2023 NFL Draft: Another Crop of Talented Signal-Callers is on the Way

2023 NFL Mock Draft, 2023 NFL Draft, C.J. Stroud.Syndication The Columbus Dispatch
2023 NFL Mock Draft, 2023 NFL Draft, C.J. Stroud.Syndication The Columbus Dispatch /
5 of 5
Louisville’s Malik Cunningham runs to get loose during an open practice Wednesday. March 23, 2022Louisvillepracticeopen 09
Louisville’s Malik Cunningham runs to get loose during an open practice Wednesday. March 23, 2022Louisvillepracticeopen 09 /


Malik Cunningham (Louisville)

Malik Cunningham is not Lamar Jackson, let’s get that out of the way quickly. He’s not Teddy Bridgewater, either. That being said, he is a great blend of both former Louisville quarterbacks. Cunningham impacts the game as much as a passer as he does as a runner.

Cunningham has truly grown as a passer the past two seasons, completing ~63% of his passes in over 600 combined attempts. As a runner, he eclipsed the 1000-yard mark in 2021. He came up 28 yards shy of producing 4000 all-purpose yards on the season, which is absurd. Not only that, he tallied a total of 39 touchdowns as well.

If you’re wondering to yourself “wow, that sounds familiar, why have I not heard of this guy?”, the answer is two-fold. He is not the archetype that scouts look for in a quarterback, even in today’s NFL. The other reason? The Louisville Cardinals struggled to win six games last season, meaning that they were not regularly put on national television.

I’m not quite ready to start up the “Malik Cunningham for Heisman” talks just yet, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a thought. If Cunningham can continue improving as a passer and the team can find their way into the win column more often in 2022, we may see another Louisville player force their way into being an early draft pick.

Jaren Hall (BYU)

The BYU Cougars sent Zach Wilson to the NFL Draft in 2021, making him the first quarterback drafted since John Beck in 2007 for the program. There is a guy on campus right now that is hoping to add his name to this shortlist. Jaren Hall is his name, and if you haven’t heard of him yet, you are about to in 2022.

Hall took over for Wilson as the starter, posting solid numbers as a passer and as a runner. On the ground, Hall used his athleticism to record five yards-per-carry and frequently used his quick release and strong arm to put up 2500+ passing yards. His 20:5 TD: INT ratio shows that Hall is smart with his decision-making, too.

For Hall to replicate the rise of Zach Wilson, he must refine his technique as a pocket passer. From progressions, to mechanics, to keeping his eyes downfield, there is a lot to improve upon for Hall. The Cougar’s offense is set to be a big play unit yet again in 2022, and they will go as far as Hall can take them.

Anthony Richardson (Florida)

To be clear, Richardson is a better prospect than most in the prior tiers, so don’t let the fact that he is this far down paint the wrong picture. The reason he is placed in the wildcard category is that he has such little experience in college. To date, Richardson has never actually started a full game for the Gators.

In 2021, he did see the field rather often, but could never really find a groove due to the inconsistency that Dan Mullen’s offense dealt with all season. Even though the statistics are virtually nonexistent, his traits ooze off of the screen when you watch the film.

Richardson is a world-class athlete, and his arm talent is electric when given the opportunity to showcase it. The clear negative, aside from a lack of experience, is the fact that Richardson has yet to exhibit accuracy from the pocket. Ultimately, it’s all projection with the explosive quarterback right now, but there is a realistic path up the rankings for Richardson given his rare traits.

Cameron Ward (Washington State)

The Washington State Cougars sent Jacob Eason to the NFL in 2020, resulting in a fourth-round selection for the big-armed quarterback. The new, talented Wazzou signal-caller, Cameron Ward, will be looking to go even earlier in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Ward just arrived on campus in January after transferring over from Incarnate Word. During his time with the small school, Ward put up video game numbers consistently. Now, he enters as the QB1 for the squad and will have a great chance to make a name for himself nationally by beating up on the porous PAC-12 defenses.

Ward possesses the arm strength and the athleticism to terrorize the Pac-12. The 6’2, 220-pound quarterback is one of the biggest wildcards in the entire draft class. Keep an eye on him each week during the late slate of college football games.

Potential Small School Risers

Jake Haener (Fresno State)

Fresno State has two first-round quarterbacks in school history: Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer and former No. 1 overall pick, David Carr. Carr’s brother, Derek, is the current Raiders signal-caller and he went in the second round himself in 2014. Since then, things have been quiet for the Bulldogs in the NFL Draft.

Jake Haener figures to be the next in line for Day Two consideration. Haener doesn’t play the stiffest of competition with Fresno State, but his numbers in 2021 were impressive nonetheless. His 67.1% completion, 4096 passing yards, and 33 passing touchdowns all rank inside the top four all-time for the program, behind only the Carr brothers.

He chose to stay in school and use his extra year of eligibility that was granted to any player who played in 2020. To continue putting his name in the same breath as the Carr brothers, Haener must improve on his deep ball accuracy, considering many of his completions were quick-hit type of plays. He has the mentality and talent to be a starter in the league if he improves in a few key areas.

Grayson McCall (Coastal Carolina)

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers have quietly been one of the most successful programs over the past two seasons. The team has won 22 games and lost only three in that span. Quarterback Grayson McCall has been the guiding light for the offense, starting in 22 of those games for the school, and posting a 20-2 record.

His numbers jump off the page, as he completed over 70% of his passes and combined for 5361 yards through the air and 53 touchdown tosses in that timeframe. McCall also is an underrated runner and tends to make something out of nothing when the play breaks down.

It remains to be seen if McCall can be the guy for an NFL franchise, but his winning pedigree will go a long way towards winning over NFL scouts. Even if he isn’t as “traitsy” as others, or as refined, there’s still plenty to like with the Coastal Carolina quarterback. We’ll see if he can improve even more and become only the 10th player taken in the NFL Draft in program history.