(Will Levis participates in UK's annual Spring Game via UK Athletics)
Yes, you read that headline correctly. In fact, I had to read it twice when I saw it too. I was in complete shock when I read this morning that a CBS writer had Kentucky's Will Levis as the future No. 1 overall pick in his NFL 2023 Mock Draft.
Not shocked as in I don't think that it's possible, because anything is possible, but if you came to me today and asked me if I thought it was going to happen, I'd say there is not a chance in hell. Hang on a minute, let me step back a second and not go too hard on our QB, so I'll elaborate. In the most due respect possible to Mr. Levis, that's just one of those things that is not very common around the streets of Lexington in the football world. In fact, it'll be exactly 24 years removed from Kentucky's last quarterback (or any position) to get drafted as the top pick in a NFL Draft once next year's comes around. To double-down on that, Kentucky has only had three first round picks get selected under Mark Stoops during his tenure here, so to say a player is going to be the very first pick is not taken lightly. That's big praise for the Wildcats' fans, and they're not just going to pass over it like they would in basketball.
Of course, I want it to happen as much as the next guy does, but I'm just honestly caught off guard with his rapid rise in the draft boards this offseason. He wasn't projected on any boards as a Penn State backup entering the transfer portal (obviously), so folks are just going off this past season alone. While he definitely had one of the biggest jumps of any transfer in college football last season, he definitely had his flaws that needed to be worked on. His inability to throw accurate long balls and his awareness in the pocket are things that he needs to capitalize on this summer. Granted, not all of that was his fault. He didn't have much of a wide receiver room outside of Wan'Dale Robinson and Josh Ali. Also, his offensive line dealt with injuries all year long. I think with both of those two points worked out, he can definitely be one of college football's top players next year without a doubt. He still was held in high regards this year even with dealing with the two things I just mentioned, but he isn't "number one overall pick" level just yet, in my opinion.
Seeing that mock draft this morning had me wondering, what made Chris Trapasso have the confidence to tab him as the top pick in next year's draft? After some thinking and looking at what next season has in store for the Kentucky program, I've pinpointed it to two specific things: the wide receiving group coming in and the experience he has under his belt. Yes, Kentucky lost Wan'Dale Robinson (NFL Draft) and Josh Ali (Graduation) from last year's group, but they're replacing all of that if not more with this year's group. The additions Alabama transfer Javon Baker, Virginia Tech transfer Tayvion Robinson, alongside freshmen Dane Key and Barion Brown, plus sophomore Dekel Crowdus, backed by returning contributors Chris Lewis, Clevan Thomas and Chauncey Magwood, I think he's going to be pretty comfortable in the pocket.
The defense won't have one player to target like they did with Wan'Dale last year, and the tinkering from new UK offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello can help Levis dial in on those deep balls. He already has the short passing game down, and not to forget, his run game is impeccable as is, so he really will just be trying to improve that one category this season and he's got everything he needs to do it. He just has to go out and actually do it.
The second point, one that's just as important, is his experience. With experience comes confidence, and we all know Will Levis thrives under confidence. I can easily see why scouts and coaches from the NFL have high admirations for Will because he doesn't seem to be scared of any big moment. We saw him embrace the spotlight here, embrace taking on NFL linemen still in college across the SEC on a weekly basis and absolutely kill it in any media opportunity on or off the field. The kid gets it, and with already having 10 wins and a bowl ring in his arsenal, I don't see why he won't be the most confident player on the field every single game this fall. That trait is something that is very hard to be taught, and with him having that naturally, it has to be intriguing as we watch him use it to his advantage. If he can emphasize the two points this season, then the conversation starts to get interesting.
With all that being said, I think we need to pump the brakes just a little on the "number one overall pick" debate, and plant our feet firmly on the ground, holding up the signs that he'll be a "first round pick" while we hang on to the opportunity to move him higher into the top-ten area based on what we see from him this season. He's proved a lot already in his one year, but he's got a lot more to prove, and with the recent hire of offensive coordinator and quarterback specialist, Rich Scangarello, I think he has all the tools he needs to give him the best chance to accomplish that. So, don't take this as hate piece, because it is in no way is one, but I just find myself a little hesitant with these projections as we're sitting here in May... I guess that's just what comes with these way too early mock drafts, amirite?