The 2023 NFL Draft was one of the most prolific quarterback drafts in NFL history. Fourteen rookie passers were selected, with a record 12 flying off the boards in the first five rounds in Kansas City. Just about all of them have dipped their toes in NFL waters thanks to their preseason action. While preseason production isn't the end-all, be-all in determining who will have a lasting professional football career, here's a look at how far some of the newbie signal-callers fared in their first NFL offseason by ranking their preseason finales.
- Notes: Lions third-round pick Hendon Hooker is not included. He remains on the Non-Football Injury List while recovering from a college ACL tear and isn't expected to play this preseason.
- Titans second-round pick Will Levis is not included. He missed the Titans' Week 3 game against the Patriots with a thigh injury.
Stetson Bennett did his best Billy Mays impression when it came to delivering lackluster preseason performances these last two weeks, hitting the football world with a "But wait, there's more!" Last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, Bennett threw for 142 yards and a pick-six as a starter against the Silver Black on 15-of-24 passing. His start on Saturday in Denver against the Broncos makes his performance against the Raiders appear desirable.
This interception below in which Bennett throws a pass on third-and-14 into TRIPLE coverage is atrocious.
Bennett's preseason debut with 191 yards and a touchdown on 17-of-29 passing off the bench against the Los Angeles Chargers feels like like a lifetime ago.
10. Jake Haener, New Orleans Saints
Jake Haener had a shot to win the game for the Saints on each of their last two drives. That's when disaster struck. First, he attempted an end zone heave on first-and-10 just outside of the red zone right after the two-minute warning. Haener's pass ended up in a crowd of three Texans with safety Grayland Arnold intercepting the pass.
Haener's final drive ended with another interception, albeit on a play that could have worked. He had tight end Lucas Kroll open well past the line to gain on fourth-and-4, but he waited too long to make the throw. That allowed cornerback Cameron Dantzler to undercut the pass for a game-sealing pick.
9. Clayton Tune, Arizona Cardinals
Clayton Tune's preseason finale stat line is deceptive. It appears efficient, but what it doesn't show is Tune cutting Arizona's opening drive short by taking a third down sack at his own 11 and fumbling the football, which caused a turnover. Vikings rookie quarterback Jaren Hall threw a five-yard touchdown pass on the very next play.
His next drives concluded with a 38-yard field goal, a punt and a 46-yard missed field goal. Tune's preseason, like his Saturday performance, has been uneven. It would be surprising to see him begin the season as Kyler Murray's injury replacement over Colt McCoy or Joshua Dobbs, , at this stage.
Sean Clifford left his preseason finale early with a right arm injury suffered on a quarterback sneak, according to The Athletic. Clifford told media postgame that it's not a big deal. He played much cleaner football in his final two preseason games against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks (183 passing yards on 21-of-31 passing) after tossing two interceptions in his NFL debut at the Cincinnati Bengals.
2023 NFL Draft: fourth overall (first round)
Week 3 performance: 6-17, 78 passing yards, 50.6 passer rating; five carries for 38 rushing yards in 27-13 win at Eagles
Even though Anthony Richardson's box score this week doesn't look sparkling, he contributed nicely on the Colts' two first-half touchdown drives. He completed both of his passes on the first scoring drive for 36 yards, a possession that ended with a three-yard touchdown run by Deon Jackson. On the following march, he threw for 19 yards on 2-of-3 passing while launching the drive with a 16-yard sprint. Rookie rusher Evan Hull's one-yard touchdown plunge ended the 75-yard, 10-play drive.
Richardson looks more comfortable passing from the pocket, a nice piece of progress to take into Week 1.
6. Tanner McKee, Philadelphia Eagles
2023 NFL Draft: 188th overall (sixth round)
Week 3 performance: 19-34, 158 passing yards, 68.0 passer rating in 27-13 loss versus Colts
Sixth-round rookie Tanner McKee may have taken a step back in his efforts to usurp veteran Marcus Mariota as Jalen Hurts' backup. Mariota led the Eagles on a six-play scoring drive that ended with a one-yard rushing touchdown by running back Trey Sermon while McKee could muster a couple field goal possession the rest of the first half. Third-stringer Ian Book took over in the second half. Overall, he's had a decent preseason showing, totaling 453 passing yards and a passing touchdown on 39-of-72 passing.
5. Jaren Hall, Minnesota Vikings
2023 NFL Draft: 164th overall, (fifth round)
Week 3 performance: 16-27, 178 passing yards, one passing touchdown, on interception, 75.8 passer rating in 18-17 loss versus Cardinals
Jaren Hall received his first start of the preseason, and he showed an ability to heat up from the get-go. Hall finished the first half with 127 yards on 10-of-16 passing, including his first career touchdown pass, a five-yarder immediately after Clayton Tune's fumble. The Vikings scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the first half. Hall did throw a couple incompletions and take a sack on the final second quarter drive, which caused Minnesota to settle for a 20-yard field goal. However, it was a step in the right direction for Hall.
2023 NFL Draft: 239th overall (seventh round)
Week 3 performance: 4-9, 15 passing yards, one passing touchdown, 88.7 passer rating; six carries for 51 rushing yards in 23-12 win at 49ers
The 2022 Heisman Trophy runner-up out of TCU received limited run this preseason behind incumbent backup quarterback Easton Stick, not even getting a snap in their Week 2 contest versus the Saints. This week, Duggan had the opportunity to play the entire second half, and he provided a highlight reminiscent of his college while facing fourth-and-2 from the 49ers' 3.
Duggan ran a play-action pass play toward the right sideline, stopped scrambling on a dime, and then threw a dart of touchdown pass right into the numbers of tight end Hunter Kampmoyer.
Duggan flashed when he had opportunity, but he didn't have much of it in his inaugural preseason.
3. C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans
2023 NFL Draft: second overall (first round)
Week 3 performance: 2-4, 16 passing yards, one passing touchdown, 100.0 passer rating in 17-13 win at New Orleans Saints
C.J. Stroud started each of the Texans' three preseason games, but his performance in New Orleans was the first one where he truly looked settled. After the game, Nico Collins, putting the ball right in Collins' chest. However, Saints cornerback Alontae Taylor did just enough to break up the completion at the last second.. He made a great throw deep down the left sideline to receiver
Stroud eventually connected with Collins, tossing his first career NFL touchdown to the third-year wideout on his second and final drive of the night for a three-yard score. The rookie does a great job of getting to the top of his dropback off of the play-action fake and then spiraling a perfect, floating football safely into Collins arms.
Stroud finished the preseason with 89 passing yards, a touchdown, and interception on 11-of-20 passing. He has displayed continual improvement each week, which has to have the Texans looking forward to Week 1.
2. Aidan O'Connell, Las Vegas Raiders
2023 NFL Draft: 135th overall (fourth round)
Week 2 performance: 17-26, 178 passing yards, 85.1 passer rating in 31-16 loss at Dallas Cowboys
Aidan O'Connell closed out his stellar preseason with another solid outing. He racked up 304 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-36 passing in his first two games before a decent showing on the road against the Cowboys. O'Connell showcased strong accuracy all night long, including this dart to Cam Sims down the the right sideline.
Yes, it's only the preseason, but the Raiders are probably the team that has experienced the most positive momentum with their rookie quarterback this month.
1. Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers
2023 NFL Draft: first overall (first round)
Week 3 performance: 7-12, 73 passing yards, one passing touchdown, 103.8 passer rating in 26-17 loss versus Lions
Young also had preseason bests in passing yards (73), yards per pass attempt (6.1), and passer rating (103.8). That's exactly the right direction Panthers nation wants to see their first overall pick trending leading into Week 1.