Dan Campbell told reporters this weekend.

    Goff can stand in the pocket behind a great offensive line and operate the offense. He's not asked to carry the entire unit or play outside of himself. He's a facilitator. Haener brings similar qualities.

Tyson Bagent, Shepherd

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    Shepherdquarterback Tyson Bagent tells to campers to look at him at the Manning Passing Academy on the Nicholls State University campus in Thibodaux, La. Saturday, June 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
    AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

    Best Landing Spot: Seattle Seahawks

    If someone randomly asked who college football's all-time leader in passing touchdowns is, odds are Shepherd's Tyson Bagent would never enter the conversation. Even when the answer is provided, many would still walk away scratching their heads.

    Bagent threw 159 career touchdowns for his hometown Division II program. The 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy winner—the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy—is one of the class' most intriguing quarterback prospects. The production beyond the touchdown record speaks for itself. Bagent threw for 16,958 yards in four full seasons with a 68.6 career completion percentage.

    From a traits perspective, Bagent is listed at 6'3" and 210 pounds. He shows quick, compact footwork, a whip-like release and the ability to extend plays.

    Anytime a small-school prospect gets drafted, concern exists about whether they can make the leap to the professional level. Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll aren't bothered by the level of competition.

    Since the two joined forces to lead the franchise, they've drafted prospects from Northwestern State, NE Oklahoma State, New Hampshire, Harding, Towson, East Central (Oklahoma) and Lenoir-Rhyne. Carroll built all of his philosophies around competition. If a prospect can play, he'll get his chance.

    Interestingly, the Seahawks are, yet aren't, looking for a new quarterback.

    Geno Smith is a pending free agent, but it's a safe assumption that he'll be the team's starting quarterback again next season. Drew Lock isn't under contract, either. Bagent can come in and learn from Smith. The pairing should work nicely since the veteran also came into the league from a simplified pass-first offense, so he can help in the young quarterback's transition to Seattle's system.