Bryce Young 2023 NFL Draft profile: Scout report for the Alabama QB

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Kansas State
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young

Bryce Young, Alabama

5-foot-10, 195 pounds; junior

The No. 1 quarterback in the country in 2020, Young spent his first year at Alabama backing up Mac Jones. He came out in his first game as a starter the following season and was brilliant immediately against Miami in the 2021 opener, setting Alabama school records for passing yards (344) and touchdowns (four) for a debut showing, in just the first 35 minutes.

After leading the Crimson Tide to an amazing overtime comeback win over Auburn and putting together a run at a national championship, he was the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and a first-team All-American. He completed 66.9% of his passes for nearly 4,900 yards and 47 touchdowns, compared to seven interceptions.

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This season, Alabama didn’t have the same team success and Young’s numbers were slightly lower. Even so, he still had tremendous moments and played extremely well, with basically the same yards per attempt number (8.9 to 8.8), accounting for 36 total touchdowns and only five picks.

Positives

+ Easy in his drops, offers a rapid release and high-level accuracy to all levels of the field ... That’s what made him such a great fit for Alabama’s RPO-heavy offensive system

+ Displays the flexibility to change up the angles of his arm and put a variety of paces or trajectories on the ball

+ So crisp with his ball-handling, executing fake handoffs, pulling the ball on bootlegs, working in slight-of-hand stuff, etc.

+ Once he gets to the top of his drop and sees his receiver hit the landmark, Young can get the ball out so quickly ... And even if his feet are still transitioning as he has to come off somebody late, he can put it to the right spot

+ Delivers some of the most beautiful teardrop throws down the sideline, oftentimes just beyond the outstretched arms of a trailing defender

+ Consistently leads his targets to green grass with his ball placement and sets up YAC opportunities

+ Unlike some other small quarterbacks we’ve seen in the league like Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray, who avoid that area of the field, his throwing over the middle of the field is phenomenal, because of how high his anticipation level and ball placement are

+ Actively slows down his receivers to take advantage of high-low stretches and force them to stop in order to not lead them towards traffic

+ Quickly showed a ton of command, getting the ball out rapidly or buying extra time and making good decisions late

+ A lot of times Young knew pre-snap where he wanted to go on downfield routes and already slid that way without tipping off safeties with his eyes, where you see how easy he moves laterally to set up his base

+ Shows an understanding for leverage advantages and routinely hits guys versus man, as they create that little bit of natural separation out of condensed sets

+ Processes information at a high level, to understand where the voided space in zone coverage is, even if he has to turn his head for play-fakes initially or just never looks that way, but due to the movement of a key defender flashing by his eyes, he knows he should hit that window

+ He’s so good on those levels-oriented concepts, where he has to read the depth of second-level defenders and the stretches in those shallow zones

+ Routinely comes back to hooks over the middle of the field or even backside curls after initially looking downfield as well as having the stripe of his helmet facing north until the last moment, when he knows he has the back open for the checkdown

+ His toughness to stand in and deliver ropes over the middle of the field while knowing somebody is about to charge into him full force is unquestioned

+ Was the highest-graded quarterback in the country by PFF in each of the last two years (92.0 and 91.3), with a big-time throw rate (6.0%) three times as high as his turnover-worthy play rate (2.1%), while his average depth of target went up by a full yard in 2022 (9.0 to 10.0)

+ Just has an uncanny calmness in the way he hangs back in the pocket even if there’s chaos around him and he has to make those subtle movements, whether fluid or abrupt, showing a very strong core to quickly get back into a throw-ready position

+ Very elusive with the way he can buy time inside the pocket and manipulate rush angles of multiple pressure points, but also when he takes off as a runner ... The best way to describe him in that regard is “slippery”

+ Has that innate sense for where all 21 other players are and what he can get away with, regularly hitting receivers on secondary and tertiary routes after having drifted outside the pocket ... It looks like he’s playing a first-person game from a third-person perspective

+ Shows that play-making ability, when he draws in a linebacker to open up one his guys behind it or just flip it out to somebody late, even as he’s being dragged down

+ Frequently makes off-platform throws outside the pocket without any issues ... Delivered a ball the numbers to his tight-end Jaleel Billingsley in the 2021 SEC Championship Game, where he literally had his legs taken out from underneath him and got it there while he was airborne

+ However, unless he actually points out where receivers are supposed to go, he’s extremely disciplined with always keeping those two hands on the football without taking away from his movement skills

+ Recorded an unheard-of 67.5 PFF passing grade under pressure in 2022 and his elusiveness is illustrated by a 12.5% pressure-to-sack conversion rate

+ His time-to-throw rate went up by 0.23 seconds this season, up to 3.04 seconds, which was the 20th-highest among FBS quarterbacks, speaking to a lesser group of pass-catchers and having to create individually

Negatives

– While he obviously weighed in at 204 pounds at the combine, he probably plays in the 190-pound range, and that’s what it looks like when you look at how easily he’s taken down behind the line

– Doesn’t have a Howitzer of an arm where he can’t hit those deep comebacks from the opposite hash on a rope and consistently drive the ball if there’s no space to step into throws

– Even though he did win plenty from within the pocket, you have to question how well that out-of-structure playmaking will translate to the next level, if the speed of the NFL even allows him to get out of traffic as regularly and what happens when teams push the pocket from all sides, where there aren’t any lanes for him to escape

– You see moments where he doesn’t initiate/lead the motion with the back hip and deep balls die on him because of it

Overview

The discussion about Bryce Young’s lack of size is obviously an important one to be had in NFL buildings, but at this point I’m kind of sick of having to only hear that be mentioned in the discussion around him. Durability is the one area that might really worry people with him, but unless you understand how to protect yourself, it doesn’t matter how you’re put together.

Young will have to re-wire a little bit how aggressive he can be with targeting his receivers off-schedule and when he can’t put the appropriate force behind the ball, because those windows close quicker than they did in the SEC even. However, I can’t teach somebody else those natural playmaking skills that he possesses, and there are moments of him actively dirting the ball when he knows it’s not there working outside the pocket.

The calm in the chaos and the presence of mind for space he displays has me optimistic that he will be able to win from within the tackle box, get to the right solutions against man or zone and put the ball where it needs to be.

How successful he can be early on will depend on the willingness of his future coaching staff to spread the field and let that vision shine, but I think this is a special distributor and playmaker who can have a lot of success at any level.

Grade: Top-five overall

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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