NFL News & Analysis

Ranking the preseason debuts of the top quarterbacks from the 2023 NFL Draft

2RH3TAB Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Aidan O'Connell (4) throws against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

• Aidan O'Connell shines in his Raiders debut: The Purdue product earned a 90.8 passing grade for his performance, which included two big-time throws.

• Anthony Richardson's potential is clear: After throwing an interception early, Richardson rebounded and flashed his talent.

• Don't overreact to C.J. Stroud's forgettable outing: The No. 2 overall pick comes in last in these rankings but needs to play far more snaps before we can make any definitive conclusions about him.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Training camp clips are fun and all, but game action is where we can really start to get an idea of a rookie's abilities at the NFL level, especially for quarterbacks.

With one full week of preseason action in the books, here’s how we rank Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and other top 2023 quarterbacks after their debuts.

Author’s Note: We set the parameters for this article to rank the quarterbacks who were drafted in the first four rounds, but Cleveland Browns fifth-round pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson deserves a shoutout nonetheless. Through two games, he has a 91.3 overall grade with a 90.3 passing grade.

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1. Aidan O’Connell, Las Vegas Raiders

O’Connell’s Raiders debut was reminiscent of his 2021 season at Purdue, when he earned an elite passing grade. The fourth-round pick in last April’s draft finished his first game in the pros 15-of-18 passing (with two drops, 94.4% adjusted completion percentage) with 141 passing yards and two big-time throws. The performance earned him a 90.8 passing grade on the day, by far the highest mark for any rookie quarterback. We’re hoping to see him against some first-team defenses at some point before the regular season begins.

Click to view Aidan O'Connell's performance in PFF Premium Stats

2. Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

Richardson’s day didn’t start great, as he threw an interception on his first drive. But the flashes of talent — why the Colts drafted him in the top five — were also evident, and that shouldn’t be ignored just because of the turnover.

Richardson’s interception came on a bit of a botched RPO play where he seemed to think the receiver was going to adjust quicker to a cornerback blitz. That didn’t happen. There was some hesitation, and then when the receiver did break in his route, Richardson just trusted his arm talent to fire it in there. Later in the game, though, he had a fantastic play where he avoided a tackle in the backfield to pick up yards with his legs and then recorded a big-time throw on a beautiful corner route, which was almost a touchdown.

He finished the day with a 63.6 passing grade and a 66.0 rushing grade.

Click to view Anthony Richardson's performance in PFF Premium Stats

3. Jake Haener, New Orleans Saints

A fourth-round pick from Fresno State, Haener had a naturally progressive day that started tough with an interception but ended on a high note with a touchdown pass and a Saints win.

The Saints' first- and second-team offense both scored off the arms of Derek Carr and Jameis Winston, so the team was flying high from the jump. Though Haener didn’t strike as quickly as the other two quarterbacks, the longer he was in the game the more comfortable and confident he seemed to become. He finished 10-of-17 for 105 passing yards and a 61.5 passing grade.

Click to view Jake Haener's performance in PFF Premium Stats

4. Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Truth be told, it was an anticlimactic debut from the No. 1 overall pick. But that wasn’t through any fault of his own. Young started the game against the Jets and played 11 total snaps with seven dropbacks. He went 4-of-6 with 21 passing yards, earning a 50.8 passing grade. He was pressured on nearly half of his dropbacks (three), though, and the combination of a good Jets pass rush and a tough day at the office for the Panthers' offensive line made for a low-headline day for Young.

Click to view Bryce Young's performance in PFF Premium Stats

5. Stetson Bennett, Los Angeles Rams

Bennett got a lot of playing time in his preseason debut, seeing 56 snaps with 36 dropbacks, the most of any rookie quarterback. He finished the day 17-of-29 with 191 passing yards, one passing touchdown, one big-time throw and three turnover-worthy plays. His 70.4% adjusted completion percentage was decent, as well.

Click to view Stetson Bennett's performance in PFF Premium Stats

6. Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

Levis was the backup to Malik Willis for his first preseason game. He got 30 snaps under his belt (19 passing and 11 rushing). He finished the day 9-of-14 with 85 passing yards, one big-time throw and two turnover-worthy plays, including an interception on the final drive of the game. He also took four sacks on the day.

Levis looked hesitant this weekend. That cannon of an arm wasn’t hitting the high speed on his fastball the way it was at Kentucky, even on some of his better completions. It’s going to take some time for Levis to play more freely.

Click to view Will Levis' performance in PFF Premium Stats

7. C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

We won’t fully overreact to Stroud’s first NFL outing, as it wasn’t pretty, but we do have to point out the shortcomings. Stroud played only 12 total snaps, seven of which were dropbacks. He finished the day with a 31.4 passing grade after going 2-of-4 with just 12 passing yards and one turnover-worthy play, which was an interception.

Stroud was pressured on five of his seven dropbacks, so it’s hard to really fault him too much. Dealing with pressure going from Ohio State to the NFL was always going to be an area of observation with Stroud, but he needs a lot more snaps before we can come to any sort of conclusion about him as a pro.

Click to view C.J. Stroud's performance in PFF Premium Stats

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