2023 Senior Bowl Position Preview: Quarterbacks
FTN's Jeremy Popielarz previews the top quarterbacks set to appear in this year's Senior Bowl.
Jan 28, 2023, 10:05 AM EST
The Reese’s Senior Bowl arrives this week, with practices starting Tuesday leading up to Saturday’s game. Over the past few seasons, we have seen some of the best talents in the draft go through Mobile to get one-on-one time with NFL coaching staff and personnel in an effort to boost their draft stock. Over the next few days, I’ll preview some of the top names at the skill positions at this year’s event, starting below with quarterbacks.
We tend to see five or six quarterbacks on game day each year at the Senior Bowl. Those names tend to be in the second or third tier of the draft class, with the top tier generally underclassmen (like Alabama’s Bryce Young) or seniors without much to prove by playing (like Kentucky’s Will Levis). Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker will attend this year’s event but won’t play in the game as he recovers from a torn ACL. The names we’ll see at this year’s Senior Bowl probably won’t be called in the first round of April’s draft, but we’ll be hearing some or all of them on Day 2 or Day 3. Let’s get to know them.
Max Duggan, TCU
6-foot-2, 210 pounds
Max Duggan is the biggest name we are likely to see this weekend after he exploded onto the college scene this year at TCU. This 2022 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and Heisman finalist is coming off a season where he threw for 3,698 yards and 32 touchdowns (both led the Big 12). One of the most underrated abilities of his game is his legs, as he had 1,856 career rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns. His toughness is another part of the game that doesn't show up in the box score, but he is willing to stand in the pocket and deliver any throw.
At the Senior Bowl, we’ll see him flash his impressive intermediate accuracy and ball placement, which gives receivers the opportunity to create after the catch. This will be paired with a quick release and the ability to make quick decisions, always putting the receivers in good positions. He will also test the defense deep with his strong arm, as he can make any throw he is asked to. One area he needs to improve on is his manipulation of the defense with his eyes and his ability to work through progressions while making the right decision more consistently, so we’ll need to watch to see what he can do in that regard. Also, with a week of NFL coaching, we should hope to see his mechanics and footwork improve some, he needs to refine these areas of his game in order to find success in the NFL.
Clayton Tune, Houston
(6-foot-3, 215 pounds)
Clayton Tune had an impressive season, leading the Cougars to an 8-5 record and a berth in the Independence Bowl. This success came on the back of his career-high 4,074 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns, third in the nation behind only C.J. Stroud and Caleb Williams. What was most surprising this season was the fact that he also added 544 rushing yards, shattering his previous career high of 253. This mobility likely won’t translate into making him a true dual threat at the NFL level, but it is perfect to evade the rush and extent plays.
What we should expect to see this week from Tune is a quarterback who throws in rhythm and makes good decisions while throwing with anticipation. He will also show off good accuracy and the arm strength to make most short to intermediate throws. The area where we should look to see some improvements is in the deep ball — he has not shown an ability to really test a defense deep on a consistent basis. His accuracy suffers dramatically in these downfield throws, so we will have to keep an eye out to see if he even tests this area of the field. On top of this, his pocket presence and patience could see some improvement, as he tends to bail early.
Jaren Hall, BYU
(6-foot-1, 205 pounds)
As the successor to Zach Wilson at BYU, Jaren Hall has made a name for himself with back-to-back seasons of 2,500-plus passing yards and 300-plus rushing yards. Last season, he led independents in most major passing categories. Most impressively, he had a 66.0% completion percentage and only turned the ball over 6 times on 376 attempts. He also threw for 31 touchdowns, 13th in the nation, first among the independents. His dual-threat ability also sets him apart, as he racked up 350 yards rushing and 3 scores this season for the Cougars.
This week, it would be nice to see him unleash his arm and show off the fact that he can make every throw that is asked of him accurately. His arm is his strongest attribute, as he has consistently shown the ability to make NFL throws on the run or in the pocket. However, a week of NFL coaching will be good for him, as he works on cleaning up his ability to work through progressions and read defenses consistently. This is an area he will need to improve in as he did very little rhythm or anticipation passing at BYU — we saw more off-schedule throwing. At the NFL level, he will need to do this to find long-term success. His size will also be an important thing to monitor. He is listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds — if he comes in smaller than that it may be hard for him to find a spot on an NFL roster.
Malik Cunningham, Louisville
(6-foot-1, 190 pounds)
Malik Cunningham amassed over 9,000 passing yards, over 3,000 rushing yards and 120 combined rushing and passing touchdowns in four seasons as a starter. His best season came in 2021 when he set career highs in passing (2,941) and rushing yards (1,031) and totaled an impressive 39 combined touchdowns that year. This season he took a step back, only passing for 1,568 yards and 8 touchdowns, both career lows as a starter. He only added 560 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Outside the numbers he did look better technically, improving in quite a few areas of his game.
As a true dual-threat quarterback, we should expect to see him show off his ability to test the defense's discipline this week with his legs. Will also see him hit the receivers in the short and mid-level areas accurately and with good placement, allowing them to create yards after the catch. On the flip side, we should be watching closely to see if he can test the far areas of the field as he tends to struggle to get the velocity and trajectory on the ball to get it there on time. Another area of improvement to watch for is his decision-making, he tends to wait a bit too long on some throws creating opportunities for the defense to make a play on the ball. If he can clean this up, his dual-threat ability will make him a coveted asset for many NFL teams.
Jake Haener, Fresno State
(6-foot-1, 195 pounds)
Although undersized for a prototypical NFL quarterback, Haener has battled his way into the NFL Draft discussion. He has produced three straight seasons over 2,000 passing yards, 4,096 yards in 2021. He paired this with only turning the ball over 17 times in three seasons at Fresno State, resulting in three straight seasons with a passer rating over 150. On the flip side, he gives little to no mobility, with negative career rushing yards (quarterbacks get negative yards for sacks in college).
This week we should see an extremely polished quarterback when he is under center. He will show an ability to get the team in the right situations on every play. When it comes to physical tools, he will show off his incredible arm talent – he has the ability to make any throw. His quick release and next-level anticipation allow him to be incredibly accurate in the short and intermediate areas of the field. While his velocity in the shirt to mid-levels is outstanding and allows him to fit the ball into any window, he pairs it with nice touch when it is called for. Although he is not a threat to run, he can move to evade the rush and make throws on the run. Outside of a lack of high-end arm strength, there is little to complain about when it comes to Haener.