3 quarterbacks in genuine contention for the Carolina Panthers pick at No. 1

C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson
C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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Carolina Panthers
Anthony Richardson / Doug Engle / USA TODAY NETWORK

Carolina Panthers could draft Anthony Richardson

Also a four-star high school recruit, Anthony Richardson committed to the University of Florida as the sixth-ranked quarterback in the class. He sat behind Emory Jones (who ended up leaving the program) and Kyle Trask until his opportunity to start in 2022.

Of note, the once-crowd-favorite offensive coordinator candidate Brian Johnson was the main proponent of Richardson’s recruitment to the Florida Gators.

A physical unicorn – that may be the best way to describe the measurable traits he brings to the table. At 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds, Richardson literally turned in the best cumulative athletic testing of any quarterback in NFL Scouting Combine history. He registered a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, 40.5-inch vertical, and a 10-foot-9-inch broad jump. Astonishingly eye-popping numbers for a man of his size with arguably the strongest arm of the entire class.

While the physical build and athletic profile are the instantly most impressive and obvious aspects of Richardson’s portfolio, there is much more to him than just those. He logged an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 80.1 in 2022, his lone season as a starter.

Being that he only started 12 games in his entire collegiate career, the preconceived notion is that Richardson is a raw project and will require years of teaching and patience before he is NFL-ready. I disagree with that.

While certainly inexperienced, Richardson does demonstrate some very impressive translatable traits as a signal caller. He’s proficient with his overall command of the pocket and understanding the passing game he’s tasked with operating.

He routinely manipulates defenders with his eyes, allowing his targets to settle into soft spots while moving the defenders away from them. That’s an NFL skill and one that is indicative of high-level football IQ.

Richardson is very capable of processing quickly and correctly on the football field. That’s not where he gets himself into trouble the most. The prospect’s mechanics and consistency are the biggest catalysts to his poorest moments.

He tends to sail throws more than you’d like to see and it can be directly attributed to his lower half mechanics not working in unison with his upper half and his timing. Footwork will be imperative to improve upon. He can develop his decision-making, as he can fall victim to his otherworldly talent at times by trying to play hero ball.

His weaknesses, however, are coachable and the progress will become natural the more reps he’s given. I don’t believe Richardson needs to sit on the bench for years to become an NFL starting-caliber player.

It will require a level of patience with the Carolina Panthers or another team that chooses him (as well as the fanbase), but the payoff for a talent like Richardson could be the largest of any of the top prospects.