April 28, 2023 -KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Finding a franchise quarterback is the quickest path to success so it’s no surprise teams made them a priority in the NFL draft.
Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson were among the top four picks Thursday night, an expected result in a rich draft class that’s been anticipated since last year. The surprise in the first round was that Will Levis didn’t hear his name called.
Young, the slender and dynamic Alabama quarterback, went No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers, seven weeks after the team made a blockbuster trade with Chicago to move up to get their choice.
The biggest question surrounding the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is size. He measured at 5-foot-10 1/8 and weighed 204 pounds at the combine. Though he dominated the SEC, some scouts and coaches fear Young may not be able to physically withstand all the hits in the NFL.
“Those that doubt me are entitled to their opinion,” Young said. “I think that is the beauty of sports. We all come together and have arguments on who you think is good or not. I choose to focus on what I can control.”
Stroud didn’t have to wait long despite speculation he may drop out of the top 10 after scoring poorly in the S2 Cognition test. He told the AP earlier in the day he didn’t know where he would end up going but Houston snagged him at No. 2. The Texans then made a blockbuster deal with Arizona to acquire the No. 3 pick and selected Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr.
“I can’t wait to play with Will,” Stroud said. “I hope he doesn’t hit me too hard in practice.”
Richardson was selected at No. 4 by the Indianapolis Colts, who will begin a sixth straight season with a different starting QB.
Richardson might have the most upside of the group but he has the least experience. He threw just 393 passes at Florida. Colts owner Jim Irsay is fond of Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts and Richardson has similar playmaking ability.
He’ll play for Shane Steichen, who was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia when Hurts developed into an MVP runner-up.
“I know what he did with Hurts but I am excited to get to work with him,” Richardson said. “He has told me we are going to do great things so I am looking forward to it.”
Heading into the draft, there was no certainty beyond the No. 1 pick and even that wasn’t a lock. Some thought Kentucky’s Levis would be the second QB taken but he slipped out of the first round. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, who is coming off ACL surgery, also wasn’t taken on the first day.
New Panthers coach Frank Reich said earlier in the week that the organization only reached a consensus Monday after several weeks of deliberation.
“I learned so much in my short time there,” Young said of his visit with the Panthers. “It is an amazing staff. You can tell there is an energy, focus, drive and will to win.”