March 8, 2023

I had it in my head not to make too big of a deal about the QB at this Combine and in the upcoming Draft. But I had to face up to the reality that QB are the true stars of the NFL. They used to say ‘Defense wins championships’. But to say that today is less than accurate. Most fans and NFL people would agree that unless you have a star franchise QB you are unlikely to win Super Bowl any time soon. How can you possibly get past CHIEFS/MAHOMES, BILLS/ALLEN, BENGALS/BURROW, JAGUARS/LAWRENCE, CHARGERS/HERBERT, EAGLES/HURTS if you can’t at least approach the QB play of these guys and their teams. So it makes a huge difference which teams acquire new QB like the Saints just did with DEREK CARR. You can argue about how good CARR is, but you can’t argue that he is better than a combo of DALTON/WINSTON/HILL that manned that QB spot in New Orleans last year. And the JETS may be on their way to acquiring a 3-time NFL MVP in AARON RODGERS to win now, and possibly buy time to groom ZACH WILSON to replace RODGERS in a year or two.

So let’s run down what we did or did not learn from the QB Group in Indy last week.

BRYCE YOUNG had announced ahead of his arrival that he would not be doing on-field drills during the Combine. But he would go through Medical Exams, interview with teams, and get measured. He will actually throw and test a bit athletically at ‘the home crib’ of Alabama’s upcoming Pro Day. But given that his relatively small frame has been the biggest talk since learning he would leave Alabama and enter the 2023 Draft, we clearly got some important items out of the way. He seems to have passed the physical tests and exams, although that info is unavailable to the public domain. Word spread like wild fire that the young man was smart. And I don’t mean just in an FBI (Football IQ) sense, but in addition to a clearly high FBI, his general IQ is also quite high. He was already breaking down game tape and helping the ‘Bama coaches game plan on a weekly basis. But he is also congenial and super articulate in general. In other words he passed the interview process with flying colors.

And to me, upon looking at the numbers he did allow to be gathered, he passes, on a pass/fail basis, the physical concerns. Remember now when you look at the numbers it would be great if he were 3″ taller, and another 10-15 lbs. heavier, but what you see is what you get, and it’s probably OK for an NFL career, though maybe 8-10 years not 15-20. He measured 5′ 10 1/8″ tall, and weighed 204 lbs. And with me being a size matters guy when it comes to QB hand size, he’s just fine at 9 3/4″. And that’s the limited info we have, but any potential suitors around the NFL are probably moving past those size concerns and waiting to see him run and throw.

C.J. STROUD/Ohio State measured in, and performed on-field throwing sessions. He also passed medical without raising red flags we might have heard about and interviewed well with the NFL personnel people. He stood 6’3, weighed 214 lbs. and has 10″ hands. Excellent numbers. And his throwing was smooth and accurate. Like YOUNG he is bright and articulate and knows how to run an Offense. He may be the safest of the QB Group when gauging his future prospects as an NFL QB.

HENDON HOOKER/Tennessee passed the interview process but of course is still rehabbing his injured knee and cannot run, nor will he be able to run before the Draft. If his progress is deemed adequate that will not make him undraftable. His stats and leadership for the VOLS should still make him a late Day Two or early Day 3 Pick. He. might end up being the steal of the Draft, since many personnel folks feel a healthy HOOKER is an NFL starting QB. Hooker measured in at 6’2/217, with nice 10 1/2″ hands.

WILL LEVIS/Kentucky is an enigma to me, and his approach to the Combine did nothing to clear that perception up. Yes he’s cocky. But, by the same token you can’t argue with the physical tools. He measured 6’4/229, with 10 5/8″ hand size. That makes his hands the largest in the QB group, by 1/8″ over HOOKER & RICHARDSON. But his cockiness scares me. When asked by NFLN why he had changed his mind and decided he would throw in Indy he said “Because I have a cannon’ (for an arm). He threw well, with good accuracy, but his stats last season showed way too low of a TD/INT ratio. He threw 19 TD passes, but also 10 INT. That just under a 2:1 ratio, in a world where the bench mark is a 3:1 ratio, at the very least. LEVIS has a propensity to throw everything hard/fast and tries to force his throws literally though defenders. Lack of an elite receiving group last season did not help him. He had an ankle injury last Fall and missed significant playing time. Realistically, his Combine throwing once again highlighted that he has a super strong arm, or as he would put it, a cannon.

And now we get to the most exciting, but polarizing QB at the Combine; ANTHONY RICHARDSON/Florida. He of the very short resume’, ala Trey Lance, but a big body and big arm. Most of these numbers should blow you away. Check these out:

6’4/244    10 1/2″ hands     4.43/40, 1.53/10-yd split    40.5″ Vertical Jump    10’9” Board Jump

If he had NEON DEON SANDERS’ ego he would have left the building after posting such numbers. But not RICHARDSON. He also participated in the on-field workouts. Concerns about Richardson have primarily centered around lack of throwing accuracy. His 2022 stats at Florida were not impressive as a passer. He completed only 53.8% of his throws and had 17 TD passes/9 TD. Those numbers are disappointingly similar to those of LEVIS, above. Then again he rushed for 654 yards, at 6.3 ypc and 9 TD. In his defense, relative to his passing stats he was playing in a new Offense for new HC BILLY NAPIER, who I think preferred him running with the ball to be honest. He was also NOT playing with an elite receiving group, other than Justin Shorter. I would also say that I heard a lot of praise from media folks who felt his passing workout looked more accurate at the Combine, as did his throwing fundamentals, especially in his footwork. I will also say that I was impressed with his nice easy manner of handling a couple of Combine interviews. He was soft spoken, articulate and thoughtful.

In other words the  physical talent and pro potential in this guy supersede every other QB in Indy last week. The potential of one Anthony Richardson is through the roof. But with only one season as a college starting QB the growth he still needs to show is an uphill battle, at a very steep slope. This young man still needs a lot of work, so before he gets ruined with coaching overload I am hoping he ends up with a team that can get by with their current veteran QB for a year or two, while they get RICHARDSON prepared for NFL level  QB expectations. Hell, even PATRICK MAHOMES sat the bench and learned as a Rookie!

The rest of the Combine QB group was mediocre at best, none worth drafting until Rounds 5-7. None likely to ever be permanent NFL starters. But a couple might make decent back-up QB with a little time and development. I will also add that I think now that with YOUNG, STROUD & RICHARDSON having answered some serious questions at the Combine it enhances DA BEARS chances of getting a couple solid move up trade proposals to land extra Picks without moving too far down. Remember DA BEARS cleaned out their roster last season, especially on Defense up front. Getting an extra Round 1 and Round 2 (or 3) Pick, plus something next season could help restock that roster, not to mention VFA with all their current Cap Space.

That’s my final group wrap up for this year’s Combine. I will try to put together a list in the next couple of days of players who showed me enough to suggest I need to go back and look again at their play this past season. Onward to Veteran Free Agency we march, which often changes teams Draft needs, with signings and defections on their current rosters.