2023 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Tanner McKee (Fantasy Football)
With all the chatter about a heavily touted QB draft class, you would think the only four guys to play under center during the 2022 season were named CJ, Bryce, Will, or Anthony. But spoiler alert, there were many other college football teams, and each of them had a QB. I know. Shocking. The grand “we” have agreed upon the big four QBs for this draft season – sure, some people have different rankings of the four – but overall, we know the first QBs we expect to see come off the board. So, who is next? What other QBs will cross their fingers to hear their name on draft day? Let’s start with Tanner McKee out of Stanford.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2023 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2023.
Tanner Jeremie McKee was born in Corona, California, and attended Centennial High School. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, clearly earned after achieving over 3,700 yards passing as a junior and over 2,100 yards passing as a senior. Over his final two years in high school, McKee threw 62 TDs and rushed for 1,214 yards. He finished high school as his school’s all-time completion percentage leader and second all-time in passing yards. He also has the school’s single-game record holder for rushing yards by a QB, with 209 yards. McKee also competed in basketball and volleyball as a teen.
McKee is LDS, and like most Mormon teens, he left to serve his two-year mission after he graduated high school. He turned down scholarship offers from Alabama, Texas, and BYU, and after signing his letter of intent for Stanford, McKee headed to Brazil to serve his mission. He returned to the states close to two years later – his journey cut slightly short due to COVID – and was uncertain about how his collegiate football journey would begin. After being reduced to weightlifting in Brazil with a makeshift barbell, put together with two slabs of concrete and a metal pole, McKee got back to work regaining the muscle he lost over the two years away.
McKee redshirted his first year in Palo Alto and played in one game. During his second season, he took over as the starting QB, and despite missing two games due to a leg injury, threw for over 2,300 yards and 15 TDs that year. He was equally solid in 2022, even though the Stanford season was not anything to write home about.
McKee had an average combine. He did not run the 40 and settled in the middle of the pack with most of his other scores. His late breakout age should be noted with the caveat of his two years spent serving his mission.
What’s on Tape:
Games Viewed: USC (’21), Notre Dame (’21), Washington (’21), BYU (’21)
1. Overall Size and Strength
Mr. McKee – big body and big arm. When you look at Tanner McKee, he just “looks” like an NFL QB. Standing at a grand 6’6”, he is one of the tallest in his draft class and way over the NFL average of just under 6’3”. His weight seems only to be eclipsed by that of Anthony Richardson in his draft class. And he has an arm to match. He can throw the football 50 yards down the field without flinching, and every downfield throw looks easily executed. His height gives him the vision to eye his receivers quickly, and his solid arm velocity allows the ball to be delivered promptly and with power. He gets the ball out quickly, whether due to poor protection or efficiently getting through his reads. His average time to throw on all dropbacks is one of the quickest in his class at 2.51 seconds.
Looking for a later round potential sleeper at QB?
There’s a lot to like about #Stanford QB Tanner McKee
Big Arm (53 yard strike below)
65.4 comp %
— Jared Tokarz (@JaredNFLDraft) January 24, 2023
2. Interceptions & Incompletes
Even though McKee has an incredible arm, he often has trouble connecting. His completion percentage steadily decreased as his passing depth went up. In short passes (0-9 yards), McKee completed 75% of his passes, but when he got to a deep throw of more than twenty yards, he only completed 38% of passes. His TD-to-interception ratio was also not good, Bob. In 2022, McKee threw 13 TDs but had eight INT, and in 2021 he had seven INTs to his 15 TDs. The eight INTs he threw in his final year as a Cardinal tied him for the 13th most among QBs in his draft class. On deep throws, when McKee missed the receiver, he seemed to overthrow or miss them high, yet he is much more capable of navigating tight windows in his shorter passes. In 2022, over 1,200 of his passing yards came on short passes.
What’s Not on Tape:
1. Smooth Scrambles
If you like your passers of the pocket variety, Tanner McKee is just your speed. You will not see designed runs for Tanner McKee; if he is running, it is because the pocket has collapsed, and he is left to scramble. However, he is not quite as statuesque as some would have you believe. According to PFF, McKee had 17 undesigned runs in 2021 and 24 in 2022 and did actually manage to break triple-digit rushing yards during both years. He even scored a few TDs.
Something to remember when looking at QB rushing stats – they are tracked slightly differently for QBs in college than those in the NFL. College football counts sacks as negative rushing yards against the QB, and because of this, stats can be misleading. PFF tracks QB rushing yards in the same vein as the NFL – rushing is rushing. However, sites like ESPN and Sports Reference counts the sacks as negative yards. McKee’s ability to scramble is by no means enough to call himself a running QB per se, but enough to show he has the capability if the situation dictates. The offensive line at Stanford was also not the strongest during McKee’s tenure, which limited his ability to try to escape the pocket, even if he wanted to. During his final season, the offensive line allowed 23 sacks and 63 QB hurries. The 23 sacks tied for the second most allowed that year. McKee will scramble if he has to, but he will look awkward doing so – you aren’t drafting a rushing upside QB here.
2. Little Real Football Experience
As mentioned previously, the combination of two years out of the college football world, COVID, redshirting his first year, and being an early declare has led to less than an abundance of tape on McKee. In fact, he only played in 23 games at Stanford, with one of those being insignificant statistically. We could call this the Trey Lance conundrum, at least to an extent. Lance had much more talent in his one powerhouse year playing than McKee did, but he had a similar amount of game tape. And we all know the position we are in with Lance now.
Compare this to another 49er, Brock Purdy. Mr. Irrelevant came into the league with four full years as a starting college QB under his belt. Purdy also seems to have more outright talent than McKee – at least based on our small sample size – but he is an excellent example of how much the actual reps put in are of value compared to pure skill. Full college tenures of starting and genuinely having the time to learn and understand a system and adjust accordingly seem to translate well in the NFL regarding sliding into a system. One of the concerns with McKee is that he seems to lack both stellar brute QB talent in addition to experience. The team that drafts him will be hoping that as the years of experience increase, the talent will as well.
Although the two college years under his belt are less than desirable for pure football experience, McKee shows remarkable maturity and leadership on and off the field. He was on the Pac-12 All-Academic Honor Roll for two years and won the Gundelach Award for Stanford’s most outstanding junior player. Even though he will be 23 years old as a rookie, teammates and coaches alike constantly praise his maturity and poise. In the fall of 2022, Coach David Shaw referred to McKee as “a leader of leaders.” He was an economics major at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. Needless to say, he has what the NFL needs between the ears.
With the big four QBs in the 2023 draft, no doubt filling the void for several passer-needy teams, the tier below – which includes McKee – will be looking to back up a starter and/or learn a system with the hopes of one day becoming a starter. McKee screams backup QB to me and would be a great fit in a system that truly values the stereotypical pocket passer. People are mocking him to go at the end of the third round, and a place like Indy or Detroit could be a good fit for him. After playing two years behind a subpar offensive line, we could see a big difference in his success if he can be protected – McKee’s completion percentage jumped from 41% when pressured to 66.5% when kept clean in the pocket.