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2023 NFL Draft Preview: Bryce Young

Does Alabama have its first ever number one overall pick?

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Allstate Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Kansas State Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

There probably isn’t a player in the 2023 NFL Draft who has been more publicized, scrutinized, and stigmatized than Bryce Young. Likely to be the first Alabama player to be drafted number one overall following a long, strenuous job interview, Young has reportedly won over the Carolina Panthers. If pre-draft rumors are to be believed, Bryce has also blown away the Houston Texans to the point of ruining them on all other quarterback prospects in this class with the second pick of the draft as they just don’t stack up.

That, folks, is how you interview.

Bryce had a mystique about him before he ever arrived in Tuscaloosa. His high school coach, legendary Bruce Rollinson who retired after this past season, called Bryce “the greatest QB in Mater Dei history” at his signing ceremony. Some of the names that Rollinson coached at Mater Dei: Matt Barkley, J.T. Daniels, and Heisman winner Matt Leinart. So, what was it about Bryce’s game that made it so special?

An opposing high school coach summed it up well.

Extremely slippery player that has an absolute cannon of an arm. Somewhat unconventional. … I’ve talked to a lot of college coaches because they’ve asked me because I’ve had a few good quarterbacks to play for me, and they’re like, what do you think about Bryce? It’s kind of like he does everything wrong, and then you see the ball come out of his hands and everything’s right. You see unconventional drop, just kind of unconventional the way he does things, but then when the ball comes out of his hands, it’s just unreal.

This is a great summation of Bryce’s play at Alabama. Mixed in with the highlights have been times where it seemed that he stubbornly held on to the ball anticipating that a bigger play was going to come open rather than taking the yards that were readily there. On many of those plays, however, he turned out to be correct and managed to hit someone down the field after moving around and extending the play. Bryce’s ability to make things happen when everything breaks down is nearly unmatched.

The question about Bryce will be if he can win from the pocket at the next level given his rather diminutive size. He measured just over 5’10” and 200 lbs. at the Combine, but many analysts believe that he added weight that he didn’t plan on keeping just to get to that mark and in fact dropped ten pounds or so before showing his skills at Alabama’s pro day. In a league that loves its measurables, his height is a major concern.

Still, Bryce showed at Alabama that he can get it done. NFL film analyst Alex Rollins put out a great breakdown of Bryce’s 2021 season last spring, showing both his strengths and concerns. He cited patience in the pocket among the things that Bryce needed to improve upon, which is something that shorter QBs can struggle with. Rollins posted a follow up leading up to the draft, and Young has clearly answered some of his questions.

Drew Brees is probably the comparison that we’ve seen the most as Young has completed the pre-draft gauntlet.

Most recently, Young reportedly sealed the deal as the top pick by acing the S2 Cognition test. For the uninitiated, this is not an IQ test.

S2 Cognition attempts to quantify split-second reaction times to visual stimuli on a computer screen. The cognitive skills measured by the S2 evaluation are the same cognitive skills engaged on the field, court, or ice. Our evaluation is devoid of racial bias, it does not measure IQ, intelligence or classroom type knowledge, and it cannot be studied for. It requires simple reactions to quick moving visual stimuli on the screen.

Young reportedly scored in the 98th percentile, placing him just above Joe Burrow’s 97 in 2020. As a standalone this evaluation shouldn’t be overemphasized, but in Young’s case it’s more of a confirmation since it tracks with his elite processing on the field. As Rollins notes above, Alabama used empty sets at one of the highest rates in the country to allow Young to use his mind, which is by far his most valuable asset on the field.

In addition to his obvious talent, the team that drafts Bryce will be getting an exemplary human being that by all accounts possesses every leadership trait you’d want in your field general. He is calm under pressure and loves his teammates. Nick Saban has lauded Young’s character on many occasions. Bryce comes from an outstanding family, and it shows in his maturity.

Someone, likely the fans in Charlotte, are going to enjoy their new face of the franchise.

Roll Tide.