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Ranking the best QB landing spots from the 2023 NFL Draft

Bryce Young won big, and C.J. Stroud is in trouble when it comes to their new home.

Anyone will tell you that where you go is far more important than how high you’re picked when it comes to being a rookie quarterback. Time and time again we’ve seen tremendous talent ruined by landing in the wrong place, while less-heralded prospects have thrived because of system and fit.

Much of this comes down to expectation entering the NFL, paired with the framework in place to ensure that rookie succeeds. For the most part this was a great year for the top five quarterbacks in the draft, many of whom found an ideal home where they can thrive. This doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be successful, but much like growing a garden we’re simply saying “the conditions are right for this to be a success.”

No. 1: Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers

Let’s face it: Whoever got take by the Panthers was going to win the top spot this year. Carolina has custom built one of the best landing spots for a rookie QB we have ever seen since Frank Reich took over and head coach and given a near limitless budget to spend on his coaching staff.

Young, already an obsessive film hound, will have the benefit of decades of proven offensive minds to aide in his development. Quarterback coach Josh McCown has been so heralded around the league that he was in consideration for head coaching jobs. Passing game coordinator Parks Frazier will act as the ideal go-between for Young to help him understand the passing vision of Reich and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown. On top of all that you have David Caldwell as senior offensive assistant, another brain to pick and help develop the QB. If that’s not enough the teams signed veteran Andy Dalton to take the lumps at QB as needed, and be a sounding board on the bench.

You couple all that with an offensive line that really turned things on the back-half of the year, allowing just 17 sacks in 11 games, and boasting one of the best run-blocking units in the NFL. This all spells a system designed to take pressure off a rookie and set him up for success.

The receiver spot is still a serious work in progress, but everything else signals that this experiment is going to work.

No. 2: Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

This scheme fit is just so brilliant. It was always going to take an open offensive mind to help unlock Richardson at the next level, and of all the QB-needy teams Indy was the ideal landing spot. All the smoke about their interest in Will Levis was clearly unfounded, as the Colts wasted no time in taking Richardson.

Indianapolis is already in a pretty good spot. If it weren’t for Jeff Saturday they would have won a lot more games in 2022. There are some real concerns about the offensive line, which gave up 60 sacks last season — and the receiver unit is a little shaky outside of Michael Pittman Jr., but those are issues for the future.

The most important part of all this was Richardson getting a coach who understands his game. Former Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is perfect, not only for someone who built an offense around Jalen Hurts’ dual-threat traits, but also served as his quarterback coach before that. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter served as passing game coordinator for Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville last year, and allowed the former No. 1 overall pick to take major strides.

Gardner Minshew is penciled in as the starter for now, but I have little doubt they can’t unlock Richardson soon and we’ll see him starting earlier than most expect.

No. 3: Hendon Hooker, Detroit Lions

I absolutely hated the idea of Hooker going in the Top 20 of the NFL Draft because it represented wholly unreasonable expectations. This is a fairly significant project QB who needs a lot of work adjusting to NFL scheme techniques, as well as rehabbing his ACL tear.

With Hooker being picked later than projected, and arriving on a team without a weight of expectation, it will allow him the time he needs to really get settled and make the best of his career. The Lions have a good support structure in place, and the only thing that will keep Jared Goff from remaining the starting QB for the forseeable future is money, and whether Detroit is willing to pay it.

When that becomes an issue there’s every chance Hooker, who will have been learning from Mark Brunell and J.T. Barrett could be in a position to start. I really like the fit here, and I think it gives Hooker every chance to succeed.

No. 4: Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

The biggest potential pitfall here is patience. Similar to Hooker, a team taking Levis needs to give him the time and space to integrate into an offense and learn to become a more disciplined passer in the NFL.

That process is possible, but the Titans have shown a recent history of being really impatient at the QB position. Malik Willis was a similar developmental QB who was thrown in before his was ready, and now he’s expendable. On top of all that there’s Ryan Tannehill, who has shown a chip on his shoulder about helping young passers under him.

A lot of pressure is on the offensive staff to work with Levis and get him up to speed, especially when he could be thrust into the starting job in year one if Tannehill is hurt or struggling. Charles London, who serves both as QB coach and passing game coordinator will have to commit a lot of time to work with Levis and build his ability inside Tennessee’s system so he doesn’t lose confidence.

This could work out fine, but it wasn’t the best spot to land.

No. 5: C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

This is a really difficult one. I really like C.J. Stroud and think he has serious potential to be an amazing NFL quarterback, but from night one of the draft it didn’t seem the Texans felt the same way. There were reports prior to the first round starting that owner Cal McNair was overriding his front office and his team’s draft board, forcing the team to take Stroud over Will Levis, who was their pick as QB2.

It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong in this situation, because it’s a breeding ground for resentment and bad feelings. There’s no doubt the Texans staff will be professional enough to coach him up, but there are worries here that his traits don’t mesh with what the team is trying to build on offense.

Being the No. 2 overall pick, paired with Davis Mills being a mediocre QB will put the pressure on Stroud to start from Day 1. If he’s either not ready because of scheme fit, or just needs more time developmentally, there are going to be questions about the decision — and we’ll keep hearing about McNair supposedly overriding his staff.

This is a volatile, dicey situation for a QB to land in — and I’m not entirely sold on the support staff the Texans have on the offensive side of the ball to coach Stroud up. Quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson only has one year of position coaching as an assistant QB coach in Minnesota, where working with a veteran like Kirk Cousins doesn’t really require much hands-on instruction.

In total this is a minefield, and I really hope Stroud comes out the other end unscathed.