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Let’s kick the week off talking about the NFL scouting combine, which finished up Sunday. The NFL is a bit like a 21st century first date: you’ve read the profile, seen some game film, swiped right and now it’s time to go see for yourself if it’s a match.
Coming out of this year’s combine, Florida’s Anthony Richardson is the quarterback who’s created the most intrigue. He ran really fast, he jumped really high, basically reinforcing why, despite completing just 54% of his passes last season, he’s an elite prospect.
Alabama’s Bryce Young’s mind might be the most NFL ready, but what if Richardson can be coached up like Josh Allen has been? How good could Richardson be?
This is the question that makes the top end of the upcoming draft so interesting.
Do you favor the more NFL-ready prospect, Young, who has proven himself against the biggest and baddest competition in the country, but who also stands only 5-feet-10? Or do you go with Richardson, who seemingly has the higher upside but is going to need some time to get there, if he ever does?
Young is still the betting favorite to go No. 1, but following his performance at the combine, Richardson’s odds have shrunk from +10000 to +300. And scouts, general managers and coaches now have two more months to talk themselves into how they can mold him into a more athletic Patrick Mahomes, so expect those odds to narrow even further.
The conundrum of which QB is going to go first always dominates the conversation, but one thing that seems to get overlooked is this: Is the team ready to draft a quarterback?
Yes, the Chicago Bears were in need of a QB a couple of years ago, but when they took Justin Fields, they had nothing around him. It’s one thing to make a $500 million movie, but a studio isn’t going to make that money back unless they spend millions more promoting it.
In the case of the Bears, they spent so much in terms of draft capital to get Fields they didn’t have anything left to “promote” him. The result: two years into the Fields era, they have the worst record in the NFL.
The opposite was the case in San Francisco, who filled the cupboard and then made a move at QB. No, the 49ers still don’t know what they have in Trey Lance, but they managed to turn Mr. Irrelevant into a potential franchise quarterback because Brock Purdy had Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey around him.
It’s sort of the dating equivalent of being friends first — not as forced, more organic and less potential to be enamored just because.
There are going to be some teams celebrating in two months’ time after having selected Young or Richardson (or C.J. Stroud or Will Levis). It’s just worth keeping in mind that “winning the draft” isn’t the same as winning in September.