The top of the quarterback position in the 2023 has been set for some time. Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud have long been considered the top two passers in the country since the start of the 2022 season.
Bryce Young is seen as a riskier prospect due to his size, but his football IQ, passing ability, and production in the clutch have been hard to ignore. The NFL has been dominated in recent years by quarterbacks who can win when the play breaks down, and that’s when Young has been at his best.
But is that enough for teams to overlook concerns regarding his size and durability?
Prospect: Bryce Young (9)
Games Watched: vs. Georgia (2021), vs. Texas (2022), vs. Mississippi State (2022), vs. Auburn (2022)
Red Flags: Sprained AC joint (2022)
Games Played: 34
Completions: 624 (65.8 percent)
Yards (YPA): 8,356 (8.8 per attempt)
Games Played: 12
Completions: 245 (64.5 percent)
Yards (YPA): 3,328 (8.8 per attempt)
Best: Football IQ, accuracy, anticipation, arm talent, athleticism, competitive toughness
Worst: Size, decision making/over-aggression
Projection: A starting quarterback with Pro Bowl upside.
Alabama’s Bryce Young is a smart, accurate, athletic and highly competitive quarterback prospect.
While Young is a physical outlier for an NFL quarterback, he has been very productive since becoming Alabama’s starter. He’s thrown for over eight thousand yards (at 8.8 yards per attempt) and 80 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions over the course of his tenure as the Crimson Tide’s starter.
Young combines good athleticism and throwing mechanics with a high football IQ to facilitate Alabama’s offense. While RPO plays and bubble screens are certainly featured in Alabama’s offense, it also features more “Pro Style” concepts than is common for college offenses. Young was frequently asked to make full-field progression reads and is at his best when doing so. He visibly scans the whole field and quickly diagnoses the defense. Young also has impressive eye discipline and is savvy enough to use both his eyes and body language to manipulate the defense. He has very good field awareness and knows to hold defenders in the secondary with his eyes just long enough to create opportunities for his receivers. There were also several instances of Young using the umpire as an obstacle for defenders in the middle of the field, effectively using the official himself to create a rub route.
Young is excellent at navigating the pocket, using his agility and quick feet to slide and avoid pressure that leaks through his protection or adjust his sight lines and passing lanes. His football IQ allows him to understand where both his receiver and the defenders should be post snap and he throws with uncommon anticipation for a college prospect.
Young has a good arm and is a mechanically sound passer. He consistently takes the time to align his feet and hips with his target and is very good at generating power from the ground up. He has a crisp throwing motion and typically uses an “over the top” release to compensate for his height. Young is capable of driving the ball accurately down the field, as well as taking power off the ball and throwing timing passes with touch. His mechanics allow him to be an accurate passer and precisely place the ball. He is also capable of making accurate throws on the run and off-platform.
While Young isn’t a “dual threat” quarterback who routinely carries the ball on read-option or designed quarterback run plays, he is capable of hurting the defense with his legs. Young generally runs to throw, using his legs to extend plays while he keeps his eyes downfield. He’s a very active communicator after the snap, often directing traffic downfield while evading rushers in the backfield. He has the ability to turn a broken play into backyard football and gash defenses when going off-script. Young is a solid runner when he pulls the ball down and has to pick up yardage himself. He has solid field vision, good balance, and enough speed to pick up chunk yardage if there isn’t a quarterback spy.
Young is a very competitive player as a passer and as a ball carrier. He doesn’t appear to become over-excited in high leverage situations, and his level of play doesn’t drop as pressure mounts.
That said, Young’s competitiveness also leads to the biggest flaw in his game. He is willing to stand in the pocket or take on contact as a runner, and while that isn’t an inherently bad thing, it can lead to unnecessary hits. Young will need to learn to make better decisions regarding when to give up on a play or when to get down as a runner and avoid big hits.
Young is also an undeniably small quarterback. He is much shorter than the NFL’s archetype and has a relatively slender frame as well. There will be concerns regarding his durability at the NFL level. Young suffered a sprained AC joint during the 2022 season, and not only might that confirm some teams’ fears, they will want to do their due diligence on his long-term prognosis. Young was able to use his athleticism to compensate for his short stature and find sight lines between his offensive linemen, but there will also be concerns regarding his ability to survey the field without resorting to bootleg rollouts. Much of Young’s accuracy in college was due to his high football IQ and anticipation as a passer. More advanced defenses at the NFL level could play on that and cause problems for him if he’s slow adjusting.
Overall Grade: 8.9
Bryce Young projects as a starting quarterback at the NFL level, with Pro Bowl upside.
Teams could vary wildly in their assessments of Young due to his size (or lack thereof). His lack of height and slight frame could make him a relatively risky prospect at the top of the draft, at least in the eyes of some teams. He lacks the sheer size of other quarterback prospects and there will be fears of injury or an inability to properly scan the field and diagnose the defense.
However, Young’s football IQ, arm talent, and athleticism are undeniable as well, and more than compensated for his stature at the collegiate level..
He has the ability to execute complex offensive concepts, diagnose and manipulate the defense, and win from both within the pocket and while improvising after a play breaks down. The moment never seems too big for Young and he’s played some of his best football when the pressure rises. Those traits are difficult to accurately measure, but they could make Young the best quarterback in this draft class.
Size aside, Young has many of the same traits as some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today. He has immense potential, but his size makes him an outlier and that carries potential risk on the field and also for whichever GM selects him. It remains to be seen whether Young’s potential reward outweighs that risk for the teams at the top of the draft.