The NFL is always a quarterback-hungry league. Teams are always looking for top players who can be “the guy” and lead their franchise on a rookie deal.
The top of the quarterback depth chart in the 2023 NFL Draft is pretty much set. There might be some jockeying for position among the top prospects, but the top four names are unlikely to change on draft day. After that, however, is where the intrigue sets in. There’s a host of prospects with both intriguing traits that teams could develop and warts that are keeping them out of the upper tiers of prospects.
Stanford’s Tanner McKee will almost certainly have fans around the NFL due to his size and arm strength. He simply looks like an NFL quarterback, and that could go a long way on draft day. But does he have the traits to develop into a starter?
Prospect: Tanner McKee (18)
Games Watched: vs. Washington (2021), vs. USC (2022), vs. Washington (2022), vs. Cal (2022)
Weight: 228 pounds
Games Played: 23
Completions (percentage): 473 (63.2 percent)
Yards (YPA): 5,336 (7.1 per attempt)
Games Played: 12
Completions (percentage): 264 (62.0 percent)
Yards (YPC): 2,947 (6.9 per attempt)
Best: Size, arm talent, precision
Worst: Athleticism, processing speed
Projection: A developmental quarterback in a “pro style” offense.
Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee offers prototypical size and good arm talent to play the position at the NFL level.
McKee is a big, tall quarterback at 6-foot-6, 228 pounds, with an NFL caliber arm. He is a classic “pocket” quarterback who is at his most comfortable when he’s able to survey the field and play with rhythm. McKee
He has enough arm strength to drive the ball downfield on deep routes or across the field from one hash to outside the opposite numbers. While his throwing motion isn’t exactly compact given his frame, it is relatively crisp and repeatable. He uses a three-quarters release to keep his throwing motion from being too elongated and shows some ability to throw from varying arm slots.
McKee has enough arm strength to drive the ball down the field on deep out or fade routes. He is also a savvy enough passer to realize that he doesn’t always need to throw the ball as hard as he can. McKee does a good job of throwing the ball with touch and layering it between defenders on intermediate range throws. He is comfortable executing back-shoulder throws and does a good job of putting the ball where only his receiver can make a play on it.
McKee is a competitive quarterback who isn’t afraid to look for the big play, as well as to challenge tight coverages.
While McKee is able to execute bootlegs and roll outs, he is not an athletic quarterback. McKee lacks speed, agility, and quickness as an athlete, and appears awkward when forced to play outside of the pocket. He also shouldn’t be asked to execute read-option plays or designed quarterback runs, as he doesn’t have the acceleration to be an effective runner.
McKee can also appear slow to process the defense. His mesh points seem overly long, and he shows visible indecision when post-snap reads aren’t what he expects. He has a tendency to double-clutch the ball when trying to parse unexpected reads, giving defenders time to close down on receiving windows. McKee can also look through defenders leading to ill-advised pass attempts and turnovers.
Overall Grade: 6.4
Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee projects as a developmental quarterback to begin his career. His greatest upside is likely in a classic “Pro Style” offense built on West Coast or Air Coryell concepts.
McKee has a number of traits that will certainly appeal to NFL evaluators. He has great size and immediately passes the “eye test”, which is sure to get him immediate attention. He also throws a very catchable ball, with the ability to throw with timing, touch, accuracy, and precision to most areas of the field. He has the ability to place the ball where only his receiver can make a play on it, as well as set his skill position players up for yards after the catch.
McKee looks like an NFL quarterback when he’s able to play in rhythm and within the structure of the offense.
However, his need for development emerges when he’s forced outside of the structure of the offense. McKee’s process slows down considerably when he’s sorting through unexpected post-snap reads. He can also be prone to ill-advised throws when he simply doesn’t see defenders dropping into coverage or gets overly aggressive.
McKee is purely a pocket passer and will struggle if asked to execute an offense that relies heavily on an athletic quarterback. He is an awkward athlete who lacks the quickness and agility to routinely play outside of the pocket, as well as the speed to carry the ball on quarterback runs. McKee has traits with which teams will want to work and develop. At his best, it’s possible to see him on the field for an NFL team. However, those flashes are broken up by him holding the ball too long or putting it in harm’s way. If he can’t overcome those low points, he may never be more than a back-up quarterback.