Anthony Richardson

West Notes: 49ers, Hudson, Raiders, Broncos

The 49ers may go into the NFC championship game without Elijah Mitchell. The team’s Week 1 starter, who has become a key off-the-bench contributor behind Christian McCaffrey since the team acquired the high-priced back from the Panthers, is battling a groin injury and did not practice this week. Mitchell is listed as questionable to face the Eagles, but this is the latest in a long run of injuries for a second-year player. Mitchell went on IR twice because of separate MCL sprains this season and battled shoulder, knee and finger injuries as a rookie. Jordan Mason worked as McCaffrey’s primary backup during Mitchell’s second stint on IR, while the team also has rookie Tyrion Davis-Price and Tevin Coleman (practice squad) available. Coleman has logged 12 carries for 26 yards this season; Davis-Price has 34 for 99 as a rookie.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • Rodney Hudson made it through just four games in his second Cardinals season, spending much of it on IR. The 33-year-old center signed an extension — three years, $30MM — with the Cards upon being acquired via trade in 2021, but a recent restructure points him out of town. Hudson agreed to drop his 2023 base salary from $8.25MM to $2.05MM, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. This lends to the notion a new Cardinals regime will release Hudson, with OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald noting the $2.05MM figure doubles as the max amount a player can receive in 2023 via the CBA’s injury protection benefit (Twitter link). Hudson, a three-time Pro Bowler with the Raiders, considered retirement this past offseason and may be headed out the door in 2023. The Cards would be hit with $5MM-plus in dead money by cutting Hudson without a post-June 1 designation.
  • Shifting to the AFC West, the Raiders will spend the next several weeks being connected to quarterbacks. They are expected to trade or release Derek Carr before his $40.4MM guarantee vests Feb. 15, and Josh McDaniels reuniting with Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo is already coming up. Raiders GM Dave Ziegler was also impressed with Florida QB Anthony Richardson when he scouted him against Tennessee this past season, Vic Tafur of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock has Richardson going off the board at No. 9 — as the fourth QB selected — but the ex-Gator talent is fairly raw and will have more development to complete once in the pros. If the Raiders were to sign Brady, drafting a QB at No. 7 would obviously cut into their offseason resources to build around him. But Brady also would not solve the Silver and Black’s long-term need at the position.
  • Davante Adams was set to appear in court this week, in connection to the shoving incident at Arrowhead Stadium, but Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes the appearance will be delayed until June 26. Adams faces a suspension for the postgame shove of a photographer, a 20-year-old Missouri-Kansas City student, in October.
  • DeShawn Williams started a career-high 15 games for the Broncos this season, playing a career-most 597 defensive snaps. The 30-year-old defensive tackle, who is on track for free agency in March, said he wants to re-sign with the Broncos, via Denver7’s Troy Renck (Twitter link). Denver will prioritize a new deal with D-lineman Dre’Mont Jones, who sounded like he wanted to test the market, and has D.J. Jones signed through 2024. Williams, though, would not be especially expensive. Contributing regularly to a top-10 defense, Williams totaled 4.5 sacks this season.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Saints, Matthews

Panthers GM Scott Fitterer provided rare transparency about his team’s first-round decision ahead of last year’s draft, indicating the team was likely down to quarterback or left tackle at No. 6 overall. The pick became Ikem Ekwonu, and the non-Kenny Pickett QB contingent tumbled into the third round. Carolina scooped up one of those arms, Matt Corral, but he missed the season due to injury. With Sam Darnold ticketed for free agency, the Panthers face another offseason of QB questions.

