The defender’s mobility was on display last month in the Super Bowland now it’s up to some NFL teams to show their mobility at the tackle position.
Are they willing to trade money in next month’s draft to get a quarterback?
Can I exchange it back and still secure a good one?
Are they willing to restructure their offense to fit whichever player they get?
These were the central questions at the annual scouting meeting this week as the league evaluates the latest prospects. There is a strong possibility that at least four running backs will be selected among the first nine picks in next month’s draft, with Houston (second pick), Indianapolis (fourth), Las Vegas (seventh) and Carolina (ninth) all looking for answers at the position.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if three other teams in that bracket also select running backs: Seattle (five), Detroit (six) and Atlanta (eight).
Experienced passers Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr could also be thrown into the mix, making the murky picture even murkier. Like a lofted deep ball, the future of Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is also up in the air.
“In an ideal world, you always want to draft a quarterback — draft, develop and then have that guy here for five, 10 years,” Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said. “You want to have that consistency. It helps for many different reasons. Continuity of your roster, due to salary cap. There are so many advantages to making and developing. That’s the right way to go.”
The top tier of quarterback prospects consists of Alabama Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis. That order? It depends on who you ask.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. “I think everyone will see the strengths and weaknesses of each guy and how they fit into their team. But it’s a good group.”
These four recruits are not cookie-cutter prototypes, but individuals with distinct 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 honors. However, he is relatively small and is listed — generously, it seems — at 6-foot-1, 194 pounds.
“I’ve been this size, with all due respect, my whole life,” he told reporters on Friday. “I know who I am, I know what I can do. For me it’s fair, everyone can speculate, everyone can ask me. I will continue to control what I can control, I will continue to do my best. … I am sure of myself. I know what I can do.”
Stroud, from Rancho Cucamonga, is polished and experienced, throwing for 81 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions in two seasons with the Buckeyes. While there don’t appear to be many holes in his game, he benefited from excellent pass protection at Ohio State—something he may not have had with a rebuilding NFL team—and that university doesn’t have a reputation for being pumped up. great professional quarterbacks.
Levis wasn’t as productive last season as he was in 2021, and there are questions about his accuracy and footwork. Kentucky went 10-3 with him starting two years ago, but 7-6 last season.
“I think last year the season didn’t go the way we would have liked,” he said. “But I learned a lot from it. Learned how to fight adversity. I dealt with a lot of things physically and situationally that were difficult, but it made me a better player, a better defender.”
There’s a lot of buzz at the combine surrounding the 6-foot-4, 231-pound Richardson, who has less experience than many other quarterback prospects but throws red-hot spirals. He was a full-time starter in one season at Florida (combined for 39 touchdown passes in 10 appearances before that) and had a modest 53.8% completion rate last fall.
It should be noted that Wyoming commit Josh Allen’s completion rate was only slightly better than 56.2%, but he defied the historical trend and actually became more accurate in the pros. The Buffalo Bills star has completed an NFL-leading 62.5% of these passes.
Richardson raised eyebrows in his media session on Friday when, talking about his college completion percentage, he said, “I can definitely get better at getting the ball and helping my guys. But I can’t catch every pass either. If I could, I would.”
He later remarked, “A lot of people told me I was throwing too hard. So when I’m trying to light myself, it’s not as accurate as I’d like it to be. So I don’t care if anyone complains that I’m throwing it around a lot. They better catch him.”
While some might see these comments as harmless, others might see them as pointing fingers at his listeners. That’s something that might not go over well in an NFL locker room, especially coming from a rookie.
Regardless, while he could have answered it in a more diplomatic way, it probably won’t have any effect on where he gets hired. In fact, some teams may see it as the fiery competitor they want.
Richardson is already held to a lofty standard — and he’s setting himself apart. He ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, the fourth-fastest by a quarterback since 2003, broke the QB combine record with a 40½-inch vertical jump, and his 10-foot-9-inch broad jump tied Matt Jones from Arkansas for the best passer 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’m going to be one of the greats because I’m willing to work so hard and get to that point. To answer your question, I feel like I’m going to be one of biggest for the next few years.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.