Examining Daniel Jones replacements in loaded 2023 NFL Draft

By | May 8, 2022
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The most in-demand Giants’ ticket of the year might be to get aboard the runaway hype train speeding toward the 2023 NFL Draft.

A recent combination of decisions — declining Daniel Jones’ fifth-year contract option and not drafting a quarterback — somehow created a dangerous narrative that the Giants’ search for a franchise quarterback is about to end one way or another: either Jones signs a contract extension After finally saving his worth in 2022, or the Giants will choose from the spoils of a deep quarterback crop without having to tank for the No. 1 pick.

Sounds like a win-win for a team with 59 losses in the last five seasons.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. recently predicted that at least seven quarterbacks will be selected in the first round of the 2023 draft, which would eclipse the six (three Hall of Famers) from 1983. The 2018 and 2021 drafts — responsible for nine of the current 32 starters — wouldn’ t compare.

But are there really that many good options? Or is this build-up an overreaction to 2022, when only one quarterback was drafted in the top 72 picks?

“The depth is real,” draft analyst Matt Miller said. “The players are so much better — better size, better arm strength, better production. Sure, some of these guys are going to tail off, and one or two will come out of nowhere, but there are about 15 quarterbacks worth scouting right now. We knew last year at this time that wasn’t the case.”

Here comes a warning: A survey of reputable 2022 mock drafts from last May showed seven different projected first-round quarterbacks. In reality, three of them lost starting jobs and transferred schools, three slipped into the middle rounds of the draft and one went undrafted. Kenny Pickett, the only actual first-rounder, was nowhere to be found.

“There are people that are desperate for a good quarterback class because of how underwhelming this class was,” draft analyst Jordan Reid said. “There’s excitement heading into the year, but look what happened last year. We have two guys at the top who I think are going to have really good years, assuming they stay healthy. After that, it’s a toss-up.”

The Post asked Miller and Reid — both of whom work for ESPN — as well as a few team personnel sources for the quarterbacks to watch in 2023. Most NFL scouting departments will not fully dive into 2023 prospects until next month, and most coaches won’ t start until January 2023.

“A lot of these guys have played well but have had injuries,” one source said, “so we don’t know what it’s going to like in the fall.”

The top two

CJ Stroud, Ohio State

The early favorite to go No. 1 after throwing 44 touchdowns and six interceptions in his first year as a starter.

“Early in the year there were some bumps, and we saw him get better over the course of the season,” Miller said. “He calmed down amidst a ton of pressure for a team that was ready to win, with five-star recruits ready to take his job. Physically, it’s all there. He’s not the most elusive guy, but he gives you some escapability.”

CJ Stroud
CJ Stroud improved throughout the 2021 season after a bumpy start.
AP

Like with recent Ohio State first-round picks Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields, scouts will question how the offense translates, given the large percentage of line-of-scrimage throws that become chunk-and-run gains.

“Stroud misses a lot of easy throws,” one source said. “NFL fans get angry when their quarterback misses tight-window throws, so tell me how you’d rather have him than Daniel Jones right now. He’s fun to watch throw, but his receivers are running wide open.”

Bryce Young, Alabama

Young will try to succeed where five quarterbacks in the last five years have failed — winning a second Heisman Trophy.

“His poise is any other quarterback I’ve seen so young,” Reid said. “He plays so cool, calm and collected in every game situation. His size is going to be a big talking point, but I don’t have any reservations about it based on what I saw.”

Bryce Young
Bryce Young is the reigning Heisman award winner.
Getty Images

Alabama generously lists Young at 6-foot, 194 pounds. Russell Wilson is headed to the Hall of Fame, and Kyler Murray was the No. 1 pick in 2019, but neither of those short-and-thick quarterbacks was as “slender” as Young. Young has “A-plus” character, one source said.

“Teams are going to be really critical of his size,” one source said. “Like Kyler, he doesn’t have a little guy’s arm. But you want to check all the boxes as a general manager, if you are taking a quarterback in the top 10. If one left unchecked is durability, that’s a big one.”

First-round hype

Will Levis, Kentucky

Levis has a missile arm but Kentucky’s offense mostly put him in run-pass-options and inflated his accuracy (66 percent) with screens and pitches — many targeted for Giants second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson.

“He throws heaters: I’m going to drill this ball and you are going to catch it,” Miller said.

Consistency and ball security (13 interceptions) are concerns.

“It’s a leap of faith to watch his tape and say he’s going to be a first-rounder,” one source said.

Tyler Van Dyke, Miami (Fla.)

He looks the part (6-foot-4, 224 pounds) and played the part (ACC Rookie of the Year). It’s easy to see him taking the next step as a reader of defenses, which is required because he needs all the old-school pocket traits to succeed.

“He can spin it,” Miller said. “Ten years ago, he would be the No. 1 pick. Can he move well enough?”

Tyler Van Dyke
Tyler Van Dyke broke out as a freshman in 2021.
Getty Images

Phil Jurkovec, Boston College: He underwent surgery on a broken wrist thought to be season-ending in September. If he looked better after returning in November, maybe he would’ve joined the 2022 class. The Notre Dame transfer is a redshirt senior but only has one season with 100 pass attempts.

“He just has more of a feel for the position than some of the other guys do at this stage,” Miller said.

Best of the rest

Devin Leary, North Carolina State

He made 31 big-time throws compared to nine turnover-worthy plays last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Maybe the most proven of the seniors.

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

Cue the inferior competition argument against the two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. He opted against transferring after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

Hooker, who will turn 25 years old before the draft, threw for 31 touchdowns and just three (and ran for interceptions 616 yards) after transferring from Virginia Tech.

“He’s more of a traditional pocket-passer who only really runs when he has to,” Reid said. “He’s got great genes, too. I think he can make a big step up.”

Jaren Hall, BYU

The former two-sport athlete gave up baseball when he got the chance to replace Zach Wilson as BYU’s starter. He fits the ball into tight windows.

Getting a fresh start

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

After leading Oklahoma to the Big 12 title in 2020, he started atop many 2022 mock drafts. Then he struggled and was benched, and questions emerged about his downfield accuracy, willingness to face adversity and commitment to teammates.

“He has NFL level traits,” Reid said, “but then he has to improve on the maturity aspect.”

Spencer Rattler
Spencer Rattler gets a fresh start at South Carolina after struggling at Oklahoma.
Getty Images

Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh

Stepping in because of injury, Slovis won 2019 Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and kept the starting job for three years. But he saw the writing on the wall with new coach Lincoln Riley’s arrival and transferred, hoping to pick up where Pickett left off.

Bo Nix, Oregon

Alabama’s “Mr. Football Award” winner in high school was a three-year starter at Auburn but transferred to an offense better suited for highlighting NFL prospects. He is coming off a broken ankle, but is “one of the most talented guys,” one source said.

Could make a huge leap

Anthony Richardson, Florida

Who can make that Zach Wilson or Joe Burrow-like leap from nowhere? Richardson only has 66 career passes and 51 rushes, but his potential forced Emory Jones — a projected top 10 pick by PFF last May — to transfer.

“The stature, the arm strength, the mobility, he has all the tools to be really good,” Reid said. “He’s going to be in a new system. He just needs to put it all together.”

Aidan O’Connell, Purdue

The former walk-on is taking advantage of the NCAA granting six years of eligibility due to COVID-19 restrictions. He is Miller’s early pick for the surprise riser.

Tanner McKee, Stanford

The Texans never considered drafting a quarterback to replace Davis Mills after he exceeded expectations as a third-round rookie in 2021. That’s a testament to the quarterback development at Stanford. McKee is a 22-year-old redshirt sophomore.

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