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Pick by pick analysis of the first round of the NFL Draft: 1-10
The players, the schemes, the fits, the decisions
After months of rumor and speculation, Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft featured less chaos than anticipated. There were few eyebrow-scorching picks and, instead, a steady stream of sensible selections. Let’s break them down.
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1. Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Bravo, Carolina. The Panthers didn’t overthink it. They didn’t make it any more complicated than it needed to be: They selected the best quarterback in the country.
Young was the most well-rounded of the quarterbacks in this year’s class. He’s part distributor, part creator, a player built to orchestrate a rhythm-based offense – and then to go make second-reaction plays when needed. He’s the model for what’s needed in the modern NFL.
Are there concerns? Sure. I’m guessing you’ve heard: Bryce Young is small. And it’s not just that he’s small height-wise, it’s that he’s slender. He looks more like a yoga instructor than a professional quarterback. For Young to be a quality NFL starter, he will have to break all of the conventions for the position.
We’ve had some short quarterbacks in recent years, but all of those players have been thicc. Russell Wilson, Tua Tagovailoa, even Baker Mayfield. They were broad athletes even though they were short.
Young is not. There is no corollary for what he will attempt to do in the NFL. Even after adding some beef ahead of the Combine (and it’s fair to wonder how much of that was water weight and how much was real weight) he will still be the lightest first-round quarterback since at least 2006, as well as one of the shortest passers drafted since the AFL-NFL merger in 1967 at 5-foot-10⅛.
It’s not just the discussion of the size in the abstract, either. You hear that a lot: so what that’s he’s short. Who cares that he’s thin? Can he play?
It’s not just about the concern that, given his size, he might get hurt — something you can never know with any prospect. It’s the impact the size has on the makeup of the offense. At Alabama, the team had to use exaggerated drops in the deep passing game to buy Young the time to move, navigate and create throwing lanes, something that put a ton of extra pressure on the two starting tackles.
You can see the extra depth he has to sink to be given a chance to move and navigate — which puts both pressure on the tackles and line as a whole and on Young as a thrower.
Even in quick-game, the Tide had to use deep drops — deeper drops than traditional with different timing — that put extra strain on their tackles.
Those are choppy waters for a coach to navigate. They’re going to have to adapt and adjust the specifics of their concepts to work with Young.
There is no comparison for Young. He will have to redefine what it means to be a pro quarterback in 2023.
Is that possible? You bet!
Buy all the stock.
Young is a pocket wizard. He drifts and glides and slips and slides to create space and throwing lanes unavailable to anyone this side of Patrick Mahomes. As stick-slide-climb throwers come (the essential NFL move), they don’t come more refined than Young:
Playing quarterback in the NFL is about twitch. The NFL is lightning-quick. You must be able to operate at warp speed — physically and mentally. It’s about subtle movements in the pocket, the process to delivery time, and being able to snap the ball out of your arm as soon as the correct flash of color presents itself.
Young is comfortably the twitchiest player in this class – he’s one of the snappiest decision-to-delivery quarterbacks I’ve ever studied.
There is a suddenness with everything he does: making free runners miss in space; shaping one way before snapping and throwing the other way in one, seamless, efficient motion. The concept, his teammates and the defense operate on one speed; Young operates at a different pace entirely.
He is accurate. He throws with anticipation. He can create offense all by himself. He delivers under fire. He can hit every single throw. He works through traffic and cramped office space unlike any player in college or the pros. There have been some comparisons to Mahomes’ bobbing and weaving style in the pocket, but even those fall short: Young is a more sudden pocket mover than the bulkier, lankier Mahomes.
Good GAWD, Bryce.
There is no one like Young. And that could either be the start of something really, really exciting — revolutionary, honestly. He could serve as a reminder that sports are most fun when the conventions are broken. Or he could be a reminder that the conventions are the conventions for a reason.
Frank Reich and the Panthers represent the ideal destination to find out. There will no bullshit. There will be no drama. It will be about learning and developing as a quarterback. Look at the staff Reich has assembled in Carolina:
Head coach: Frank Reich
Offensive Coordinator: Thomas Brown
Assistant Head Coach: Duce Staley
QB Coach: Josh McCown
Offensive Line Coach: James Campen
Yeesh. At the very least, this will be a competent building running a competent development program. Reich can be fairly doctrinaire, but it’s a doctrine that fits with where the league is at and that crafts easy offense for a quarterback.
And to be fair to Reich: he has adjusted and evolved his offense over the years to fit the specific needs of his quarterback. In Young, Reich’s football erogenous zones must be buzzing; there is nothing he cannot run with Young. He can fuse everything he’s developed from Philly to Indy and slot it into one package in Carolina. Oh, and when things go wrong, when the concepts break down, he will have the sharpest, crispest quarterback available to bail the offense out of trouble.
That’s the modern game. A staff and a scheme can carry an offense so far. But ten times (roughly) a game, the quarterback has to put the team on his back, whether that’s creating out of structure, fleeing pressure and creating on the move, or delivering strikes with such precision from the pocket that it breaks even the most plaster of defenses.
The Reich Offense is all about crafting layups for the quarterback thanks to quick exchanges at the line of scrimmage, RPOs, and basic sight adjustments based on the leverage of the defense. It’s intended to be a ball-out-now offense with carefully crafted shot plays deployed at the right time. They run the same stuff over and over and over again, with subtle differences.
Working with Bill O’Brien at Alabama, Young was handed complete control of the offense, using a pro-style communication system – and collaborating on the weekly gameplan. He was responsible for setting and resetting protections and controlling the game from the line of scrimmage. O’Brien’s offense is all about using formations to manipulate matchups so that the quarterback can then attack instantly at the snap.