Both Fitterer and assistant GM Dan Morgan spent much of the fall scouting the top four quarterbacks in the 2023 class in person, according Joe Person of The Athletic (subscription required). Some of these passers will be gone by the time the Panthers pick at No. 9. Mel Kiper Jr.’s first 2023 mock draft has Carolina, however, taking the fourth quarterback in this year’s class — Florida’s Anthony Richardson — in Round 1. The scouting missions to see Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis and the team’s long-running need at the position will connect it to a potential trade-up maneuver. The Bears, who traded up for Justin Fields after the Panthers passed on Stroud’s Ohio State predecessor two years ago, are open for business at No. 1. It remains to be seen which non-QB-needy teams from Nos. 2-8 will join them.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • The Saints are retaining offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael for what will be his 14th season in the role, but Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com notes they moved on from their second-longest-tenured offensive staffer. The Saints parted ways with Dan Roushar after 10 seasons. Roushar, 62, had held a number of key roles on New Orleans’ staff since 2013 — offensive line coach and running backs coach among them — but was working as the team’s run-game coordinator and tight ends coach over the past two seasons. The Saints ranked 18th and 19th on the ground, respectively, over the past two years. A former college OC, Roushar has only coached for the Saints at the NFL level.
  • As more details surface on Michael Thomasrecent restructure, the likelier it appears the Saints will release him. The former All-Pro’s reworked deal includes a $31MM roster bonus due on Day 3 of the 2023 league year, and Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football adds Thomas would collect a whopping $30MM if he is active for four games next season (Twitter link). So, if Thomas is on the Saints’ roster absent another restructure, he would collect a cool $61MM. That reality seems … unlikely to commence. If Thomas is designated as a post-June 1 cut, the Saints would only be tagged with $11MM-plus in dead money this year.
  • In more Saints restructure news, the team pushed back the void-year vesting dates for David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport. Both D-linemen’s contracts are now set to void March 14, as opposed to February 17, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. That gives the team more time to negotiate extensions with each free agent-to-be, and GM Mickey Loomis said recently (via Underhill) the team is interested in re-signing both. Due to restructuring Davenport’s fifth-year option, the Saints would be tagged with $7.6MM in dead money absent an extension before March 14 — the final day of the 2022 league year. A $10.2MM bill would come if Onyemata is not extended by that date.
  • The Falcons created $4.2MM in 2023 cap space by doing another Jake Matthews restructure. The team accelerated $7MM of the left tackle’s 2023 roster bonus onto its 2022 payroll, Yates tweets. After eating considerable dead money over the past two years — much of it from the Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Deion Jones trades — the Falcons are set to hold the second-most cap space in the NFL — more than $56MM.

Latest On 2023 QB Draft Class

As the regular season continues to wind down for the teams near the bottom of the standings in the NFL, attention will turn increasingly to the upcoming draft class. This year’s crop of prospects was thought at the beginning of the year to include far superior options at the quarterback position relative to 2022, but that may not be the case in the eyes of some evaluators.

As detailed by Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post, the 2023 class of passers is not viewed by some around the league in the same light as their pre- and in-season buzz would suggest. Alabama’s Bryce Young is seen as the clear-cut top signal-caller, which puts him in a good position to be drafted first overall. With the Texans looking increasingly likely to finish with the worst record in the league, they are expected to hold the No. 1 pick in the spring.

Young’s numbers are down this season compared to his Heisman-winning campaign of last year, but that has not been seen as a regression so much as a reflection of an underwhelming Crimson Tide offense around him. Nevertheless, one source expressed concern to La Canfora about the six-foot, 194-pounder’s upside at the pro level. Similar questions could be asked of C.J. Stroud, the Buckeyes passer whose stock may have taken a hit given his and Ohio State’s performances down the stretch this season. He and the team still have the CFP semifinal available to generate momentum for the spring, of course.

Other highly-regarded QBs in this class include Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson. The latter – who officially declared for the draft last week – is perceived to have perhaps the highest ceiling in the group from an athletic standpoint. Both have been named as first-round candidates, but significant holes in their games have led to doubts about their NFL readiness in 2023 in particular.

Evaluation of these and other passers comes against the backdrop of few teams near the top of the board being locks to pursue upgrades at the position during the offseason. Another factor greatly influencing the college environment is NIL money. As Jim Nagy, executive director of the Senior Bowl notes (on Twitter), the spike in players using the transfer portal in de-facto free agency has – among other things – “considerably” shrunk the list of signal-callers entering this year’s draft.

Plenty is still to be determined between now and Day 1 of the draft, including further examination of the top QBs. While a repeat of last spring – where Kenny Pickett was the only first-rounder – is still highly unlikely, though, the position may not dominate the top of the board as some predicted not long ago.

Florida QB Anthony Richardson Declares For Draft

After only one season at the helm as the Gators starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Anthony Richardson announced on his Twitter account that he would be forgoing his team’s bowl game and the remainder of his college eligibility in order to enter the 2023 NFL Draft. With the announcement, Richardson officially kicks off what will surely be one of the biggest debates of the pre-draft process: will it be worth it?

There are a ton of question marks surrounding Richardson following his lone season under center in Gainesville. In fact, many scouts have voiced their opinions that they wish he would stay in college for another year to continue his development. Unfortunately for them, 13 games as a starting quarterback is all they’re going to get to evaluate the 21-year-old.

In those 13 starts, Richardson went 6-7, completing 188 of 347 (54.18%) pass attempts for 2,631 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He also showed a dual-threat ability, rushing 115 times for 680 yards and nine touchdowns in those starts. For his whole career, Richardson totaled 3,105 passing yards with a 54.71-percent completion percentage for 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, adding 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.

Richardson only appeared in three games as a true freshman, attempting only two passes and running the ball seven times. After the redshirted season, Richardson appeared in seven games as a redshirt freshman and earned his first start against rival Georgia. Richardson waited his turn behind eventual Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask and Emory Jones, who would eventually transfer to Arizona State. Richardson finally became the team’s full-time starter as a redshirt sophomore.

