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Film Room: Is Kentucky’s Will Levis worth the 7th overall pick?

Breaking down the tape on the Kentucky QB

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Georgia at Kentucky
Will Levis
Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis has been tied to the Las Vegas Raiders in several mock drafts over the last few months. Levis is widely regarded as the fourth-best quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft class which could mean he’s the Raiders' best option with the seventh overall pick if they’re looking for a more long-term option under center.

While Jimmy Garoppolo is under contract for the next three years, the way Garoppolo’s deal is constructed gives Las Vegas an out after two seasons and he turns 32 years old in November. So, investing in a quarterback of the future this April isn’t a bad idea.

But, is it worth it to draft Levis with the seventh pick in the draft, especially if he won’t play much until his second or third year? Let’s turn to the film and find out.

Our first clip will showcase Levis’ deep ball skills.

Mississippi State is running Cover 1 here with a five-man pressure where the two inside linebackers blitz and the left defensive tackle drops in coverage to play the low hole or spy the quarterback. That means Kentucky has one-on-one matchups on the outside so Levis decides to take a shot on the go route against Emmanuel Forbes (corner at the top of the screen, No. 13) who many believe will be a second-round pick this year.

Levis is also facing pressure as the left tackle gets beat pretty badly by the defensive end (No. 6). That’s going to prevent him from being able to finish this throw, but he has enough arm strength to push the ball over 25 yards down the field while also doing a good job of keeping the ball outside the numbers so the single-high safety can’t get to it.

The other aspect of this throw that stands out to me is how quick the Kentucky product’s release is. That also helps him beat pressure in this instance because the ball gets out of his hand faster and will be beneficial at the next level when trying to take advantage of tight throwing windows.

This next clip is another nice deep ball under pressure but with even better placement.

The Bulldogs are bringing the heat again, this time running Cover 0. Levis knows he’s going to take a hit right as or shortly after he releases the ball, so he buys himself some time by taking an extra step on his drop. That gives the receiver (No. 2) enough time to get down the field on the slot fade route.

Again, the quarterback takes a shot here but does an excellent job still getting the ball down the field with three defenders barrelling down on him. He also places it perfectly on No. 2’s back shoulder to keep the safety (No. 8), who is playing with inside leverage, from being able to make a play and force an incompletion.

The result is a huge conversion — and then some — on third and six to begin the second half in a tie ball game.

Here is another example of Levis’ arm strength but in a different context.

Kentucky is near the goal line and they’re running a rub route to the wide side of the field/bottom of the screen. They get the man coverage look they were hoping for with this play call, but the line of scrimmage linebacker (No. 44) ends up dropping in coverage as a hole player which makes the throw more difficult.

However, Levis notices that No. 44 has his hips open toward the receiver and has veered too far off the hash. So, Levis has a window to throw the slant and rips the pass right by 44’s ear. That’s an impressive throw that takes a lot of confidence and arm strength to execute.

Our next clip is an example of what the Wildcat can do with his legs.

Kentucky is backed-up on its own one-yard line end against Georgia’s dominant defensive line which spells disaster. They need to get some breathing room so they run an RPO where Levis has the option to dump the ball off to one of the short curl routes or pull it down and run for a QB draw.

Georgia only rushes three defensive linemen and the nose tackle works wide while the right defensive end widens to play contain on the quarterback. That leaves an open lane for Levis to exploit so he waits for the sea to part and takes off. That timing allows the inside slot receiver to attack and essentially block the linebacker turning the lane into a highway.

Levis sees that and No. 24 (the second slot receiver) is in a position to pick the safety, so he keeps working wide, takes a hit and is able to pick up the first down. Because of his timing, vision and speed on the draw, the Wildcats now have some breathing room and their offense can function like normal throughout the rest of the drive.

How about another deep ball for good measure?

Kentucky runs play-action with a half-bootleg to the right. Georgia is in man coverage and puts their safety — No. 29, Christopher Smith II, who is one of the top safeties in this draft class — on the slot receiver running a corner-post route.

Smith II bites on the double move and has to speed turn to get back in position and Levis does a great job of recognizing that, setting his feet and pushing the ball down the field. Since it’s man coverage, he has plenty of space to the left side of the field to complete the pass and the only places he can’t miss are deep and behind the receiver.

Levis does a great job of using the whole field to his advantage which creates an explosive play for the offense. Chunk plays were few and far between when facing the National Champion’s defense last season.

Worth the seventh pick?

To answer the big question, we have to consider the negative plays. Below is a compilation of a few clips that highlight some of my biggest concerns with Levis.

One of my biggest issues with Levis’ game is that he has a terrible feel for pressure in the pocket. He’ll have instances where he leaves a clean pocket and runs himself into pressure or a sack, and there are also plays where he should feel pressure and move but doesn’t. This might have been because Kentucky’s offensive line was pretty bad this past season, but regardless, his awareness is something that needs work.

Levis also had a few plays that made me say: “What are you looking at?” He’d either miss a wide-open receiver or force a ball into coverage — the latter is likely a result of being overconfident in his arm strength. I’m also not confident that he’s someone who will work through his progressions.

Accuracy is another area where the Kentucky product has been dinged by draftniks. It looks like his upper body is pretty tight and that causes him issues rotating his shoulders all the way through the throwing motion and finishing throws. That’s especially concerning because it may be something that’s genetic and not fixable, or at least not to the extent that it needs to be.

Taking all things into consideration, I do think Levis is worthy of the seventh overall pick. The clips above are beautiful and he has a lot of arm talent to work with that he could be a “quarterback of the future” for the Raiders after sitting for a year or two. However, unlike the other three top quarterbacks in this class, the Wildcat isn’t worth trading up for, in my opinion.