2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: East Carolina QB Holton Ahlers

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I will be profiling East Carolina quarterback, Holton Ahlers.

#12 Holton Ahlers, QB, East Carolina (rSR) — 6026, 237 lbs.

NFLPA Bowl/Pro Day


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Holton Ahlers 6’2 3/4”/237 9 3/4 32 1/4 75 3/8
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.95 N/A N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press

The Good

— A ton of starting experience
— Team leader and improved year by year
— Works through his progressions
— Good size and athleticism
— Solid mobility in the pocket; creative and keeps his eyes up
— Best work was done short/intermediate levels between the numbers
— Use of checkdowns improved
— Can be used on designed runs
— Good competitiveness and toughness

The Bad

— Mechanics are only adequate
— Late release point leads to low throws
— Accuracy and arm strength decrease when on the move
— Ball isn’t clean out of his hands, lots of wobble
— Throws sale when he doesn’t step into the throw
— Deep throws outside the numbers are either underthrown or too close to the sideline
— Will take too many hits when running the ball


— 2022: 315 completions, 469 attempts, 67.2 comp%, 3,708 yards, 7.9 YPA, 28 TD’s, 5 INT’s, 72 carries, 182 yards, 6 TD, 1 reception, 14 yards
— Career: 1,127 completions, 1,857 attempts, 60.7 comp%, 13,933 yards, 7.5 YPA, 97 TD’s, 37 INT’s, 469 carries, 1,446 yards, 25 TD’s, 3 receptions, 41 yards, 1 TD
— 55 games, 50 starts
— 4-year team captain
— MVP Birmingham, Hula and NFLPA bowls
— Founder/co-owner of Built When Broken, an inspirational Christian-based apparel company
— Graduated with Bachelor’s degree in communications (Dec. 2021)
— Four-time AAC All-Academic Team selection
— A descendant of Viking legend Ragnar Lothbrok
— Birthday 11/10/99 (age 23)

Tape Breakdown

Holton Ahlers (AYE-lurrs) is another quarterback with a ton of experience whom the Steelers have had contact with prior to the 2023 draft. He also meets the Parcells’ rules for drafting quarterbacks. The Steelers will need two more quarterbacks for training camp so it’s good to look at few.

In the passing game, Ahlers played exclusively out of the shotgun running a spread offense that included read options and quarterback draws. He has good size and solid athleticism with a good feel for pressure in the pocket. When the blocking breaks down, he has displayed the mobility to move up, left and right to avoid defenders and keeps his eyes downfield. He can make a full-field read and working through the progressions.

This is a short completion, but you can see him work from right to left, and he ends up hitting his fourth option.

His best work is done in the short and intermediate areas of the field, especially between the numbers. He has solid touch and placement on these throws. The routes he utilized most often were the Slant, Curl, Flat, Quick Out, Shallow Cross and Back-shoulder throws on the sideline. The Deep Out to the near side showed better timing this past season. Under pressure, he likes to flip the ball to checkdowns with either hand, which shows good competitiveness and creativity even though they can be dangerous. He will hit the occasional Seam or Post but not a lot of deep production. His usage of checkdowns when other routes were covered improved in 2022.

This is a nice throw up the seam to the tight end.

One of his most consistent throws was the back shoulder throw. He had good timing and placement on these.

The creativity is nice in this play, getting it to the faster player but he also did a couple of these that were dangerous.

When given time, his accuracy was good in the middle, giving receivers the ball in a spot where they could get the yards after the catch.

As a runner, he has solid speed and athleticism and ran a good number of designed runs. He displays solid acceleration and can weave through the second and third level. To finish runs, he isn’t afraid to drop a shoulder into defensive backs.

He can find yards on scrambles and will take on DBs.

His mechanics are adequate overall. He will not stride into throws, not hitch completely toward receivers and his release point is a touch late leading to the nose of the ball being down leading to lower throws. The ball isn’t clean out of his hand, leaving a lot of throws wobbling. His completion percentage should have been higher with multiple drops in every game I watched, and he dealt with a lot of pressure. When throwing on the move, he has adequate accuracy and marginal arm strength. On deep balls to the outside, his ball floats, leading to underthrows or balls too close to the sideline.

Here are a couple of throws on the move. The first is offline but the WR helps him out. In the second clip the ball wobbles and floats to the receiver.

Deep throws were an adventure. I saw a couple good ones against Coastal Carolina but there were a lot that were underthrown or thrown wide.


Ahlers is a high-character player with a ton of starting college experience. He played out of the shotgun in a spread offense and utilized the short and intermediate levels well. Capable of reading the whole field, he works through his progressions and keeps his eyes up when maneuvering through the pocket. He has the size and athleticism to be used on designed runs.

Areas to improve include his overall mechanics to improve his footwork, release point and spiral consistency. On deep balls, working on his accuracy to let the ball fly and not try to float everything in perfectly. Improving accuracy when throwing on the move would be beneficial as well.

Ahlers would best fit in a run-heavy scheme that utilizes play action and a quick, rhythmic passing scheme in the short and intermediate areas of the field with a heavy focus on throws inside the numbers. He’ll have a chance to make a roster as a developmental number three or practice squad player in the right scheme.

For his comp, I’ll go with another former East Carolina quarterback, Shane Carden. He had the size and experience and was a team leader. Both are competitive and had good production in college. He was signed by Chicago after the draft and spent time playing professionally in Germany, Canada and the Arena league.

Projection: Late Day Three

Depot Draft Grade:  6.2 End of Roster/Practice Squad (7th Round)

Games Watched: 2020 – Vs Central Florida, 2021 – Vs South Carolina, Vs Cincinnati, 2022 – Vs NC State, Vs Coastal Carolina

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