Richardson led the Gators through a rocky season. After an opening win over the eventual Pac-12 champion Utes, Florida endured a challenging slate, beating teams it should but falling to the top teams in the SEC like Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia. After perhaps their worst loss of the season to the lowly Commodores, the team bounced back for a strong performance against in-state rival Florida State before eventually falling to the Seminoles in the season-finale.

Now, he faces the pre-draft gauntlet. As only a redshirt sophomore, Richardson won’t participate in any senior all-star games, so his only opportunities to show his stuff will be the Combine and Florida’s Pro Day. Scouts are in love with Richardson’s measurables and athleticism, at 6-foot-4 and 236 pounds. His physicality and running style have been compared to former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton. The same scouts are highly critical of Richardson’s poor completion percentage and overall, in-game experience.

This brings his draft stock into question. Where will a prospect with so many questions marks and so many promising attributes fall in the NFL Draft? Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus (subscription required) recently released the site’s top-100 draft prospect rankings. Of the five quarterbacks who made the list, Richardson was not among them. Dane Brugler of The Athletic failed to put Richardson on his list, as well, even though his most recent version came in early-November. This could be a simple omission due to the fact that Richardson hadn’t announced his intentions at the time, but both lists included third-year Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba who announced his intentions earlier this week.

On the other hand, three NFL scouts reportedly said this week that “they expect (Richardson) to be a top-10 draft pick come April,” according to Jason Cole of OutKick.com. These scouts see the teams that will fall in love with his talent and may be in the ideal situation to draft and stash the young quarterback, allowing him time to learn and adjust to the game at the NFL-level.

Cole points out that, of the teams who currently make up the top-eight projected picks of next year’s draft, only three will have an obvious need at quarterback: Houston, Indianapolis, and Carolina. With at least three quarterbacks, Alabama’s Bryce Young, Kentucky’s Will Levis, and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, expected to be selected before Richardson, this leads to a situation wherein Richardson may get drafted to a team who can sit the quarterback for a year or two before forcing him into a starting role. It may end up being a situation like Bears quarterback Justin Fields or Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett where he only sits a few games before winning the job. Or it may be a situation like Packers quarterback Jordan Love, who has sat patiently behind Aaron Rodgers, waiting for his turn at the helm for a couple of seasons.

Regardless of speculation, the road to the NFL starts now for Richardson. He will have an opportunity to show scouts not only his athleticism and accuracy but his coachability, as well, at events like the Combine and his Pro Day. If he can’t prove to NFL teams that he has the ability to improve their team as a starter next season, he’ll have to focus on showing NFL teams that he has the malleability to be molded into a star in the league.

2023 QB Draft Notes: Levis, Young, Richardson

Entering the second half of the NFL regular season, a number of teams are starting to look towards the upcoming draft. This year’s class is expected to feature a more promising group of quarterbacks compared to 2022, with Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud long considered the headliners.

Another name has seen a steady rise throughout the college season, however. Kentucky’s Will Levis continues to generate buzz during his second year with the Wildacats. After making 14 appearances in his first two years with Penn State, Levis has upped his production considerably since 2021. The 6-3, 222-pounder has also been erratic, on the other hand, leading to serious questions about his NFL readiness come the spring and summer.

In spite of that, PFF’s Doug Kyed recently cited two sources who deemed it “likely” that Levis will find himself being drafted in top-10 of the 2023 draft. That falls in line with previous buzz this season, with some whispers even indicating Levis could overtake Young and Stroud as the top QB off the board. Per ESPN’s Todd McShay, Levis has drawn comparisons to Josh Allen and Carson Wentz from NFL general managers based on his blend of size and athleticism – with the caveat that a significant amount of refinement in his passing ability will be needed for him to reach his potential.

Here are some other QB notes regarding the 2023 class:

  • The aforementioned Young entered the season with massive expectations, given his Heisman-winning performance in 2021. The junior has not been able to replicate his success from last year, though, with a dip in completion percentage (63%) and yards per attempt average (8.9). Overall, the 8-2 Crimson Tide are lacking at the skill positions and up front compared to most seasons, greatly contributing to Young’s step back. As noted by McShay’s colleague Matt Miller, though, NFL evaluators are not holding that fact against him, which likely means Young will still be among the first players to hear his name called in the spring.
  • Another name who has been the subject of plenty of pre-draft buzz is Anthony Richardson. The Florida prospect generated excitement heading into the season with his athletic profile, but also had a distinct lack of experience. Another raw talent like Levis, the 6-4 passer has been inconsistent through the air (55% completion percentage, seven interceptions in 10 games) but highly productive on the ground (584 rushing yards, nine touchdowns). As a result, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reports that Richardson is expected to declare for this spring’s draft. Pauline himself, along with his sources, agree that doing so would be premature though, and that remaining with the Gators for his senior year would be better for his development. Given Richardson’s high ceiling, Pauline predicts an NFL team could reach for him as early as the first round.