Slotting the 2023 NFL Draft’s quarterback class is quite challenging in a vacuum. Add in the veteran signal-callers who could be available via free agency or trade, and the process of matchmaking QB prospects with NFL teams becomes an extremely difficult undertaking.
The storylines for most of the top QBs in this draft pool are pretty well-established …
- Bryce Young is the most talented quarterback in this draft, but does size matter?
- Was C.J. Stroud’s outstanding performance against Georgia in the College Football Playoff enough to push him to QB1?
- Can you throw out Will Levis’ injury-riddled 2022 season and focus on the superior tape from his healthy 2021 campaign?
And then there’s the biggest enigma of them all: Anthony Richardson.
The Florida product is inarguably the most physically gifted quarterback in the 2023 draft. Turning 22 in May, Richardson could have the highest ceiling of any prospect in this class. On the other hand, his footwork and mechanics got sloppier as last season went on, his decision-making is just average and he might have an accuracy issue that’s hard to correct. Do you risk it for the brisket? (Yes, I’m from Texas.)
Someone’s going to place a serious bet on Richardson’s substantial upside, but who? And when? With nearly two months left in the pre-draft process, a lot can change, but it seems like he’s destined to come off the board in Round 1. At this moment in time, here is how I see the toolsy quarterback’s potential landing spots, with percentage odds divvied up among eight teams.
NOTE:I’ve included the first-round draft slot(s) for each team listed.
FRONT-RUNNER: 25% chance
If the draft shakes out with Young, Stroud and Levis going inside the top seven selections — as many believe will happen — Richardson could be sitting on the board for a Carolina team that made it all the way to the Super Bowl behind quarterback Cam Newton, a former league MVP whose game was defined by size and dynamism.
The Panthers just hit reset with the hiring of Frank Reich, who could have the patience and demeanor to fully nurture the enormous potential of the Florida prospect.
LOGICAL FITS: 15% chance
This team makes so much sense for Richardson on several levels. The Lions are on the road to building something special, but I’m not convinced Jared Goff is truly viewed as The Guy in Detroit for the long-term.
The Lions could take Richardson at either Pick No. 6 or 18, using the other first-rounder to fill a cornerback need. Detroit could allow the raw quarterback to marinate for a season, easing him into the NFL in a reserve role and possibly deploying him at times with a specific set of plays. (With Ben Johnson remaining in the fold as offensive coordinator, this attack certainly won’t be lacking in creativity.) Then, if Goff isn’t extended, he’ll likely be a cost-saving cut next year, with Richardson sliding right into a starting role for an ascending NFC team.
After jettisoning longtime starter Derek Carr, the Raiders are in desperate need of a starting quarterback — and they happen to have a trio of talented pass catchers (Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller) awaiting whoever assumes the role.
Richardson is raw and will need time to work out the kinks, but Josh McDaniels is a quarterback-friendly head coach, and the Raiders won’t have as much pressure on them to win now if they decide to allow the youngster to grow into the position through immediate on-field experience.
With Eric Bieniemy taking over the offense in Washington, the possibility of Richardson to the Commanders seemingly increases. Bieniemy understands what it’s like to groom a physically gifted playmaker in need of additional polish, since that was the book on Patrick Mahomes when he was coming out of Texas Tech.
Washington has an ascending wide receiver corps and a couple of solid running backs. The Commanders may be willing to fold Richardson into a starting role sooner than most of the other teams on this list.
IT’S POSSIBLE: 10% chance
If Richardson performs really well at the NFL Scouting Combine and is good in the interview process, Seattle could be willing to spend the No. 5 overall pick on Richardson, thus waiting until No. 20 to snag some defensive help. But it’s more likely those needs will be addressed in reverse order — if the Seahawks do indeed have a first-round grade on the Florida passer.
The Tom Brady era has come to an end in Tampa, leaving the Buccaneers with just one quarterback on the roster: Kyle Trask, who was selected with the final pick of Round 2 in 2021.
While Tampa Bay should certainly be a team mentioned as a potential fit for Richardson, I’m not sure he will last all the way to the Bucs’ draft slot, which is why I have them in this category. They could trade up, but they might just sit tight, rebuild and wait until next year to draft a quarterback, if need be.
LONG SHOTS: 5% chance
From a broad perspective, you could see the Colts adding a bridge quarterback and then drafting a player like Richardson to sit and develop in a long-term vision. But with Indy fresh off a highly disappointing season that finished with seven straight losses, is Jim Irsay really prepared to use a top-five pick on a project that demands patience? It’s not hard to imagine the Colts wanting a more finished product who can come in and have an immediate impact on winning.
I think this would be a sneaky-interesting landing spot for Richardson — if he were to make it all the way to No. 23, which seems like a long shot in itself. Kirk Cousins would clearly be the starter in 2023, which would allow Richardson a chance to take mental reps for an entire season before potentially taking the reins in 2024 with some talented pieces around him.
Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter.