Which quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft could be the next Brock Purdy?
While it is unlikely that the NFL will ever see another story exactly like Brock Purdy’s, a quarterback who was literally the last pick of the draft and then as a rookie leads a team into the NFC Championship game and nearly the Super Bowl if not for an injury, it won’t be the last time that we hear of a late-round steal at the position who takes the league by storm.
We may not have to wait as long between the Tom Brady and Purdy stories for the next late-round draft pick who shocks the football world by being much better than his draft status.
That’s because college football has changed immensely in the last few years, as the transfer portal (which allows athletes to go to new programs and play immediately rather than having to sit out a year) and NIL deals (which lets amateur athletes get paid for their Name, Image, and Likeness) have turned that level of the sport into something more closely resembling the NFL and free agency.
Those changes could make it harder for teams to evaluate quarterbacks coming into the league, as not only could they be hopping from one system to another—as we saw with 2022 prospects Malik Willis and Bailey Zappe, and now 2023 prospects Will Levis and Hendon Hooker—but now some of them are already making millions of dollars before they get to the league. How does that impact a player’s focus and motivation?
Could it be an advantage to not have that distraction if you’re one of the prospects flying under the radar and being disregarded during draft season? With so much attention on the quarterbacks being touted as first-round picks like Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Levis, it could end up being another late-round pick who finds the best team and situation.
And the 2023 NFL Draft class has some fascinating quarterbacks not getting a fraction of the buzz that their first-round counterparts are receiving.
Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia
While it is true that as a two-time National Champion, Stetson Bennett is hardly under the radar or lacking in sponsorship opportunities…
There are still plenty of skeptics out there who believe he could fall to the sixth or seventh round, if not go undrafted. Though Bennett is an incredible college football story—a former two-star high school recruit who walked on at Georgia, transferred to a community college, transferred back to Georgia, and had to work his way up the depth chart to being a starter multiple times before ultimately winning back-to-back National Championships—he’s still lacking a quality resume for NFL Draft prospects.
And he’s older than Jalen Hurts.
Bennett will turn 26 in October, making him one of the oldest players in the draft. He lacks size — you will hear a lot of those concerns about potential No. 1 pick Bryce Young, but Bennett is even smaller at 5’11, 192 lbs. He lacks arm strength and his accuracy has been extremely inconsistent, as he can look like a future pro in one game and then like a walk-on by the next. To top it off, a January arrest for public intoxication doesn’t help his argument to become a team’s franchise quarterback.
On the other hand, Bennett is a two-time national champion whose SEC Championship and College Football Playoffs resume over the past two seasons includes these numbers over six games: 130-of-194, 1,853 yards (308 yards per game), 19 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 6-0 record against Alabama (twice), Michigan, LSU, Ohio State, and TCU.
Like Purdy, Bennett could actually be a really interesting fit in a Kyle Shanahan-style offense. It could even behoove a team that drafts a quarterback in the first round to double down on Bennett in the sixth. He already has a lot of fans pounding the table for him just based on his ability to “win games,” for whatever that may be worth.
Max Duggan, TCU
Speaking of winning games, Duggan is also riding the high of appearing in the National Championship, and he also brings an immense amount of experience with him to the next level. That’s a trait that Bennett and Duggan will both share with Purdy, a four-year starter at Iowa State who didn’t have outstanding numbers or traits, but did play on a big stage many times over.
Duggan, who measured 6’1, 207 lbs. at the combine and ran a surprisingly fast 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, had a sub-.500 record with mediocre stats prior to 2022. That put him into a quarterback competition before the season that Duggan ended up losing to transfer Chandler Morris, probably ending any hopes that Duggan had of realizing his NFL dreams. But Morris was injured against Colorado in TCU’s season opener, putting Duggan back under center for an unexpected and historic run to the College Football Playoffs.
#TCU head coach Sonny Dykes said that he anticipates QB Chandler Morris will be ready to play against OU but that Max Duggan will start, as of now.
— Charles Baggarly (@swaggarly) September 27, 2022
Duggan would throw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions over the next three games, including a 55-24 win over 18th-ranked Oklahoma. The next week, he beat 19th-ranked Kansas, then 8th-ranked Oklahoma State, then 17th-ranked Kansas State.
By the end of the year, Duggan had started for TCU in seven wins over ranked opponents, including a 51-45 victory over Michigan to reach the National Championship game. Not that it is good to lose to Georgia 65-7, but at least it is Georgia.
Duggan gets knocked for size, traits, arm strength, fooling defenses, decisions, and his deep ball. He gets praised for toughness, dual-threat abilities, off-schedule throws, and intangibles. When being compared to Purdy, it’s a prerequisite to not “look like” an NFL quarterback and to not project as a future starter, but to be a great leader who isn’t afraid of the big stage — a guy who simply needs to drop into the right system.