Young will be ready to step in right away. He will be fooled by nothing. He has made NFL throws to NFL concepts with NFL verbiage. His style aligns organically with what Reich wants, and Young’s off-script creativity is what has been lacking for recent Reich offenses, ones piloted by Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Young will inject some needed chaos into Reich’s carefully calibrated ecosystem.
This will be a dynamic, forward-thinking partnership. It has a shot to be special. The NFC South has the worst collection of quarterbacks of any division in the league. As early as the end of his rookie year, Young should be pushing for the top spot in the division.
2. Houston Texans: CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Heading into draft night, there were whispers of a split in the Texans' camp. Did the owner want to select a quarterback? What about Demeco Ryans? Did he want the top defensive player on the board? What would Nick Caserio, the Texans’ GM and the man stuck in the middle, do?
How about grabbing them both! Caseiro deserves credit. He spent two months, and the majority of the last two weeks, painting himself out to be a doofus. The rumor mill had the Texans down to pass on a quarterback with the second overall pick. Then it had them taking Will Levis, who the league decided was not worthy of a first-round selection at all. And then it had them opting for Tyree Wilson ahead of Will Anderson.
Wrong. Caseiro was targeting a quarterback and Anderson. Instead of Levis and Wilson, they wind up with Stroud and Anderson.
It’s quite the haul.
Young and Stroud should have always been the first two selections, regardless of who wound up with the picks.
It’s unclear how much of the Shanahan offense new Texans’ OC Bobby Slowik will bring to Houston. Or, more accurately, which version? Will it be the 2020 edition, the more traditional Shanahan, zone-based group? Will it be the 2021 version, featuring a larger dose of gap-scheme and power-oriented run concepts? Will it be the matchup ball variety that grew in 2022? Or will it be a combination of all three?
Given the lack of matchup pieces on the offense, it feels like it will be more of the former, with Stroud slotting into the classic wide-zone-then-boot offense before graduating into a point guard role as he develops in the league.
That makes sense. Stroud is a prototypical pocket distributor. He is the from-the-pocket guru of this class, one who spent the bulk of his career being dinged for playing in an offense loaded with talent. By the time things are done, when all of Stroud’s receivers at Ohio State hit the league, he will likely have played with five (!) first-round picks at receiver – and a pair of first round tackles. Separating his game from the Ohio State offense is tough. But within that structure, Stroud was bordering on perfect.
Accurate. Precise. Nimble. A good athlete. Stroud has been hit with the ‘not a playmaker’ mantra, which is online-speak for ‘not exciting enough’. You know what’s great? Throwing versus leverage; throwing receivers open; throwing where a receiver will not be collisioned, upping the odds of a completion; hitting all the easy throws, and ripping a couple of the how-the-hell-did-he-fit-that-in-there ones a game.
Stroud is the most precise thrower in this class. He is the smoothest pocket operator. He has enough speed and wiggle as a runner that he can create in the second-phase of the offense, something he was rarely asked to do at Ohio State — until his final couple of games as a starter when he embraced the jump-on-my-cape role.
Stroud will have been the #1 QB on the board for the vast majority of quarterback coaches. He’s the cleanest prospect. And talk of a lack of upside — that he doesn’t have as strong an arm as Levis or Richardson, or the wheels of Richardson, or the stop-start quicks of Young, Young’s creativity – will be overlooked for the fact that he does all of the, you know, quarterback things at the highest level possible. He is the best bucket thrower. He is the best intermediate thrower.
He threw to NFL routes, within NFL concepts, with NFL timing and NFL anticipation — the pass protection be damned.
Making those reads in real-time is football’s highest art. It requires a second-by-second mapping of 21 other humans in motion – and the brainpower to think one step ahead of them. Ignore any of the noise (or marketing bluster) around the S2 test and Stroud’s processing. Watch the film.
Good passers internalize the patterns of the game. They know where receivers and defenders should be, what the landmarks will be, before they get there. They have a 3D picture in their head of the concept vs. coverage before they hit the top of their drop. They understand how the defense is about to rotate, and throw passes that cut against those rotations.
Stroud’s work from the pocket was the cleanest of any prospect in this class. Forget the notion of the talent surrounding him: He scanned one-to-five as quickly as any quarterback in the country… it just so happened he often chose to target numbers one or two.
With his last two starts in college, he proved that the idea that he cannot create structure, was nonsense. He moved and roamed and created with his legs and arms as well as anyone.
The two questions with the off-script stuff are basic: Can he consistently create when play breaks down?
And: Is he alive enough to free runners and to create under pressure?
That second one is the main concern. Against Michigan and Georgia, Stroud showed that he has the ability to break away and create once chaos starts unfolding around him. As the pocket detonates, he has the athletic gifts and the spatial awareness to get out of there in double-time. He has the feel and skills to be able to deliver accurate balls on the run.
Where he’s had trouble, though, is scampering away from free rushers. That’s, obviously, where all quarterbacks struggle. But in the era of zone-pressure, overloaded fronts, creepers, single-mug stuff, and more mugging linebackers in general than you can even fathom, defenses are doing a better job of manufacturing free runners. Being able to beat them is a must.
You don’t have to be Josh Allen. You don’t have to be Patrick Mahomes. You don’t even have to be Bryce Young, someone who appears to embrace free runners (oh, goodie, a chance to make someone look stupid and to eliminate a pass-rusher from the rep). But you have to hit the Joe Burrow mark.
Burrow is a savant at subtly shifting his landmark as free runners come screaming into the backfield to throw their radar off ever-so-slightly. He has outstanding strength and balance in the pocket. Speed skaters come flying by, struggle to adjust to his movement, but toss a hand out and clip him. Burrow is able to maintain his base and move. And Burrow is a good enough athlete to slip the initial runner and then take off before any secondary help can arrive home.
