C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson don’t lack confidence at NFL combine

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INDIANAPOLIS – Right now, it seems likely that Bryce Young will be the first quarterback selected in this year’s NFL Draft.

But CJ Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson still have two months to change everyone’s minds.

The next three quarterbacks on this year’s draft chart began making their cases Friday morning during their interviews with the media at the NFL scouting combine. And all four players seemed pretty sure they belonged at the top of their class.

Stroud, the Ohio State quarterback, declared himself “the best player in college football two years in a row.” Richardson, out of Florida, promised “I’ll be one of the greats.” And Levis, the Penn State transfer who played the last two years at Kentucky, called his “cannon” arm the best the NFL has seen in years.

All were big outings for Young, the humble Alabama quarterback who was “just happy to be here, honestly” and said “it’s an honor for me to be drafted by any team that has the opportunity.” . Of course, he probably isn’t the one to convince NFL teams where he deserves to be drafted.

Stroud, Richardson and Levis, however, clearly feel the need to show teams that they also have top-tier and franchise quarterback talent and potential.

So, they?

“You know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard said. “I think everybody’s going to look at each guy for the strengths and weaknesses of what he sees and how he fits his team. But it’s a good group.”

It’s a very good group, so good that some around the NFL think there’s at least the potential for all four to be selected in the top 10. pounds, with official measurement close!) is still more likely to be the first take. But the other three also have a lot to offer:

Ohio State QB CJ Stroud

The 21-year-old certainly looks like the most confident quarterback in this draft. Not only did he claim he was the best player in college football the past two years, he said he would have won Heisman trophies if his team hadn’t lost to Michigan both seasons. He was also compared to Michael Vick, Deshaun Watson and Joe Burrow.

And that’s right now. Looks like there’s more to come.

“I have a lot more to improve on,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t think I’ve reached my potential yet.”

That means a lot, because Stroud had a very good college career. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 8,123 yards with 85 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions in 25 starts over two seasons. There’s no question he has the size (6-3, 215) and arm strength to succeed in the NFL. And he has proven to be accurate with his throws, or “a ball placement specialist,” as he put it.

Stroud also said his receivers will love him because he “gets guys open. That’s something I think is rare. In the league, guys aren’t wide open. You have to throw them like that because the separation doesn’t there always will be.”

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So what can’t it do? Scouts don’t seem to see many holes in his game, especially when it comes to his passing ability. Perhaps the biggest knock is that it’s not very mobile, or at least it hasn’t been. He ran just 80 times for 136 yards in his career with the Buckeyes.

Of course, running is something he’s also confident he can do.

“To be honest, I didn’t do it much in college. I feel like I should have,” he said. “That’s something I regret. And that’s something I plan to fix. I’m going to show them my athleticism. I’ve done it before, but because people think I can’t do it, I’m going to do it again. .”

Florida QB Anthony Richardson

In terms of raw athletic ability, there may not be a better quarterback, or a more exciting prospect, in the draft than the 6-4, 232-pound Richardson. He has drawn comparisons from combine scouts to all the great mobile quarterbacks in the NFL, including Cam Newton and Josh Allen.

He is also often referred to as the “project quarterback.”

Richardson said, “I don’t even know what that means.”

“I guess the teams already know that I have room to grow,” he added. They see sparks in me. I see it in myself too.”

Right now, though, those sparks are more about potential than production. He was a dynamic rusher for the Gators last season (103 carries, 654 yards, 9 touchdowns), but a questionable passer (2,549 yards, 17 touchdowns, 9 interceptions). His completion percentage was also alarmingly low (53.8 percent).

Perhaps more alarming, however, was his response Friday morning when asked about it: “I can definitely improve on my delivery,” he said, “but I can’t catch every pass either.”

And when asked about criticism that his passes are thrown too hard for his receivers to handle, he said: “I don’t care if somebody complains that I threw hard. They better catch it “.

Imagine how he will play with a veteran wide receiver in an NFL locker room.

That seemed to highlight another concern about Richardson: that he is inexperienced and immature, and may need some time to develop. A scout told FOX Sports: “He might be the best player in the draft, if you’re willing to wait. It might take a while.” And while everyone seems to be mesmerized by his talent, it’s clear that he also has a lot of questions to answer over the next couple of months.

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“I think if he was in the market for a quarterback, he’d want to talk to his coaches, he’d want to talk to his teammates,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. “What is his preparation? How bad does he want it? What is game day? Is he training guys? Does he take responsibility for the mistakes he makes?”

The good news for Richardson is that he seems to be generally regarded as a good kid with a strong work ethic. He also made it clear that he is motivated to fulfill whatever his potential is.

“I want to be a legend,” he said. “I want to be like Patrick Mahomes. I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats. I’m going to be one of the greats. I’m willing to work that hard.”

Kentucky QB Will Levis

Some top quarterbacks choose not to throw during combine workouts, so they can wait until a more comfortable situation at their school’s Pro Day. Levis decided to launch this week, and for a very good reason.

“Because I have a cannon,” he said. “I’m going to show it.”

In fact, that cannon of an arm is the biggest selling point for the 6-3, 232-pound quarterback, who has an arm that has drawn comparisons to Buffalo’s Josh Allen, widely regarded as the strongest arm in the NFL. In fact, Levis’ scouting report reads like Allen once did: able to make every throw, but inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate.

His college numbers, like Allen’s, were underwhelming: 5,323 yards, 65.7 completion percentage, 43 touchdowns, 23 interceptions in 24 starts over two seasons at Kentucky, after transferring from Penn State. But at least he did in the SEC against some of the best defenses in the NCAA.

NFL scouts have a lot of questions about him, including his accuracy on deep throws, his feel for the pocket and how much of his up-and-down play last season was the result of injuries to his feet, fingers and the shoulder that bothered him all along. the year.

But oh, that arm.

“I think I have the strongest arm that has come out of any draft class in recent memory,” Levis said.

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The chance to draft the next Josh Allen will certainly be tempting, considering how many teams regret passing on the original in 2018 (Allen was drafted seventh and was the third quarterback taken that year). Of course, there’s no guarantee that Levis’ arm will make him the same type of quarterback.

Levis certainly believes it will. He has a lot of arrogance. Asked what he can bring to whoever drafts him, he said, “Right now, I can bring them a championship team.”

“My goal is to win more than anyone else,” he added. “I want to be the greatest of all time. I think you’re crazy if you don’t think so.”

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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