INDIANAPOLIS – Now, things are starting to get really interesting.
There are just over seven weeks left until the 2023 NFL Draft, but with free agency quickly emerging in the wake of last weekend’s scouting combine, it’s going to feel like a sprint to the finish line. As always, the combination left us with plenty to digest, topped off by Florida’s Anthony Richardson’s eye-popping performance.
Will the weekend change Richardson’s look? What other prospects have helped or hurt their hopes of renewing Indianapolis? the athlete Draft analysts Nick Baumgardner, Diantee Lee, and Nate Tice broke it all down:
Let’s start with the biggest talking point of the weekend: Anthony Richardson’s workout. What are your points from this performance?
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I knew he had weird athleticism, but I will say his performance stood out against the draft class who performed admirably. I was very pleased with Richardson’s calm movement and delivery during quarterback drills. He won’t dispel all touch concerns and layered throws in one workout, but I’m glad he didn’t feel the need to assert his arm strength to stand apart from his competition.
We all knew who was on his way to Indianapolis. This week proved what the optimists were talking about.
nick Baumgardner: zero surprise. What he showed on Saturday is a wonderful confirmation of what we saw on film. That said, I’m not sure what this does to his stock, because a lot about Richardson remains subjective and hinges on your status as a franchisee. Everyone in the league will love his talent. Not everyone in the league will be able to make the time to develop those talents.
If you love it, you love it – and you did before the collection. If you’re out on it heading to Indianapolis, for a variety of understandable reasons, it probably won’t change that much on the weekend.
Nate Tice: A big on-field workout in Indianapolis was Richardson’s expectation—it’s not like his athletic gear hasn’t been featured in Florida at a variety of high-profile events that have happened this year. And I’m sure teams feel the same way.
Perhaps it will be the team interview process that will drive Richardson’s stock. I’m someone who thinks Richardson has more polish in his game than he gets, so if he crushes his singles team with teams, that will be what pushes him higher.
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Follow-up: We’ve talked a lot about the possibility of three QBs getting into the top five. Is there any chance of seeing four?
Baumgardner: I think we could see four progress to the top 10. I’m not ready to put Richardson in the top five, though, for all the reasons we’ve talked about – including the fact that not every team in need of a QB has the staff, resources or time to properly nurture him. .
There was almost nothing to criticize about the way CJ Stroud threw the football during field drills, and Will Levis’ arm looked exactly as we assumed it would look. This quarterback class isn’t for generations, but it’s better than the people who gave it credit this winter and Saturday showed some of that.
Tice: Nick’s last sentence is the one I heard. This is a good class of quarterbacks, but each of the top prospects has flaws and question marks. Some teams will wave it away, while others will use it to hit QBs down the plate. I think four quarterbacks in the top 10 or 12 will ultimately be how that changes, as teams battle for position to take “their” guy.
for me: I’d like to go beyond “possibility” and say that I’m beginning to expect it.
There is a need and incentive to avoid the back of the line in selecting young QBs, but the issue of Jalen Carter’s legal case is also a factor, as is the lack of stellar talent elsewhere at the top of the class. I don’t rank top QBs as top four prospects overall – make no mistake about that. But until we get a clear on veterans like Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr, the draft will be lined up to run early on signal callers.
Aside from Richardson, who are the players you would name as your Collective Week winners?
Tice: Stroud and Jackson Smith-Njegba were the stars of Saturday night.
Plenty of tight ends have seen big days, including Darnell Washington, who put up a show that will only help fans of his game build a case for his value and potential as a receiver. Sam LaPorta is an all-around footballer who does a lot of things well and had a great day of testing. And even a prospect like Luke Schoonmaker continues to become more interesting as a tight end has shown he plays the line and his Test numbers have hinted there may be more to gain from him as a receiver.
In a draft that doesn’t have a lot of size at the wide receiver position, AT Perry matching the downfield ability he showed on film with a good day of testing will probably help alleviate some concerns about his speed.