That’s the challenge for Stroud. The playmaking stuff would be nice. To win in the postseason, it will be necessary. But the first hurdle is being a quarterback who can plays vs. free runners. We’re not talking about anything special — not yet. We’re talking about avoiding disasters.
If Stroud cracks that and the showcases against Michigan and Georgia persist in the league, the Texans will have a cornerstone.
3. TRADE: Houston Texans: Will Anderson, Edge, Alabama
How about coming away with a cornerstone on both sides of the ball.
Caserio unloaded some of the Texans’ future draft ammunition to jump back up to three to select Will Anderson.
Anderson was the top overall player on my board – and will be a linchpin for Demeco Ryans’ new-look defense. Ryans brought more coverage variability to the Niners defense he inherited from Robert Saleh. He also did more interesting things in pressure package world, though that was more in his first year at the helm of the group than in the second.
At heart, though, Ryans wants his defense to be a four-down-and-go group.
Who doesn’t? If you can execute that style, you’re able to pinch an extra man into coverage. As I’ve prattled on about ad nauseam over the past year, DCs have continually found inventive ways to create pressure on quarterbacks with four rushers.
Whether it’s a stunt, twist, pressure, creeper, overloaded front, or whatever. Ryans, along with Saleh, has been at the vanguard of finding different ways to scheme up an advantage for his front four. Their preferred practice: A lone mugger. By dropping a stand-alone linebacker down to the line of scrimmage, the defense is able to set the offensive lines protection, understanding (through study and general best practice) what that protection will be, and then building a pass-rush plan to attack it.
Again, that could be a stunt, twist, game or pressure. It could also be just isolating your best on their worst, or fudging some of the matchups up front. What all those schematic fun and games require, though: Dudes.
To play four-down-and-go, you need super-duper stars. Good players are not good enough. You need a Nick Bosa. You need a Quinnen Williams. You need one star who either commands a double-team or who you can isolate one-on-one through formation and you know (and the opposing offense knows) will win. That’s how you can sprinkle the pressures on top and the different packages start to amplify one another: fearful of one-on-one matchups, the offensive line is vulnerable to zone pressures; fearful of pressures and creepers, here comes Nick Bosa attacking one-on-one again.
(You also need a long, sprinter at linebacker; the Texans might go hunting for that on Day Two)
To run his style, Ryans needs an A+ pass-rusher.
Anderson can be that guy. The prototype for a modern edge defender is Khalil Mack, someone with the springs to beat tackles out of their stance, the strength to overwhelm on in-out moves, the flexibility to dip, turn the corner, and run around the edge, and who can also bring enough tenacity to fight versus the run.
Anderson checks all the boxes. Ever since he stepped on campus at Tuscaloosa, he’s been the most dominant edge defender in college football. His 207 career pressures are 55 more than the next closest defender, and his 35 sacks are 10 more. He’s also a hellacious run-defender. He has the first-step quicks, the flexibility, and the dip to be a vintage dip-and-rip rusher — and he stacked up a bunch of production by beating tackles out of their cleats early in his career. But scan across the NFL, and you’ll notice a trend: There aren’t a whole load of dip-and-rip-only pass-rushers walking around the league. As tackles have screwed an extra set of springs into their feet — and leapt out of their stances a tick early — those edge-rushers that beat linemen only out of their stance *cough* Shane Ray *cough* have washed out of the league.
Having the threat of dipping and running the arc remains lethal – see: Vonn Miller and Hasson Reddick — but all pass-rushers must now be able to win by converting speed to power and overwhelming tackles in the second-phase of the rush (be it a bull-rush, winning the handfight, or showing an array of moves), rather than just springing-and-then-flattening to the quarterback.
Anderson wins in every way you could ask for. He can de-cleat the best of them, but he also added extra oomph to his punch as he has developed. He’s happy to win in the early phase or to engage in the hand-fight when engaged. He doesn’t bring as much pop as some of the larger pass-rushers in the class — and he doesn’t have the widest menu of moves — but he offers enough that he’s just as effective once engaged (these days) as he is with his initial step off the line.
In 2022, Anderson won on the edge. He won inside. He won with hops. He won with power. He won with in-out twitch. He won with balance.
Here’s the other thing with Anderson: evaluating him based solely on his 2022 tape is tricky.
There was plenty of Anderson The Superstar on film, but he was also asked to play different roles for Nick Saban throughout the season. He served as Saban’s problem solver as much as a full-time pass-rusher.
There are games where rather than standing up and playing as a classic get-off-and-go pass-rusher, channeling his inner Miller/Mack (which is his natural game), he was moved around the formation. Saban pushed him out of his natural habitat. He moved him inside a little, playing Anderson as a ‘heavy five’ to try to slow down option elements within run-centric and RPO-based offenses. And then there are full games where he was used, essentially, to spike an opponent's RPO package. He was asked to unload on the backfield, to force the ‘quarterback keep’ or ‘pass read’ for opposing quarterbacks, regardless of the mechanics of the option ‘read’, with Alabama layering the rest of its defense on that basis to stifle the pass read.
Anderson didn’t grumble. He embraced the bullshit work. He was Alabama’s best team construct defender. He brought a real thump to defending the run. He did all the little things at the highest of levels. He did the difficult things at the highest levels.
That’s not glamorous work. It doesn’t always show up on stat sheets. For someone who could have been the first overall pick last year, Anderson could have been forgiven, as plenty of other prospects do, for wanting to preserve his legs, for saving himself for those pure pass-rushing opportunities.
