Who would you select with the No. 1 pick? The guaranteed solid NFL quarterback that is CJ Stroud, or the highest ceiling quarterback Anthony Richardson? Do you swing for the fences or look for the sure base hit?
At the end of last season, the Panthers knew going into the offseason their number one priority was finding a franchise quarterback. After going through multiple years of a carousel at their signal caller spot, they had attempted to bolster the team selections along each of their lines and skill position players who have become solid NFL starters. However, Carolina’s front office knew the merry-go-round needed to end and they should finally get another franchise guy to build around, which they haven't had since Cam Newton.
This offseason started out with a blockbuster trade as the Panthers moved up from the No. 9 pick in the draft to No. 1; giving up their No. 9 pick, a second-round pick this year, next year's first and second-round pick and DJ Moore. Now here comes the question, who do you build around?
Going back to the question I started off with, I would swing for the fence. Giving up all those assets means you need to at least attempt to knock it out of the park. Now, let me get into some of my reasons why Richardson would be my selection for the number one overall pick in the draft at the end of the month.
The first would be physical skill set. In terms of a prototype NFL quarterback, Richardson hits all the physical attributes that teams look for. A 4.4 second 40-yard dash time, 6’4 244 pounds, with a cannon of an arm. In terms of Relative Athletic Score (RAS) — a score that is given via athletic scoring at combines and professional days — Richardson is the most physically imposing and athletic quarterback since the score was created in 1987.
Although his 54% completion is something that a lot of people are worrying about, it is being overstated. He did not have NFL talent in terms of pass-catchers around him and the offense could only survive on passes thrown for twelve or more yards. This year was also his first year starting in college. To give more context, here are some other NFL star quarterbacks completion percentages in their first year starting in college.
Patrick Mahomes completed 56.8% of his passes, Joe Burrow at 57.4%, Josh Allen at 56%, Lamar Jackson at 54.7% and Dak Prescott at 58.4%.
Expecting his completion percentage to be high was always unrealistic, what he brings is dynamic athleticism with the ability to make any throw an offensive coordinator could ask for.
Richardson’s quarterback processing is also much better than the public is giving him credit for. Multiple times on tape, you can find examples of him going through multiple reads while evading pressure and delivering a strike with touch over defenders. This is not a Malik Willis-like situation where this player has to break everything down, Richardson comes in with valuable mental processing skills which should allow him to start early if he needs to.
The floor for Richardson is Justin Fields this past season. He is an elite physical weapon who threatens the defense in every aspect when the ball is in his hands. If worst comes to worst, he is a subpar passer much like Fields this past season and makes huge plays as a runner. What is scary is that Richardson is even more dangerous while running with the ball.
The ceiling for Richardson is something the NFL has never seen, which is exciting. He is a sizeable quarterback who has elite speed and explosiveness. He already has a cannon for an arm, and if he can improve his accuracy, then we could be looking at a generational player.
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