The Southeastern Conference is no stranger to hosting a bevy of talent when it comes to the quarterback position. It will be no different for the 2022 season, as almost every team in the league touts a high-caliber arm under center.
Kentucky is without a doubt one of those teams, as Will Levis is back at the QB spot for year two in Lexington, with plenty of hype behind him. While his big arm and powerful play-style have launched him up NFL mock draft boards, there have been questions surrounding his decision-making and life without last year's top wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson. In this installment of making the case, we take a look at whether or not Levis checks out as a top-five QB in the SEC.
You can make the argument that there are eight different quarterbacks in the league who could crack a top-five list. To me, Levis falls in the middle of that group. There's no real argument for anyone except Alabama's Bryce Young to be considered the best of the group, as he's pinned to be the future No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. I then see Tennessee's Hendon Hooker as next in line, as it takes a real baller to be able to handle the rapid-fire offense of Josh Heupel while making as little mistakes as he did last season.
KJ Jefferson is someone who is flying way under the radar, as his NFL build and dual-threat potential is a potent combination for Arkansas. He's the one who makes the Razorbacks tick, and is only going to progress as a passer. Levis enters the fray for me around the No. 4 spot. All of the tools are clearly there, but there were clear turnover issues last season. Levis had tunnel vision towards Robinson, and I worry that without a clear top target this season, some of the passing numbers may suffer. On the other hand, there are so many potential breakout players out wide, and the run game should be as strong as ever, opening up the field even more for the Penn State transfer. I see Levis as a future first-rounder and don't think the hype will get to him, but sometimes you can only control so much around you.
His talent keeps him above Mississippi State's Will Rogers and the Spencer Rattler's and Anthony Richardson's of the world, however. Luckily, time will tell as we'll see almost all of these QB's matchup against one another at some point this season.
This is an intriguing question, and I think Hunter painted out a pretty clear picture above. Bryce Young is the undoubted top quarterback in the league, but then it becomes unclear. Hendon Hooker will likely put up the second-best stat line, if he works the full year in Tennessee's uptempo offense. Will Rogers should have a gaudy stat line as well. Spencer Rattler has as much natural talent as anyone in the league, but I question how he works in the South Carolina system as there are questions around him. KJ Jefferson and whoever ends up being the starting quarterback at Texas A&M, will also have solid seasons. I don't buy into the Anthony Richardson hype too much, so I am taking him out of the conversation at this point.
Levis faces several of the same questions as his biggest playmaker from last year is gone. His talent is undeniable, in my opinion, but he can only control the controllable. Kentucky can win games by grinding it out on the ground, so not only do I have questions about the supporting cast, but I also question if Levis will have the stats to be considered a top-five quarterback at the end of the season.
At the end of the day, if he flashes his arm talent, consistent decision making and tenacious running ability when he pulls it down, he will end up being a top quarterback in the draft. Currently, as it sits, based off different factors, my list would go Bryce Young, K.J. Jefferson, Hendon Hooker, Will Rogers, and Spencer Rattler/Will Levis. I think the final two are a true toss up, so yes, Levis is a top-five quarterback inside of the league. They both have as much natural talent as anyone on the list, but they have to find consistency with playmakers and may not find themselves in stat-padding situations like the others.