Image Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
By Jonathan Norman
The 2023 NFL Combine took place from February 28th through March 6th and it assured teams that the top quarterback prospects are the real deal.
Heading into the combine the top quarterbacks prospects were Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, University of Alabama’s Bryce Young, and University of Florida’s Anthony Richardson. It seems likely that these will be the first three players taken off the board in the draft. A recent mock draft from Pro Football Network projects that Stroud, Young, and Richards will be selected at picks number one, two, and three in the draft respectively.
Stroud was able to shine in the combine’s throwing workouts. The 6′ 3, 218 lb. quarterback threw incredibly accurate passes of over 60-plus yards to a group of unfamiliar wideouts. With these excellent throws, Stroud lived up to the hype of being a “ball-placement specialist.” He also was able to impress scouts even more by showcasing his ability to elude rushers to extend plays and find open receivers during the scramble drills. In his media availability during the combine, Stroud seemed calm and collected with his mind just focused on displaying the best of himself to NFL teams.
“I just want to show who I am,” Stroud said. “I want to be myself. I want to be unapologetically myself. No matter what room I step in, I want to let them know that I control the room and that I’m a leader.”
As for Young, he was the only invited quarterback at the Combine who did not throw or participate in any drills. Young still visited the Combine, but he only took part in meetings and interviews. Many expected Young to sit out the Combine as he is already projected to go top three in the NFL draft and reports had already been surfacing that the quarterback wanted to wait until Alabama’s pro day on March 23rd to showcase his skills.
By participating in interviews at the combine, Young was able to address his biggest concern entering the draft: his size. The Alabama quarterback is listed at 6’0 and 194 lbs, which would make him one of the NFL’s smallest quarterbacks. Reporters did question Young about his height and weight, but he was able to fire back with a confident answer.
“I’ve been this size my whole life. I know who I am, I know what I can do,” Young said.
Unlike Young, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson participated in all testing and drills offered at the Combine. This decision made sense for Richardson as he had the most to prove of the three top quarterback prospects. Ultimately, Richardson was able to showcase his amazing athleticism. He ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, the fourth-fastest by a quarterback since 2003, broke the modern combine position record with a 40 1/2-inch vertical jump, and produced a 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump which was the best by a quarterback since 2003.
Amid his impressive athletics feats, Richardson also used his media availability to address the reports that he is a project draft pick, meaning that it will take time for him to develop into a franchise starting quarterback for an NFL team.
“I don’t even know what that means, ‘project label,’” Richardson said. “But I want to bring anything and everything they need. I’m going to work hard. I’m dedicated to my craft. I’m just going to be a leader in that organization to just grow and continue to grow.”
The NFL Combine resulted in most NFL analysts projecting these three quarterbacks to be the first three players selected in the draft and after a recent trade, this seems even more likely.
Last week, it was reported that the Chicago Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft to the Carolina Panthers for veteran wide receiver D.J. Moore and four future draft picks. Rumors had surfaced for weeks of the Bears desire to trade the pick as they seem to be satisfied with their current starting quarterback Justin Fields and would not be selecting one of the top prospects listed in the draft this year. With so many NFL teams looking for a new starting quarterback, it seemed inevitable that a team would look to acquire this pick and the Carolina Panthers did just that.
Pro Football Network‘s latest mock draft has Carolina selecting quarterback C.J. Stroud as the No. 1 overall pick, but no one can truly know what Carolina will do until draft night.
The first round of the NFL draft will take place on Thursday, April 27th in Kansas City, MO. Tune in to see where Stroud, Young, Richardson, and all the other top prospects land.