Will Levis was widely projected to hear his name called in the first round of the NFL draft.
Instead, the Kentucky quarterback languished in the green room through 31 picks, looking increasingly dispirited as Thursday night wore on.
It brought to mind Geno Smith in 2013, when the disappointed West Virginia quarterback left Radio City Music Hall before the first night concluded and had to buy a suit the next day because — never dreaming he’d fall out of the first round — he didn’t pack a second one.
So there could be some jockeying by quarterback-needy teams at or near the top of the second round, which begins with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the clock.
The Rams, who have the 36th pick, are still formulating their long-term plans at quarterback and have to be thinking about life beyond Matthew Stafford, who is in the twilight of his career. There’s something of a connection to the Kentucky quarterback, too.
Levis has gotten a resounding endorsement from Liam Coen, who coached him as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator in 2021, was offensive coordinator of the Rams last season, and now is back at Kentucky.
It’s worth noting that Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is out there as well, and he’s another talented player who could be a long-range project for a team.
“If the Rams don’t take him with the fifth pick today, I think it’s a freefall,” said Rick Neuheisel, the coach-turned-SiriusXM NFL Radio host.
“If the Rams take Hendon Hooker over Will Levis with Liam Coen having coached Will Levis, it will be a signal to a lot of brass that something’s wrong, something’s missing, something’s awry. And I don’t know when Will Levis gets called. Maybe in the fourth round.”
That would be stunning considering the hype surrounding Levis, who even earlier this week was projected by some draftniks to be taken near the top of the first round.
“It started a year ago,” Neuheisel said. “I don’t know how whoever had him as the top guy in next year’s draft, because there was nothing on film in my estimation that merited that kind of talk. I think it was irresponsible and created all these expectations.
“The numbers don’t merit that kind of conversation when you’re a 65% passer, 19 touchdowns, 10 picks, sacked 36 times. That’s average.”
Neuheisel conceded that the numbers of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, selected fourth by the Colts, were likewise average, “but his physical makeup makes him unique.”
The 6-foot-4 Levis has the prototypical build of an NFL quarterback and is a physical specimen in his own right.
“I get he’s got six-pack abs,” Neuheisel said. “That doesn’t get you six points.”
Levis wasn’t the only draft attendee to leave Thursday night without a team. Three of the other 16 prospects who came to Kansas City likewise are still around: Alabama defensive back Brian Branch, Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and Georgia Tech defensive end Keion White.