Nope. Anderson isn’t built that way. He isn’t wired that way. He’s a pass-rushing phenom willing to accept the drudgery of early-down work to give himself a shot at teeing off on third-and-long. And then when he was given the chance to shuffle into a two-point stance, to stand on the edge and pressure the backfield, he destroyed folks.
There might not be a more compelling tape from this season than Anderson vs. Texas A&M. It isn’t his most dazzling game. The numbers are not eye-popping. It isn’t the easiest to evaluate or project to the next level (he’s playing in a three-down defense, the type you never see in the NFL; there aren’t a ton of reps of him going against a tackle or linemen slipping into ‘true’ pass sets). But it doesn’t matter. It tells you all that’s right and good about Anderson — and the player he could become when he trades in trigonometry for footballology full-time.
That sound you hear is the noise of evaluators and coaches clapping their hands together in unison. Okay, good. This guy has got *it*. And you’re telling me he can beat tackles out of their stance… and he convert speed-to-power… and he has legit in-out twitch… and he plays with great contact balance… and he ran a 1.61 ten-yards split… and his overall athletic testing scores matched up with anyone at the combine? Okay, Cool. Cool. Umm, What blood sacrifice do I have to commit to get this guy on my team?
Pre-snap, Anderson (#31) aligned as a mugged ‘backer, before stemming into the three-tech spot as A&M engages its pre-snap procedure. Anderson delivers a shot to the initial down block to maintain his leverage, before disengaging to hustle the quarterback toward the sideline. To some, that seems small. Even writing it makes a writer feel like a grouchy, hungover, aging scout next to Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. But it matters. To a whole batch of evaluators, that, when paired with Anderson’s obvious pass-rushing chops, is everything.
For three-quarters, that was Anderson’s game. He embraced the grunt work. He slotted into what the scheme demanded. He used that turbo-charged enginge to create whatever chaos he could inside. He was consistently asked to slide from the edge into the heavy-five role. Anderson’s job: to absorb double teams and to swamp the coveted B-Gaps — and when aligned on the edge, he was sent to attack the mesh-point, to force a specific read that fit neatly into the rest of the defensive gameplan rather than to play read-and-react football, which often left him stood around, unblocked, while the ball went zooming the other way.
For three and a half quarters, Anderson got on with it. He was disruptive, if not overtly game-altering. Then, with ten minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Alabama decided to unleash Williams as a pass-rusher. With A&M abandoning their base offense and dropping back to pass to try to get back into the game, Saban ran out a pass-rush-only sub-package, with Anderson pushed out to his preferred role, lining up in a two-point stance on the perimeter.
Anderson ran through people. He ran by them. He was everywhere, all at once:
That’s the player Anderson can be when given the opportunity; it’s the player has has been when given the opportunity. A less studious star would have pushed for that to be his only role – or a staff would have acknowledged other limitations and slotted him only into that sub-rushing role.
You do not find many Khalil Mack’s walking around Planet Earth. There is one. Few, if any, sport Mack’s bundle of power and hops, at his size, combined with his ferocity when engaged, quick feet, and pass-rushing smarts. But Anderson gets pretty damn close. The basic stuff is obvious. The extra stuff — the slick reactions, the diversity of techniques — pushes him into a different tier.
In a class light on premium players at premium positions, Anderson was The One. He fits snugly with what Ryans is trying to build, both schematically and culturally.
The Texans now have building block pieces on either side of the ball. For too long, they’ve lacked that oft-overused word: Identity. Now, we know what they will at least try to be on both sides: A wide-zone-then-boot offense piloted by Bobby Slowik and CJ Stroud; a Ryans-led four-down-and-go defense.
For too long, the Texans have been the bad sort of bad. Now they will be the good kind of bad: young, fun, fearless.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
It feels fitting that Richardson will be heading back to Indy, where he set fire to Lucas Oil Stadium at the Combine.
There is no better landing spot for Richardson. Shane Steichen was the architect of the Eagles’ overwhelming power-spread offense last season.
There was no other offense in the NFL built quite like Philly’s. They could maul people with the run, pity-pattered their way down the field with a rhythmic passing game, or smoke fools with shot plays over the head. And then there’s all the optionality – the pre-snap packaged plays, the RPOs, and the RSOs. Try to slow one avenue, and they would puncture you with the other.
The layers of the 2022 Eagles’ offense, and how they all fit together, was as close to schematic perfection as you will find. It was an offense that often rendered the world’s best athletes utterly helpless.
It was always going to be hard for Steichen not to seek to replicate something he had perfected in Philly once he took the top job in Philly. How do you move from something so individualized and creative and forward-thinking and innovative and then revert back to a traditional rhythm and timing-based offense or fall into the wide-zone monopoly?
All that stuff is still within the Steichen offense, of course. But Steichen hit on a particular formula that would be odd to move on, not least when you’re able to target a quarterback prospect tailor-made for that style.
The smashmouth-spread — running spread concepts from heavy personnel groupings and ‘heavy’ concepts (gap-oriented runs) from slender personnel groupings — is the ideal modern offense. The Eagles perfected the style last season, in part because they had a very specific set of players that made the offense virtually unstoppable — you can read more about that here.
In Richardson, Steichen has landed the first of three essential pieces to run such an operation.
Richardson is the best athlete to have ever tested at the quarterback position. That’s not hyperbole. It’s an objective fact. There has never been a prospect so explosive. He is twitchy in everything he does, be it as a runner or thrower. As an actual quarterback? Not so much.
I find comparisons between Richardson and Cam Newton to be borderline offensive. I get it. Everyone wants to grab as much Richardson stock as possible before he hits the league. No one wants to miss on the next Patrick Mahomes. And there’s a whole online contingent that does not want to boil down the excitement around Richardson’s game solely to athletic traits because of the gross, racial overtones that have followed minority quarterbacks for generations. It’s an impulse that, I believe, is coming from a good place. And there’s some truth there: The one-year explosion in college, the raw tools as a passer, the dominance as a runner.
But to compare Richardson at Florida to Newton at Auburn does a disservice to how nuanced a passer Newton was when he came into the league. Newton may have been a one-year starter at Auburn, but he had taken a ton of reps before he started: first at Flordia and then in junior college. And in that year, the greatest quarterback to have ever played in college. Not only as a runner, but as a developed passer who could hit all of the throws. Newton just played in a basic offense that lacked the systematized passing game he was asked to orchestrate in the NFL.
Was he Payton Manning? No. Did he have more subtlety to his game as a passer than a number of scouts and outside evaluators gave him credit for (back to that racial bias component)? Absolutely. It’s kind of why Newton torched the league from the second he stepped foot in it, shattering all rookie records.
Richardson is not that far along as a consistent passer — he’s not particularly close. What he is is a bundle of tools, an athletic phenom, and a quarterback who has shown he can everything, even in the tiniest of bursts.
There’s this concept floating around that Richardson’s athleticism gives him the highest ceiling of any of the top-four QBs. That’s wrong. It’s his athleticism that provides him his flaw. At worst – in the VERY WORST CASE SCENARIO – he will be the most explosive athlete to ever play the position. In the run game, he is a cheat code. Slot him into the kind of power-spread the Eagles ran with Jalen Hurts last year and, hoo boy, good luck slowing that thing down in short-yardage situations or in the red zone.
That’s the kind of Day One install play that will be just as effective in the pros as in college. A quarterback running stretch-lead is not really about skill or will. It’s a math problem, one defenses cannot solve.
Part of the effortless nature of the Eagles’ offense last season was how diversified they were out of their empty packages. One, they could get to empty from any personnel grouping, bleeping with the defensive personnel and the matchups. Two, they had a varied quarterback run game from empty. Zone. Wrap. Trap. Motion-Lead. Counter. Power. Sweep. They ran it all – and at a high clip.
It broke the math of the box. Should you slide an extra hat in to account for Hurts and leave yourself vulnerable to AJ Brown or Devonta Smith or Dallas Goedert in the passing game? Or should you sag off and concede six yards a snap with Hurts carrying the ball?
It was an impossible conundrum.
Richardson is the ideal archetype to mimic that style. He will put defenses in the same conflict.
Of all of this year’s quarterbacks, Richardson profiles to be the most lethal from empty, even though his numbers pale compared to Bryce Young’s in college. There’s the run game element — and what that opens up in turn in the passing game. He won’t need to be so worried about rhythm or touch or anticipation. He can play see-it-throw-it football just fine.
If he’s able to develop the down-the-field precision of Hurts that’s great. That’s how you wind up with an MVP candidate. But when a group is so destructive from empty in the run game and with a YAC threat on intermediate stuff, it’s not as essential. Having a dynamic runner in an empty offense puts a two-way stretch on the defense. Routes on the outside can push the secondary back while the threat of the QB run sucks the defensive front up, leaving a chasm between the two levels that even the scattershot quarterbacks can hit.
And here’s another thing: Richardson never, ever goes down. Like, never.
Here is how all four of the top QBs ranked in pressure to sack rate in college, out of 140 qualified quarterbacks:
1. Anthony Richardson, 9.2% (11th)
2. Bryce Young, 12.5% (33rd)
3. CJ Stround, 14.1% (40th)
4. Will Levis, 26.8% (130th)
Defenses were able to get close to Richardson. But they could not bring him down. He did not turn pressure into disasters.
That’s the baseline for Richardson: A one-of-a-kind athlete who can maul defenses on the ground via a power-spread, option-based attack. And if he can hit just enough explosives through the air, any offense will be, at worst, effective. It might not be efficient, but it would be explosive.
The ceiling would be something we haven’t seen since peak-Newton: someone who can do alllll that stuff on the ground, but who develops as both a rhythm-based passer and off-script playmaker. Those are not strengths for Richardson right now. I will dig into both when I write about Richardson in detail in the coming weeks. But in short: his lower body mechanics are a mess. At times, it looks like he’s never played football before. At times, he is using footwork that bares no relation to the passing concept he’s trying to attack.
But here’s the thing: This isn’t a raw, undercooked prospect who needs a complete overhaul. The exciting thing is that all the good, quality footwork is in there! When he’s forced to speed up his process, Richardson’s footwork isn’t just fine, it’s damn near perfect! It’s about consistency, and the knock-on effect that consistency will have on his general lower half, his mechanics as a whole, and therefore his accuracy.
And that’s the biggest concern: it’s not just that the footwork is fractured or ugly, it’s that it leads to some of the widest misses you will ever see from a prospect. Even when Richardson completes passes, he misses. Wide-ass open receivers are forced to leap for the sun or slide on the ground just to corral a basic 10-yard comeback.
But again: this isn’t a from-the-ground-up rebuild. The correct mechanics are in there. Often, it feels like a case of overthinking things rather than just going out there and playing. There are snapshots when Richardson is forced into being uncomfortable, when he’s pressured or blitzed, when he’s forced to speed up his process, and, hey presto, he has the ideal lower body mechanics and the accuracy flows with it. And there are flashes when you see the kind of second-reaction playmaking that only a handful of QBs have ever been able to make:
That’s the tantalizing part. Richardson is typically dubbed a ‘raw’ prospect. And that’s fair. But what’s probably more realistic is that he is oftentimes just flat-out bad. He misses basic throws, botches his mechanics, and bails on concepts before they’re allowed to develop. But in some ways that rawness is overstated, because the right-ness, all the correct stuff, is in there. If Richardson is able to find consistency with his base and how he relates his lower body to eyes, then some of the more nuanced traits (throwing to leverage, layering throws, throwing with anticipation), all stuff that Newton had mastered despite playing in gimmicky offense in college, will flow from there.
You can see the promise. When the mechanics are good or when the mechanics are bad, the velocity is effortless:
And effortless velocity (a good name for a racehorse) is always intoxicating. Can Richardson correct his feet enough to add more touch and accuracy to his game? Can he become more a playmaker in the second-phase of the offense? If he can tick off the first question, does the second even matter? If he ticks off the first, then that’s Cam Newton — and Cam Newton was bleeping awesome.
The idea of Richardson as a ‘project’ goes back to the consistency of his footwork and his overall base. There are issues. But I bump against the notion that Richardson is some thoughtless bomber with little feel for the position. Rather, he’s a player who’s shown he can do all that’s asked of a quarterback – traditional or otherwise – just that stuff is interspersed with a ton of bad football.
That’s different from someone who isn’t sure what they’re doing.
Richardson’s footwork is fine in spurts, too. When he is rushed or hurried, magic can happen. He can either conjure something out of nothing or deliver accurate fastballs on-time and in-rhythm.
Look at that timing and ball placement! There’s not much help or coaching needed there. That’s a quarterback quickening his process due to pressure and delivering a strike with anticipation and accuracy.
Now look at this:
What in the what?!?! Does anyone have a bucket and mop?
It’s as if those two players bare no relation to one another. That’s not a small miss. Richardson misses by yards.
There is plenty of that on Richardson’s CV — too much for most. The process is often barf-inducing: falling off throws; his head bobbing all over the place, too often falling off a linear line; a weird hop step in his drop; multiple heel clicks; no sense of bounce or fluidity to his drop; a refusal to climb up and through the pocket to deliver a throw in-line with his target.
I get it. But when you canvass the full body of work the good stuff is in there, somewhere.
Richardson toggles between those two extremes on a play-to-play basis. On one play, everything can be synced up and in-time and delivered with the ideal lower body mechanics. The next, he looks lost, as if he hasn’t been asked to deliver on three-and-a-hitch before. Too often, his lower body is wholly out-of-step with the concept being run.
That’s bizarre — I’m not sure how much of it is a ‘project’ as opposed to a player just not operating correctly. When given more time, when not pushed to get the ball out quickly, things often devolve into a mess. What’s that about? How much of that requires a professional coach to fix something? How much of it is about a player working with his private instructor and just repping it to no end until everything seeps in? How much is just being switched on and engaged on every down? How much is a coach constructing an offense to the timing and rhythm and footwork patterns that fit the quarterback?
I reckon it’s some combination of all the above, with an emphasis on the reps. What we cannot tell from the outside is whether to not, like Cam Newton or Jordan Love, Richardson has the willingness to do that. Does he want to commit to the ten bazillion throws it will take before his third year to make sure his lower half (and head) are more consistently stable? To make sure there’s more efficiency to his drop? To be wedded to the metronomic timing needed to hit certain concepts?
The why is difficult to navigate. Check this out:
Oof. There’s no early reason why Richardson should miss that. It’s an open, quick in-breaking route that Richardson misses, again, by yards.
The concept does all the work. Richardson’s offensive line holds up. He has all the time needed to complete the throw. The mechanics are not pretty — there’s a drag step, then a skip, then a heel click, then a second click. His head is bobbing side to side as he bounces through the lower body mechanics. Not scanning for reads, but throwing his sightline off. But he winds up in the right spot. As he goes to release the ball, his body weight is fine. He’s aligned to target.
It’s not ideal. He’s a little closed. But it’s good enough to complete the pass. He just sails the throw… for reasons. That’s an easy throw by decent-college-player standards, let alone good-college-player or the NFL.
Richardson put too much mustered on the ball — and sent a should-be effortless completion into a different realm. Is that someone who needs a full-scale rebuild of their throwing form or is that just asking someone to take some RPMs off the ball… and throw it to the receiver?
That’s what makes this whole evaluation tricky. There’s no good reason why Richardson missed that throw — and there are five or six such examples a game. It would be easier to explain if on that miss there was a major mechanical flaw.
That’s a major concern, no matter how the strongest Richardson believers (Richliebers?) try to dress it up. And I don’t think it’s because something in his game has to necessarily be radically overhauled. The above was fine enough mechanically to get the job done and he just whiffed it.
The highs are otherworldly. The lows are on par with Connor Roy’s polling figures.
Working to perfect the issues, to raise them even to ‘passable’ standards, is hard work. Replicating the same release patterns, marrying your feet to your eyes, and then tieing them both to the specifics of the concept, takes time and reps. The NFL uses college football as its minor league system precisely to iron out those basic issues. The spacing and concepts might be different (or exaggerated) in college football, but there are still the core concepts of the quarterback position: maintaining a level head and eye level, lining up to your target, generating power from the base up, efficiency within the drop, timing up the drop to the concept, and on and on.
There’s a decent ways to go. And it’s the kind of development project that, given the constraints placed on practice time by the CBA, will have more to do with the work Richardson does with his private quarterback coach and his willingness to develop in the offseason rather than anything a team can do. What a team can do is start to marry Richardson’s skills and wants to concepts in year one, to make life easier as he builds out and finds consistency with his mechanics. Does Richardson want to be great? Is he committed to what it will take? Those are questions only he can answer.
The history of QBs without many college starts is hardly sparkling. Here are the quarterbacks who’ve been selected in the first round with fewer than 20 starts in recent years.
