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Detroit Lions 2023 draft watch: Will Levis vs. Anthony Richardson featured in primetime

It’s only Week 2 of the college football season but NFL draft fans are already in for a treat as two of the best quarterback prospects will go head-to-head on Saturday night.

NCAA Football: Miami (Ohio) at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday’s watch list of college football (September 10) will feature several intriguing games, but the must-watch game for Detroit Lions fans this week features a head-to-head matchup between two quarterbacks who are arguably among the top-five signal callers in this draft class: Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson.

Both are potential first-round picks, and regardless of what happens with Jared Goff this season, it’s always good football business to be familiar with the top quarterbacks in every draft cycle. If you missed our previous article highlighting 25 quarterbacks to watch this season, be sure to give it a bookmark.

Here are the featured games on this week’s watchlist include:

  • Alabama (1) at Texas at 12 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Kentucky (20) at Florida (12) at 7 p.m ET on ESPN
  • Baylor (9) at BYU (21) at 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

Alright, let’s get to this week’s profiles.

Feature game: Kentucky (20) at Florida (12)

Let’s just start right at the top with this week’s feature game.

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky (Senior)

6-foot-4, 230 pounds

After being stuck as a reserve at Penn State for three years, Levis transferred to Kentucky ahead of the 2021 season, immediately won the starting job, and led the Wildcats to a 10-win season.

An NFL prototype in size, strength, and athleticism, Levis has the arm talent to make throws at every level, an extremely quick release, and has shown the ability to improve throughout the season. What he lacks is experience—only starting 16 games (13 last season, one this season)—, consistency on rhythm throws, and has thrown 11 interceptions in 14 games while at Kentucky.

Last season, while working under offensive coordinator Liam Coen (who is now the Los Angles Rams offensive coordinator), Levis saw his game expand immensely as he showed capable of operating an NFL offense. Despite Coen leaving, Levis’ game isn’t expected to have setbacks, as Kentucky’s new offensive coordinator is Rich Scangarello, who has eight years of NFL experience, most recently as the 49ers' quarterbacks coach, but he was also the Broncos’ offensive coordinator in 2019.

In Levis’ season opener, he displayed some serious improvement in is his processing skills.

Levis is still fine-tuning his game, and with a new scheme, there are bound to be some hiccups along the way. But he is dripping with talent, and if his development stays on the current trajectory, he’ll be headed towards a first-round selection.

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida (Redshirt sophomore)

6-foot-4, 240 pounds

In 2021, Richardson backed up Emory Jones (now at Arizona State), but as Jones struggled, Richardson saw his opportunities for snaps rise. When Jones dropped the ball against LSU, coaches called on Richardson to show what he could do, and he burst onto the scene with a clearly higher level of quarterback play.

Now the unquestioned starter, Richardson entered the season ready to show he can expand on his minimal experience—he only had 66 passing attempts ahead of 2022—and it didn’t take long for him to announce his presence, knocking off No. 7 Utah last week.

Richardson is blessed with natural talent and athleticism. He has a powerful arm, and there doesn’t seem to be an area of the field he can’t reach when he uncorks the ball. He has a fluid throwing technique, and his accuracy is solid, but he also isn’t being pushed too hard by Florida coaches to get outside his comfort zone just yet.

As a runner, Richardson really separates himself from a lot of the quarterbacks in this class. He is big enough to run through tackles, yet silky enough to slip into space, then has the speed to flat out go. Against Utah, he had over 100 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.

Still incredibly raw, but loaded with talent, his situation reminds me a bit of how the league approached Trey Lance a few seasons back. And if Richardson continues to prove he can develop, the redshirt sophomore could eventually hear his name called in a similar range.

Alabama (1) at Texas

The first game of the afternoon features one of the best running backs in the country up against arguably one of, if not the top senior linebacker in this draft class.

Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas (Junior)

6-foot-0, 220 pounds

A one-cut downhill runner, Robinson is elusive in the open field and a tackle breaker who often initiates contact. His quickness to a spot and decisiveness to attack the right hole is a thing of beauty. Now, I’m not advocating for drafting a running back high, but with the way the position has been devalued in recent drafts, it’s worth knowing what his proper value will be.

Henry To’o To’o, LB, Alabama (Senior)

6-foot-1, 230 pounds

I profiled To’o To’o during his junior season in 2021 and I still feel confident with the evaluation I made at that time:

He flows to the ball, showcasing speed, fluidity and range the NFL is searching for in a new-age linebacker. A leader on defense, he has MIKE traits due to his high football intelligence and fearlessness operating over the middle. He works his way through traffic as a run defender and is comfortable in coverage, giving him three-down potential at the next level.

You won’t have to look hard to find To’o To’o because he’s always flowing to the ball.

Bonus: DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas (Senior)

6-foot-3, 223 pounds

In that same piece where I profiled To’o To’o, I also profiled Overshown, one of my favorites from last year:

Overshown is a long, fluid, speedy athlete with a tremendous burst that is evident when Texas sends him on blitzes. Like (Brian) Asamoah (Vikings third round pick in 2022), Overshown likes to bring the woodshed with him on tackles, and he relies on his natural instincts to put him in the right spots. He is still adding weight, but at his size, he often struggles to get off blocks, though that should improve with experience and muscle (he has the frame to add good weight).

Baylor (9) at BYU (21)

Keep your eyes on the trenches.

Siaki Ika, NT, Baylor (redshirt Junior)

6-foot-4, 354 pounds

If the Lions are planning on keeping Alim McNeill at the 3-technique, which it appears like they are, they will likely be in the market to upgrade nose tackles Isaiah Buggs and Benito Jones.

Enter all 354 pounds of Siaki Ika.

Ika, like McNeill, is a 1-through-3-technique who can both one and two-gap. He has an elite first step and power in his hands. He doesn’t have the game speed of Eagles’ first-round pick Jordan Davis (Georgia), but he’s in the conversation with Buccaneer's nose tackle Vita Vea as far as upside.

Blake Freeland, LT, BYU (Senior)

6-foot-8, 307 pounds

A former basketball player and track star, Freeland was a high school quarterback and tight end before switching to the offensive line just four years ago. He found the field early at BYU, starting 15 games at right tackle over his first two seasons, but he jumped to left tackle in 2021 and registered another 13 starts.

An athlete who can play both sides of the line and in multiple schemes, the only thing that might keep Freeland off the Lions’ radar would be his stock rising too high.