The 2025 NFL Draft is still well over a year away, but the decision by Riley Leonard to transfer to Notre Dame has analysts speculating about two Springs from now. Is Leonard really in the conversation as a Day 1 pick? A look at the tape shows promise, plus clear areas for improvement, as well.
Riley Leonard: A Young QB Oozing Potential
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound quarterback passes the eye test with flying colors. Leonard stands tall in the pocket. He has a knack for lowering his shoulder and churning out yardage as a runner with that massive frame. At Duke, the Fairhope, Alabama native exuded grit and a fiery personality that his teammates rallied around.
Leonard can sling the football all over the field. He fits tight windows when necessary, and although his deep ball is inconsistent at this point, the former Blue Devil has ample arm strength to hit strikes 20+ yards downfield. A quick release and creative arm angles make for exciting plays on tape.
Where Leonard must improve is the technical side of things. Few will doubt his physical abilities, but the young signal-caller is inconsistent from the pocket. His footwork can be choppy, including “happy feet” when the pocket begins breaking down.
Furthermore, Leonard locks on to his targets in the passing game, allowing defenders to jump routes and create turnover-worthy plays. As a runner, it’s inspiring to see the big-bodied athlete barrel through oncoming tacklers, but learning to slide will be crucial for his long-term health.
Could Leonard Go No. 1 Overall At The 2025 NFL Draft? Will He Win A Heisman Trophy In The Process?
Notre Dame hit the jackpot with Leonard. Going from Sam Hartman, a respectable veteran quarterback in his own right, to a player with Leonard’s skillset is a night and day difference. The hope for head coach Marcus Freeman is that his coaching staff can develop the 21-year-old and smooth out any rough edges.
The Fighting Irish beat out Texas A&M, among other high-profile programs around the country. When the Aggies hired former Duke head coach Mike Elko a few weeks ago, many began floating the idea that Leonard would follow him to College Station. Alas, that was not in the cards, and now Notre Dame benefits mightily.
The jury is still out on Riley Leonard and his viability as a potential No. 1 overall pick at the 2025 NFL Draft. However, for the time being, going undefeated and leading the Irish to a College Football Playoff berth is likely at the top of the to-do list. Who knows? Maybe even a Heisman trophy awaits Leonard in South Bend.
It would be the first Heisman for a Notre Dame player since Tim Brown in 1987. Add in the fact that most recent winners of the award transferred at some point, and it paints an even clearer picture. Between being a first-rounder, to hoisting the Heisman, the stars are aligned for a breakout campaign from Leonard.