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2023 NFL Draft: Will Levis is latest victim of league's hype machine, suffering indignity of awkward green room shots

Kentucky QB goes from potential No. 1 pick to unselected in first round

Early this week, someone went on Reddit and claimed that University of Kentucky quarterback Will Levis was “telling friends and family Carolina will in fact take him on Thursday.”

You might not think an anonymous poster (SaleAgreeable2834) on a random thread would be noticed, let alone taken seriously, but this is the NFL Draft where everything and anything goes.

As such, the fact that someone was claiming inside info that Levis was about to become the 2023 No. 1 overall draft pick became not just “news.” It actually impacted the betting markets (yes, you can bet on this thing).

The odds Levis would go first overall to Carolina quickly fell from 40-to-1 to just 4-to-1 as sports books tried to hedge against it being true.

Levis actually became the betting favorite to go second overall to the Houston Texans.

It wasn’t just the bettors though. Mock drafts, as well, were adjusted accordingly, if not putting Levis at the top of the draft, cementing him in the top two selections. Websites, radio, television segments and more breathlessly discussed Levis as a possible No. 1 and a reasonable No. 2.

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis waits in the green room with girlfriend Gia Duddy at the NFL Draft. It was a long wait. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis waits in the green room with girlfriend Gia Duddy at the NFL Draft. It was a long wait. (AP Photo/Doug Benc) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Well, if you needed a reminder on the predictive value of betting markets or mock drafts, let alone Reddit posts, it was apparent Thursday during the seemingly endless ESPN cutaways to Levis sitting on a couch in a quickly emptying NFL Draft green room, trying to look natural as he spoke with his family and waited for someone to pick him.

Carolina did not, in fact, select him first overall (the Panthers went with Alabama QB Bryce Young). Levis didn’t go No. 2 either —Houston took CJ Stroud. He didn’t go in the top five or 10 or 20, either.

Will Levis, once a 4-to-1 bet to go first overall, didn’t get drafted at all Thursday. He’ll have to wait for Round 2 or (gulp) later when the draft resumes Friday.

Meanwhile SaleAgreeable2834 deleted their Reddit account.

Levis is going to get drafted and should consider that a tremendous accomplishment. The greatest QB of all time went 199th, after all. And really, all Levis did was add his name to a lengthy list of guys who “slid” in the draft and had to endure becoming the embarrassing focus of the first round. That includes Hall of Famers (Warren Sapp), future Hall of Famers (Aaron Rodgers) and, of course, complete busts (Johnny Manziel).

You never know.

Levis is a unique circus of his own. He didn’t fall from his projected spot because of character doubts or health questions. That is one thing.

Levis’ biggest “red flag” is his propensity for making comical videos, including the time he ate a banana with the peel still on or the one where he put mayonnaise in his coffee.

In truth, it seems like he was never considered an elite draft prospect by the people who actually make draft picks. It turns out no one wanted him. At least not in the first round.

He may have been a figment of the NFL Draft machine imagination, a name that got so hyped up and hyped up and hyped up that people were actually throwing real gambling dollars down on him being the No. 1 overall selection.

Maybe everyone should have seen this coming. He was good at Kentucky, but hardly top-pick good. He began his career at Penn State, got beat for the starting job and then transferred to Lexington where across two seasons he completed 65.7 percent of his passes and threw 43 touchdowns against 23 interceptions.

Yet there he was, front and center in the NFL’s peculiar draft hype machine. Will Levis. Will Levis. Will Levis. Day after day after day.

Somewhere along the way, he became a believable top-five pick because people said he was a top-five pick.

Was any of it true?

The NFL Draft remains one of the most bizarre events in sports. Coverage of it is based mostly on “sources” who admit they lie about everything because there is no reason to tell the truth. Honesty is a disadvantage, a tipping of a team’s thinking and strategy to rivals.

Still, entire news cycles are built on the idea that someone is “climbing” or “sliding” in the draft when the draft is still weeks or months away and nothing has actually happened.

In the vacuum of interest comes the absurd. Mock drafts. Anonymous reports. Fringe media characters. All sorts of mayhem.

At one point, a “draft analyst” reported that Levis possessed a “deathly fear of milk” and it was causing teams to worry “how he’ll fit in an NFL program.”

A fear of milk?

Actually, even cursory research revealed that Levis did the mayonnaise thing only one time as a joke and he usually takes his coffee with almond milk and stevia, so “deathly afraid” doesn’t check out.

Not that the story didn’t ricochet around draft coverage for a cycle or two.

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet,” Levis said Wednesday, when asked about the Reddit post.

When it comes to the NFL Draft, it’s probably best to not believe anything at all.