Frank Reich Talks QBs: Is Anthony Richardson Really in Play for Carolina Panthers at 1?

Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich said Tuesday that Anthony Richardson makes plays "scream top pick." But could he really go first overall?

PHOENIX — Pick a mock draft, any mock draft, and you’ll almost assuredly find Ohio State star QB C.J. Stroud going first to the Carolina Panthers.

And that very well could be the case. But if you listened closely to head coach Frank Reich during his NFL owners meetings roundtable Tuesday, you could convince yourself that Florida’s dynamic Anthony Richardson is getting real consideration inside Panthers HQ.

Frank Reich Talks Anthony Richardson, C.J. Stroud

The Panthers will get two more chances to evaluate Richardson the player and Richardson the man between now and when they go on the clock.

Florida’s Pro Day is Thursday, and Richardson will be there and presumably throw. And then he’ll travel to Charlotte for an on-campus visit with the Panthers — one of five 30 visits he has scheduled, per NFL Network. (His other known visits are with the Colts, Raiders, Falcons, and Titans.)

MORE: FREE Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

On Tuesday, during his 30-minute news conference, Reich said the following about Richardson, who appeared in just 22 games and threw a mere 393 passes in three seasons in Gainesville:

“There are plays and throws all over the tape that scream top pick, top of the draft pick. That’s a credit to him. I think he has upper-body mechanics that are really solid. Obviously, his completion percentage is lower than you want at this level, but I don’t get too discouraged [about] things like that.

“I see a lot of upside. Talking to him a little bit at the Combine, you could tell how smart of a guy he is. A guy like that, without totally getting into it, the more experience he gets, he’s a guy that you feel like he’s going to get better fast.”

Drafting Richardson and his sub-55% collegiate completion percentage would be a massive gamble. He’s the biggest variance quarterback prospect in the NFL draft. His upside is the moon, but he also had long stretches in 2022 where he looked like an athlete playing quarterback — not an athletic quarterback.

But the raw talent is as impressive as anyone in the draft. He ran a 4.43-second 40 and posted a 40.5 “vertical leap at the NFL Scouting Combine. And he did all of that at 6’4″ and 244 pounds.

Still, this is probably a career-defining decision for Reich and Panthers GM Scott Fitterer — which is why most believe they’ll go with a safer pick (presumably Stroud over Alabama’s Bryce Young).

Asked about both Stroud and Young Tuesday, Reich replied:

“Worthy of the discussions that are being had about being the top pick. Different styles of play. But both of those guys that you mentioned are very accurate passers. Process very well. Are smart. Football junkies. Good leaders. Different styles of leadership, but both really good leaders. Playmakers. Both really good.”

MORE: The Carolina Panthers’ Draft Plans — C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, or Anthony Richardson

Young is a gamble in a totally different way than Richarson. At 5’10 “, 204 pounds, he would be among the smallest starting QBs in the modern era.

“I was mentioning this to someone the other day,” Reich said. “When you’re looking at any quarterback, let’s just say there are 10 things we are evaluating. Then the question is: Every team is probably evaluating the same 10 things. But how do you evaluate those 10 things?

“And then, more importantly, how do you weight [sic] those 10 things? How much emphasis are we going to put on the experience or lack of experience — the fact that it’s been X number of starts in college? Well, every team will weight that differently. We have our own perspective on that, on each one of those 10 things. And that’s what we’ll collaborate on at the end to make the final decision.”

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