2023: Anthony Richardson, 13 starts
2021: Trey Lance, 17 starts
2021: Mac Jones, 17 starts
2019: Kyler Murray, 18 starts
2019: Dwayne Haskins, 14 starts
2017: Mitch Trubisky, 13 starts
2012: Ryan Tannehill, 19 starts
2009: Mark Sanchez, 16 starts
Yeesh. That’s not great, Bob. But, like Young, Richardson has landed in the perfect spot. This isn’t a guy who needs to be protected or hidden. He needs to play. And he needs to play in exactly the kind of offense that Steichen crafted in Philadelphia. This has the potential to be the most intriguing quarterback-coach marriage in the league — non-Reid-Mahomes division.
5. Seattle Seahawks: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Woah. I did not see the Seahawks looking to address their secondary. I assumed they would be nailed on to take a defensive lineman. But, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.
Secondary was a sneaky concern for the Seahawks. And has there ever been a more Pete Carroll corner than Devon Witherspoon? Carroll remains a defensive backs coach at heart. He is also a maniac. Devon Witherspoon is an outstanding cornerback. He is also a maniac.
Let’s pause to think about this for a moment: 12 months ago, the John Schneider-Pete Carroll axis was at a crossroads. They were almost run out of town by a Russell Wilson-led revolt. Instead, they traded the quarterback to the Broncos, receiving a bounty of draft picks back in return. Wilson proceeded to sight fire to everything in his sights in Denver. Then the pair crushed last year’s draft, selecting six starters from nine picks, including grabbing Charles Cross, Abraham Lucas, Tariq Woolen, and Kenneth Walker III, all budding stars at their position. Oh, and there was the small matter of them finding Geno Smith on the quarterback scrap heap and resurrecting his career.
Now this. On Thursday night they were able to land Witherspoon and later Jackson Smith-Njigba. In the span of a year, Carroll has gone from hearing chatter that he should retire; Schneider has pushed back calls for his ouster. Together, they’ve overhauled the Seahawks roster. What looked like it was going to be a long rebuild in the wake of the Wilson trade now looks like one of the most talented, youthful rosters in the craptastic NFC.
Witherspoon will be an interesting fit in Seattle. Skills-wise, he has everything the Seahawks look for (the smarts; the off-coverage skills; the agility) except for size.
Illinois lined up Witherspoon in press-coverage all the damn time. He obliterated everyone. Witherspoon demolished receivers in press (sometimes literally heaving them into the backfield) and he flattened people in the run game. Concerns about his size and how that translates to the next level are indeed fair, but Witherspoon is so technically astute that I don’t the size will be an issue.
There are so few flaws to correct, technically, when lined up one-on-one in press. There will need to be growth as a zone and match corner, but there isn’t a coach alive who wouldn’t prefer the dominant press corner who might take a couple of years to understand the nuances of a match-based system — and there is no better teacher for such a system (particularly the peculiarities of a press-and-trail system) than Carroll.
Witherspoon dominated outside. He was outstanding when lined up in the slot:
Witherspoon pairs an understanding of route concepts and combinations with his quick feet and natural, in-out fluidity. He is always – always – arriving at a receiver’s landmark before they even get there themselves.
Through tape alone, Witherspoon may be the very best player in this class; it’s him or Bijan Robinson. Witherspoon is undersized. He has shorter arms. He’s light. Taken together, those traits make pro teams wince. But Witherspoon plays bigger than his size. He’s a missile versus the run. He’s a savant in press-and-trail technique, making up for his lack of arm length with smarts and instincts. And he’s the slickest in-out mover in the class, giving him the kind of anywhere-in-the-backfield versatility needed in the modern era as offenses motion, shift and move around pre-snap.
Pairing him with Tariq Woolen in the defensive backfield doesn’t quite make the Seahawks motion-proof, but it pushes them further in that direction. In Woolen and Witherspoon, they have two contrasting body types (one little; one very large) with similar skill-sets: they want to battle in press and they’re instinctive when playing in off-coverage. They will be able to flip matchups and assignments on a snap-to-snap basis without worrying about who is where.
The Seahawks are running a version of the Fangio defense these days. Having such a smart, instinctive, click-and-close, off-coverage corner like Witherspoon is a serious asset in Fangio-esque. It allows the defense to better disguise its coverage intentions. Zone looks pre-snap can become man or match coverages at the snap because Witherspoon is so adept at picking receivers up on the fly without having to press up on the line of scrimmage.
The Seahawks played with a single high safety on 55.2% of their snaps last season as they toggled coverage schemes. In adding Witherspoon to a defensive backfield that includes Woolen, they will be able to still hover around that figure while boosting the effectiveness of their split-safety looks. This is going to be a fun, creative, rotation-laden, disguise-prone group on early downs that beats the ever-loving crap out of receivers on third downs.
6. TRADE: Arizona Cardinals: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Cardinals landed their guy. It was an open secret that the Cardinals wanted to exit the top ten with Johnson in tow. They moved out of #3 and then leapt back up at six to tag Johnson.
When you have the most barren roster in the NFL, moving future assets to target one player is not advisable. But if you’re going to do it, doing it for a potential starting tackle makes sense.
Johnson will take time. He has the prototypical size, length and hops for a starting NFL left tackle. He’s 6-6, 310 lbs with slick feet and a sturdy anchor. After playing some as a guard, Johnson kicked out to tackle last season. He has all of the necessary tools to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL. But there is still plenty of room to grow.
Johnson can be maddeningly inconsistent. He topped tackle boards because he has shown, in flashes, the capacity to handle any kind of rusher. He has the springs to leap out vs. speed-skaters. He can drop anchor versus power rushers. He has quick feet to move and slide once latched onto a rusher. He’s alert to stunts, twists and pressure arriving from depth.