Paris Johnson Jr. is measured With a rare length that would impress teams, especially those that think he can advance their game. Many of the top seven players put in huge performances. To name a few: Nolan Smith, Lucas Van Ness, and Adetomewa Adepower.
for me: Smith-Njigba needed this week after missing so much of the 2022 season. His motor skills and body control are still as fresh and strong as ever, and the consistency of his production over his college career (injury aside) speaks for itself.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well Brian Pressey (a limber 298 lbs.) weighed and navigated through his positional workouts.
I also owe it to Dane and Nick to have a steak dinner for alerting me to Lukas Van Ness before combine week, because every once in a while the Iowa prospect was the athlete they told me he was. He ran 7.02 three cone, 1.64 10-yard split and 4.32 short shuttle, at 272 lbs. Hercules, indeed.
Baumgardner: Stroud and Smith-Njegba were exceptional, to no one’s surprise. Smith-Njigba’s agility and movement skills are off the charts – we knew that. It reminds me of a more slender, slippery version of Amon-Ra St. Brown, which is the first machine down from the slot.
Two other receivers have had great testing days: Perry and Galen Hyatt of Tennessee.
Cornerbacks Christian Gonzalez and Deonte Banks both looked great, and Georgia OT Broderick Jones (arm length 34 3/4 inches, 1.75 split 10 seconds, 30 inches vertical) matched his bar. Jones is a great possibility.
Side reversal, which odds are hurting — or at least missed an opportunity to help — its Indianapolis stock?
Baumgardner: I don’t know if Bryce Young hurt his stock by opting out of the audition/rehearsals, but that He was missed opportunity. We know his size, in terms of his size, so I wanted to see him showcase his competitive nature to the country as Stroud (and others) did. Sitting through it all in Indy while the top competitors killed it, only to finally do the exact same things later in your pro day—quite possibly weighing well below Young’s record of 204 pounds—is something the difference will take notice of. It’s just.
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for me: With everyone else thrown in, Young needed to be there, and nothing could stop me from that opinion. Even after bulking up to exceed the 200-pound limit, Young didn’t do enough to change narratives about his size. Meanwhile, each of his competitors showed up well enough to climb or cement their place in the recruiting ranks.
Another one: Kelly Ringo. I still believe in Georgia’s cornerback, and his speed (4.36 seconds in 40 yards) is legit. His vertical jump (33 1/2 inches) and hip movement aren’t where I need them to be, however, to consider him at the top of the cornering class—especially with guys like Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon as his competitors.
Tice: it was there too much Receivers under 180 pounds and put up test numbers that are good, but not overwhelming. However, the player whose arrow continued to trend downward was LSU’s Kayshon Boutte. He’s still a skilled player, and his 40-yard (4.5) time ended up being more than good, but his lack of explosive numbers will have teams continuing to stare at how he translates into the pro ranks.
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Are there any possibilities you need to revisit after seeing them this weekend? Anyone you didn’t expect to experience the way they did?
for me: I will be returning to Bresee bar for 2021 again. He tested well enough to deserve another look, especially considering how much I’m cold on him during the 2022 season. Schoonmaker is another guy I want to spend some time on. He weighed just over 250 pounds and ran a short shuttle 4.63 40 and 4.27. I need to say how well it blocks, but it could be a serious steal given how deep the TE cut already is.
Tice: Bryce Ford Wheaton of West Virginia. He never posted huge numbers in college and would enter the NFL as a senior player, but his combination of size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) and gadgets are worth a second look. Old Dominion tight end Zach Koontz was having a great day, too. His game tape is more of a player with a glorified wide receiver (think Mike Gesecki), but his test numbers will have me rewatching it to see if there are any glimpses of him moving down the line.
On the other end of things, I thought Jordan Addison would test a little better. Addison is a skilled player who’s been tremendously productive at my two college sites (USC and Pitt), and he’s tested really well – I’m not knocking his stock because of it. He plays faster in the movie.
Baumgardner: South Carolina linebacker Zack Pickens continues to impress with just about everything he does, from talking to working out. There is a lot of variety out there. Pickens is an interesting athlete who has played around a lot of good players in Colombia.
I came back to Illinois safety Sidney Brown (40 1/2 inches vertical, 10 ft-10 hop wide, 4.47 40) after the Senior Bowl, and I’ll have to do it again. It was absolutely gorgeous to put together.
(Photo by Anthony Richardson: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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