Quarterback Holton Ahlers

Quarterback Holton Ahlers hits the sideline after a short run against ODU on Sept. 10, 2022.

Former East Carolina University quarterback Holton Ahlers is entering the 2023 National Football League (NFL) draft as one of over 20 quarterbacks eligible to be drafted in the seven rounds of selection.

As professional scouts and analysts get a closer look at the five-year starter for the Pirates, some will find that we have seen a quarterback with a similar skill set before. In the weeks leading up to the 2023 NFL draft in April, The East Carolinian will be releasing a series of player comparisons for each Pirate that has declared draft eligibility.

Though several quarterbacks come to mind compared to Ahlers, two in particular standout. At this stage in his career with his skill set, Ahlers is unlikely to find a starting job in the NFL and is on the bubble for being drafted. Knowing this, it is likely that if he wants to find a spot on any team’s 53 man roster in the league, it will need to be in a role similar to the New Orleans Saints tight end and former quarterback Taysom Hill.

In his six seasons with the Saints, Hill has started at quarterback, fullback, tight end, and wide receiver as a “do it all” kind of player. Hill’s been a versatile player due to his physicality and lack of consistency at starting quarterback. It’s this niche where Ahlers will have the best opportunity to compete at the next level, and while he can fit the mold of a similar role to Hill, this is not the closest comparison to Ahler’s playstyle that we have seen in the NFL.

From 2006-2009, the University of Florida was graced with a southpaw quarterback who made a large part of his brand faith-based, just like Ahler’s “Built When Broken” brand. This Florida quarterback finished his collegiate career with 9,285 yards passing and 88 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. Ahlers finished his collegiate career with 13,933 passing yards and 97 touchdowns to 33 interceptions.

If you have not figured it out yet, Ahlers looks very similar to the 25th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, Tim Tebow. While he was a college legend, Tebow struggled to make a run at the next level. Despite his difficulties under center, the Broncos were still able to win a playoff game. He was never a full-time starter, capping out at 11 games in the season, but the way he used his physicality to extend plays is similar to the style of game that Ahlers plays.

Along with the positives, Ahlers mirrors Tebow in the negatives too. Neither quarterback has the best eye for accuracy. At the professional level, Tebow completed only 46.5% of passes in his fullest season as a starter. Though Ahlers has steadily improved his passing game, there are still weaknesses with vision and accuracy in the deep ball.

Ahlers does have the upside under his wing, however, as the 6’3, 230 lb. quarterback can use his size to his advantage. In Tebow’s NFL, the “Taysom Hill role” did not yet exist. New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton innovated the multitool quarterback role in quarterback Drew Brees’s later years to compensate for his aging arm strength. The Tim Tebow skillset can work in today’s NFL, but usually in a Taysom Hill role.

The biggest thing for Ahlers, as with every prospect, is circumstance. For a real opportunity to have success in the league, Ahlers must find the right situation to grow and develop in his areas of weakness for a team that could use a tight end, running back, full back and quarterback swiss army knife.

If things do not work out for Ahlers in the NFL, perhaps he could truly follow in Tebow’s footsteps and make a run at Major League Baseball.

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