In the past three NFL drafts, there have been two Utah quarterbacks who were first-round draft picks: Utah State’s Jordan Love in 2020 and BYU’s Zach Wilson in 2021.
Could it happen again next year?
Based on a conversation among ESPN NFL draft experts, there’s a chance.
Adam Schefter recapped last week’s 2022 NFL draft with Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay in an episode of “The Adam Schefter Podcast” released earlier this week, and Schefter brought up the topic of quarterbacks to watch for, pertaining to the 2023 draft.
Both McShay and Kiper agreed on the top two quarterback prospects in the 2023 NFL class right now — Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
Beyond that, though, the pair believed there are several other quarterbacks who could rise into the discussion as a first-round selection.
“It looks a lot like 2023 is going to have a similar situation we saw a year ago in 2021 with five quarterbacks coming off the board in the top 15,” McShay said.
Were any Utah ties in the quarterback discussion?
Twice, Kiper mentioned Rising among a group of quarterbacks who could have first-round potential, below the likes of expected top picks Young and Stroud.
Kiper also mentioned two other quarterbacks with Utah ties — BYU’s Jaren Hall and Stanford’s Tanner McKee, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who considered BYU in the recruiting process.
Rising, Hall and McKee will all be juniors during the 2022 season, meaning they would have to leave school early to be in the 2023 draft class.
Last year, Rising took over as starting quarterback midway through the Utes’ third game and led Utah to a 10-4 record, the school’s first Pac-12 football championship and the program’s first appearance in the Rose Bowl.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound transfer from Texas threw for 2,493 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions last season, while also rushing for 499 yards and six touchdowns.
Despite missing three games due to injury, Hall helped guide BYU to a 10-3 record while throwing 2,583 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
Both Rising and Hall led their respective teams to a top 20 finish in the final Associated Press poll.
McKee, meanwhile, threw for 2,327 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions and added four rushing touchdowns last season.
How many quarterbacks do Kiper and McShay see getting drafted in next year’s first round?
During their discussion, Kiper posed the question that if he set the over/under at 6.5 for quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2023 draft, what would McShay take?
“If I had to guess a number, I’d guess five,” McShay said.
Kiper was a bit more bold: “I’m a gambler, so I’m going to take over 6.5.”
Between the two of them, the pair rattled off a list of 14 quarterbacks they see atop the quarterback draft board next year. They include:
- Alabama’s Bryce Young.
- Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
- Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke.
- Kentucky’s Will Levis.
- Florida’s Anthony Richardson.
- Utah’s Cam Rising.
- South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler.
- Pittsburgh’s Kedon Slovis.
- Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec.
- BYU’s Jaren Hall.
- Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall.
- Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa.
- Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.
- Stanford’s Tanner McKee.
“I’m at like 13, 14 deep at quarterback right now, with guys that are certainly worth watching closely,” Kiper said. “… Some may go back (to school), but if those guys come out, next year’s going to be the year of the quarterback.”
Could there be a record number of first-round QB selections in 2023? The record is six, which happened in 1983, per Sports Illustrated.
“There’s a lot of guys,” Kiper said. “... There’s a path to seven (drafted in the first round). I’ll take over six and a half.”
Could other quarterbacks emerge as top draft prospects?
Both McShay and Schefter reminded listeners that other prospects can emerge as top options with an impressive fall season. McShay pointed out that this past season Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett went from being seen as a mid-round prospect to being the top quarterback being taken in the draft — he went No. 20 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Every year there’s one-two quarterbacks that kind of have that big breakout year,” McShay said.
In the 2021 NFL draft, that was BYU’s Wilson. After leading the Cougars to an 11-1 record and a top 15 finish, Wilson emerged as a top QB prospect and went No. 2 overall to the New York Jets.