Quarterback mobility was seen last month in the Super Bowl, and now it’s up to some NFL teams to show their mobility in tackling the position.
Are they willing to trade next month’s draft to bring in a quarterback?
Can they exchange and still buy a good one?
Are they ready to restructure their attack to suit whatever player they get?
These were central questions at this week’s annual scouting group as the league evaluates the latest crop of prospects. There’s a good chance at least four quarterbacks will be selected from the top nine picks in next month’s draft, with Houston (second pick), Indianapolis (fourth pick), Las Vegas (seventh) and Carolina (ninth) all looking for answers to the position.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if three other teams in that series also fielded quarterbacks: Seattle (five), Detroit (six), and Atlanta (eight).
Seasoned passers-by Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr could also be in that mix, making a blurry image even murkier. Like a lifted deep ball, the future of Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson also hangs in the air.
“In an ideal world, you always want to draft the quarterback — draft, develop, and then have that guy here for five, 10 years,” said Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer. “You want to have that consistency. It helps for many different reasons. The continuity of your schedule, because of the salary limit. There are so many benefits to drafting and developing. That is the right way to go.”
The top tier of quarterback prospects are composed of Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis. The pecking order there? Depends who you ask.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” says Chris Ballard, Colts general manager. “I think everyone will see each man for the strengths and weaknesses of what they see and how they fit into their team. But it’s a good group.”
These four rookies-to-be aren’t cookie cutter prototypes, but individuals with different strengths and weaknesses.
Young went 24–3 in two seasons with the Crimson Tide, winning the 2021 Heisman Trophy and Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year. He’s relatively small, though, and is listed — generously, it seems — at 6 feet and 194 pounds.
“I’ve respectfully been that big all my life,” he told reporters on Friday. “I know who I am, I know what I can do. To me it’s fair, anyone can speculate, ask me any question. I keep controlling what I can control, keep doing my very best. … I have confidence in myself. I know what I can do.”
Stroud, of Rancho Cucamonga, is polished and experienced, throwing for 81 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions in two seasons for the Buckeyes. While there don’t seem to be many holes in his game, he did benefit from excellent pass protection at Ohio State – something he may not have with a rebuilding NFL team – and that university doesn’t have a reputation for drawing great professional quarterbacks.
Levis wasn’t as productive last season as he was in 2021, and questions remain about his accuracy and footwork. Kentucky went 10-3 with him from two years ago, but 7-6 last season.
“I think last year the season didn’t go as well as we would have liked,” he said. “But I learned a lot from it. I learned how to fight through adversity. Handled a lot of things physically and situationally that were hard, but it made me a better player, a better quarterback.”
There’s a lot of buzz on the combine around the six-foot-tall, 231-pound Richardson, who has less experience than many of the other quarterback prospects but throws torrid spirals. He was Florida’s full-time starter for one season (completed a total of 39 passes in 10 appearances prior to that) and had a modest 53.8% completion percentage last fall.
It should be noted that Josh Allen of Wyoming’s completion percentage was only slightly better at 56.2%, but he defied the historic trend and got even more accurate with the pros. The Buffalo Bills star has completed 62.5% of these passes in the NFL.
Richardson raised some eyebrows during his media session Friday when, referring to his college completion rate, he said: “I can certainly get better at delivering the ball and helping my boys. But I can’t catch every pass either. If I could, I certainly would.”
He later commented, “I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’m trying too hard. So when I try to cheer up, it’s not as accurate as I’d like. So I don’t care if anyone complains that I’m having a hard time. They better catch it.
While some may find those comments innocuous, others may see them as pointing the finger at his recipients. That’s something that might not go over well in an NFL locker room, especially if it comes from a rookie.
Anyway, while he might have answered that in a more diplomatic way, that probably won’t affect where he gets called up. Some teams even see it as the type of fiery competitor they want.
Richardson already holds itself to a high standard – and sets itself apart. He ran a 40-yard dash of 4.43 seconds, the fourth fastest with a quarterback since 2003, broke the record for QBs with a 40½-inch vertical jump, and his 10-foot 9-inch wide jump put out Matt Jones Arkansas tied for best by a passerby since 2003.
“I want to be a legend,” he said. “I want to be like Patrick Mahomes. I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats. I will be one of the greats because I am willing to work so hard and get to that point. To answer your question, I have a feeling that I will be one of the greats in the years to come.”