The Carolina Panthers weren’t going to wait for a quarterback to drop in the NFL draft.
With free agency starting this week and some experienced quarterbacks at stake, the Panthers have opted to start over with a rookie. They reached a deal with the Chicago Bears on Friday, trading to the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft to clinch a top-tier quarterback prospect.
The big question: Which quarterback will it be?
The general consensus is that the top four consist of Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Kentucky’s will levis and the one from Florida anthony richardsonalthough that pecking order is in the eye of the beholder.
Several teams need the job, and there’s likely to be a musical quarterback game involving such household names as Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Baker Mayfield and perhaps Lamar Jackson, though the most likely scenario is that he’ll return to Baltimore. crows.
In terms of future rookies, widely respected quarterback evaluator Greg Cosell has given them a long, hard look. Cosell doesn’t work for a specific team: he’s been at NFL Films for 43 years, but is in constant communication with scouts, general managers and coaches who frequently ask for his observations and opinions.
As he has in previous years, Cosell opened his notebook to the Los Angeles Times and detailed what he likes and dislikes about quarterbacks who could be taken at or near the top of the draft.
It started with the 6-foot-4, 244-pound Richardson, who ran a blazing 4.43-second 40-yard dash and set a modern combined record for quarterbacks in the vertical jump (40½ inches) and tied the modern mark in the wide jump. (10-9). He’s a physical specimen who has been compared to Cam Newton, who was taken first overall by the Panthers in 2011.
Richardson was the full-time starter for one year at Florida, throwing for 17 touchdowns, rushed for nine more, with nine interceptions and a 53.8% completion rate.
“We get to a point, and I don’t agree with this, where people say a quarterback has ‘great traits’ because he can throw hard and run fast,” said Cosell, a producer and analyst for ESPN’s “NFL Matchup.” .
“If you talk to quarterbacks coaches, those two things wouldn’t be at the top of their list. They would talk about the finer, subtler, more nuanced traits of someone like Joe Burrow (of the Cincinnati Bengals). Being able to throw a ball through a wall and run fast, that’s cool. They’re not saying he’s bad, but he’s not the broad definition of quarterback.
“Richardson could become a great player, we all hope he does, but at this point there is no real nuance to his game and he is markedly inaccurate. His ball placement is so erratic and inconsistent you just don’t know it. He misses a lot of easy pitches.”
Then again, the same was said of Josh Allen when he left Wyoming in 2018. His completion rate there was 56.2%, but he’s thrived since Buffalo drafted him with the seventh pick. He has completed 62.5% of his passes in the NFL and is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
“I talked to a coach about Josh Allen and he said, ‘Hey, I knew he had a lot of problems in Wyoming, but then I spent a half hour with him and I came away knowing he was going to be a great player just because of the kid,’” Cosell said.
“Josh Allen has a certain mentality, just like Jalen Hurts (from Philadelphia) has a certain mentality. That’s what you expect. If Anthony Richardson has that mindset, he might as well get it. And in four years we may be talking about one of the great quarterbacks in the league, just like we are talking about Josh Allen.”
Cosell said there are elements to Young’s game that really set him apart.
“He has incredible spatial awareness,” he said of the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner. “He’s phenomenal at navigating bodies and space, and he has a great idea of where people are. He is not a boy with big arms. He’s not a power pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, but he does find space to make pitches.”
Perhaps the most impressive? The space between her ears.
“He’s really smart,” Cosell said. “He’s a guy who’s going to go into the place where they draft him and learn that offense and be able to play Day 1 with a clear, very defined understanding of offense. He is that child.
The knock on Young is his size. He was measured at the combine at 5-10 and 204 pounds, but is believed to play at a considerably lighter weight.
“Someone who knows told me that he played in the national championship game a year ago at 169 pounds,” Cosell said. “We’ve accepted outliers in height, but those guys are 210 and solid. Kyler Murray (of Arizona) is solid, as is Russell Wilson (of Denver). Bryce Young is not going to weigh 210.
“People say, ‘He’s been little all his life.’ Well yes, he has. His game is designed to make up for that due to his great spatial awareness and his ability to feel and see. But you still play at the highest level with bigger bodies and faster athletes.”
Of the top four quarterbacks, it’s Ohio State’s Stroud who has the classic combination of size (6-3, 214 pounds) and passing accuracy.
“He’s a natural shooter of the ball,” Cosell said. “He is predominantly a pocket player. We saw in the game (CFP semifinal) against Georgia that he did move and make shots that a lot of people weren’t sure he could make.
“He has the ability to shoot with speed and touch, to make those passes that need to be layered and feathered. That’s being a passer. Being a passer is not throwing the ball through a wall. He makes the right kind of pitches to the right receivers at the right times. Not every shot is a bullet. Casts easy. He doesn’t have a gun, but he can throw every pitch.”
The way Cosell sees it, Stroud’s most significant drawback is the elements outside of his control.
“There will be people, and it’s probably valid, that will question the part of the state of Ohio,” Cosell said. “Because at Ohio State, for the most part, you’re in clean, safe pockets. There are not many disputed pockets. The receivers are open and you can play comfortably. We’ve seen quarterbacks from Ohio State come into the league and struggle a bit.”
As for Levis, Cosell likes what he saw of him in 2021 much better than he did last season. That’s when Levis was playing under Liam Coen, the Kentucky offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach who left to become the Rams’ offensive coordinator last season. Coen has since returned to resume his old job in Kentucky.
“Levis can play with rhythm, with timing,” Cosell said. “He has a tight, effortless, edgy delivery. The ball comes out And he looked very comfortable and suave in 2021.
“In 2022, with a new offensive coordinator, an offensive line that wasn’t great, injuries to the wide receiver, it was a struggle all season. Levis didn’t look comfortable… But the features don’t change, and he has pretty high-end features.
He’s a little stiff in the lower body. He doesn’t have a great pocket move and that’s something he needs to work on. You can run designed races with him because he’s big and physical and competitive. But he’s not necessarily a second reaction player out of the pocket.”
Are there a lot of good quarterback prospects this year, or just a lot of teams that need quarterbacks and are ready to take them early in the draft?
“Plus the latest,” Cosell said. “I don’t think there’s a quarterback in this draft that you would say is transcendent or special. I think everyone has certain things that you feel good about and feel like you can train and develop. So the hope is that they get there.”