That sounds like Max Duggan. What if he stayed in Texas, landing in Houston as a third-string option and playing for offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, Purdy’s pass game coordinator with the 49ers last season?
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
If experience is the attribute teams are looking for in the next Brock Purdy, then nobody has as much as DTR. Playing for former NFL head coach Chip Kelly the entire time, Thompson-Robinson started five seasons at UCLA from 2018 to 2022, playing in 49 games and attempting 1,359 passes with 471 rushing attempts.
He’s experienced, he’s familiar with NFL concepts, he’s 6’2 with a 4.56 40-yard dash, he got better every year in college and he’s got a YouTube channel. What else could you ask for in a late-round gem?
DTR’s draft value is hard to pin down, as he has not gotten a single mention as a first-round pick, and that usually means that a quarterback isn’t getting a lot of buzz for Rounds 2 or 3 either. I mean, if Hendon Hooker is getting some late first-round love, that indicates that he could at least be off the board early in Round 2. It doesn’t always happen that way, but are there any teams considering Thompson-Robinson with a Day 2 pick if they happen to pass on quarterbacks in the first round?
Perhaps. Despite not getting a lot of love in mock drafts, DTR has fans all over the media calling him a sleeper, including Chris Simms, who essentially ranked him over Will Levis and only a hair behind Anthony Richardson in his 2023 QB rankings.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein only projects a ceiling as a decent backup quarterback with a probable outcome as a QB3/practice squad type though. So that’s where DTR might end up going in the fifth round or later, which only makes him good bait to be compared to Purdy if he lands in a great situation with familiar offensive concepts and schemes.
And any team that drafts DTR is probably going to rank him higher because he’s familiar with their offense on some level. How about Press Taylor, the offensive coordinator for the Jaguars? He worked as an offensive quality control coach under Kelly on the Eagles for three seasons and Jacksonville could be looking for competition with C.J. Beathard behind Trevor Lawrence.
Tyson Bagent, Shepherd
If you’re just looking for “the most unlikely hero” at quarterback in this—or almost any—draft class, then Tyson Bagent is the closest player to a Purdy-sized shock as you’re going to get. He’s potentially on the verge of becoming one of the only Division II quarterbacks to ever get drafted.
Not FCS quarterbacks. That would still be Division I, just a level below the FBS. Bagent is a Division II quarterback who plays for a school that most people have never heard of, Shepherd University. But he is a legit NFL prospect, and just because he may not have gone toe-to-toe every week with future pro football players—take Josh Allen, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Kurt Warner as only a few of many examples—it doesn’t end his dreams to ascend beyond college.
It just lowers his odds dramatically. What increases Bagent’s odds above almost any other QB at his level: It’s one of those unusual situations where it seems the bigger schools didn’t know what they were missing, and yet he has the traits and a dominant college career to make an NFL roster this year.
Bagent is 6’3, 213 lbs., posted good numbers at the combine, earning an invitation despite playing at Shepherd because he set several NCAA records: 158 career touchdowns is the most ever by any quarterback at any level. Bagent also threw 2,040 passes over four years, completing 68% for 17,034 yards, and last year he had 41 touchdowns against just eight interceptions, and he rushed for five more scores.
He probably gets his best attribute as a QB from his father Travis, one of the world’s all-time greatest arm wrestlers.
A team will most likely take a chance on Bagent despite not measuring up against many other NFL players thus far in his life. But given some time in a pro system against pro players in practice, we’ve seen that quarterbacks who know how to dominate on a field will sometimes figure it out as they get more experience against the best of the best.
Jaren Hall, BYU
With age comes experience, and Jaren Hall brings plenty of both. At 25, Hall is one of the oldest prospects in this draft class after having spent two years on mission prior to enrolling at BYU in 2018. He would spend the next three years backing up Zach Wilson and then picking up where Wilson left off as one of the top-rated passers in the country.
Over two seasons as the Cougars’ starter, Hall completed 65 percent of his attempts with 51 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and 657 rushing yards through 22 starts. Hall had 31 touchdowns and six picks last season, ranking 11th in passing efficiency and ahead of quarterbacks like Will Levis, Bennett, Duggan, DTR, and Michael Penix. His numbers were practically identical to Bryce Young’s.
Scouts rave about his confidence, touch, decision making, and he’s one of the top athletes at the position in the draft. But given his age, lack of arm strength, his size at 6’, 207 lbs., and the fact that his stats are coming out of “the Zach Wilson system”, Hall is drawing more comparisons to Gardner Minshew than Purdy.
Which is not bad! If the Colts had to play a game today, Minshew would be their starter and coincidentally or not, Indianapolis has taken a close look at Hall in the pre-draft process.
I don’t think people who have watched Hall in the last two years would be at all surprised if he had to come into an NFL game in relief and led his team to victory. Sometimes that’s all you need to fit the Purdy formula—as well as going late in the draft, which is where Hall and these other prospects could find themselves.
It may not be the worst situation for them if they do.