The highs are that of a starting-caliber tackle. But the inconsistencies grate. Johnson can struggle with balance, narrowing his feet on contact or failing to settle his base before absorbing a blow. He isn’t a natural dipper. Meaning: He has to get by by twisting and contorting rushers, using his off hand to reposition them, and then moving into the slip-and-slide world.
That’s, obviously, doable. But it adds an extra layer to the proceedings compared to those who can sink down with the league’s best swoopers.
More and more, quarterbacks are being evaluated on tools only (well, tools plus some proof of concept). It’s the same with tackles. Two years, that’s the key. The players don’t have the time or reps needed in college to master the nuances of the position needed to battle with the best-of-the-best that the league has to offer – at least from the jump (which is what made what Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas all the more impressive). But with the advent of private training, information sharing, and a loaded slate of o-line coaches dispersed across the league (guys who now stay put even as a head coach and his staff move on or the rest of the staff evolves), tackle play is on the upswing. It is a position of engineers and problem solvers — and it takes time to come up with the correct solutions needed for each player’s idiosyncrasies, and how those match up versus a variety of pass-rushers and pressure paths.
The jump typically comes around year three – when they’re able to match up raw skills with all the precision needed to thrive at the position. To win down-in and down-out at the next-level, Johnson will need to clean up his technique and play with more consistency. That may take time, but the upside is there.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Tyree Wilson, Edge, Texas Tech
The board fell kindly for the Raiders at seven. They had their pick of defensive targets: Jalen Carter, Christian Gonzalez and Wilson. They opted for the edge-rusher.
Wilson’s rise throughout the draft process was part-baffling, part-utterly predictable. He is one of the best athletic testers to have ever entered the draft. Whether he, you know has the skills and know-how to play football remains an open question. But the athletic traits are tantalizing: Wilson is 6-6, 275 lbs, and he moves like a middle linebacker. Texas Tech dabbled with bouncing Wilson around, using him as an off-ball ‘backer and an interior run-game clogger as much as an out-and-out pass-rusher. In those roles, he was miscast. He doesn’t have the natural leverage to play inside:
Out in space, he wasn’t nimble enough or switched on enough in coverage to be effective. He was essentially a traffic cone, albeit one with tree-like arms that could gum up passing lanes.
In the NFL, his job will be simpler, and that should unlock his game: Go and get the quarterback! Wilson needs technical refinement. There’s a ton of wasted movement in his game. He’s inconsistent off-the-ball. He arrives at blockers and then looks to bring power. His hands are sloppy. He can deliver serious power when everything is timed up correctly. When everything is synced up, he’s a freight train:
There are bad reps where he still does impressive things, his tools (the strength, second-surge, and contact balance) taking over.
But that doesn’t happen often enough – yet. And even when it does, the mechanics of how he gets there are off. The wasted steps. The technical constraints. Iffy pad level. He will not get away with that stuff and still be impactful in the pros.
Teams are hanging on to two ideas: That they can work on the initial rush phase; that he’s shown just enough in the second phase that he can get by as he develops in the early portion of the rep. Even when he doesn’t win off-the-snap, Wilson has the power to win with a second surge:
The talent is there to be tapped into by a quality defensive line coach. Feet. Hips. Hands. Coaches believe those are correctable, in that order. Fix the feet, and Wilson will better time his rushes; fix the hips, and his pad level will naturally sink, making him a more effective power-rusher. The glimpses of what could be are there.
Some snaps look better suited for the Discovery Channel, not ESPN.
Holy God. What are we even supposed to do with this guy?
Maybe the hand-work never gets there, but if Wilson can correct the first two – and that remains a big if – he will develop into an effective rusher with a unique athletic profile. Slide him into an all-pass, all-the-damn time setup, utilizing ‘head-on’, out-to-in rushes, and you could unlock a Rashan Gary/Jadeveon Clowney caliber player if he’s able to overcome the technical issues.
Pairing him opposite Maxx Crosby should help early on. He’ll see more one-on-ones and he won't be expected to carry the pass-rush. DC Patrick Graham will be able to do devise some tasty packages with the two ends lined up on the same side of the formation; using Wilson as a second-man-through behind Crosby will mitigate some of the concerns about his wasted movement and problems when he lacks a runway.
Getting the most out of Wilson early will require a specific geographic alignments. He needs to play as detached from the formation as possible. Ideally: Sinking down into a wide-9 technique to mitigate some of his leverage concerns driving off the ball (such a shift should help him with the rhythm of his feet, and how he times that up with his rush, too).
Will Graham be willing to accommodate that or will he try to plug him into a more traditional role in his set-up closer to the opposing tackle?
8. Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
I need a lie-down.
You have to admire the Falcons. They might not be constructing the best offense to win games in three or four years, but they’re constructing the best group to have fun now.
I support fun things.
If Robinson is not the best overall talent in this class, he’s as near as makes no difference. If you go purely attribute by attribute, Robinson is close to flawless. He has the vision, burst, power, balance, and power to do two essential things: Turn should-be duds into small gains; turn any sense of daylight into a house call. He makes people miss. He forced 104 missed tackles last season.
I understand the thought process behind ‘running backs don’t matter’. I get that it isn’t a premium position. I get, too, that it feels like we have a new ‘generational’ back every couple of years, and that the track record of taking such backs (while they’re individually good), isn’t strong from a team-building perspective.
But Robinson is something a little different. If you view him more as an offensive weapon than merely a runner, then you would have a hard time convincing me he won’t be more valuable to an offense than a decent-ish receiver, which is what the vast majority of this class houses.
Most backs are interchangeable. If we’re talking about a slash-and-kick, wide-zone runner, I get it. But Robinson is not. His ability to impact the passing game separates him from most backs. He can flex into the slot or push all the way out the perimeter. He’s a battler in pass protection. He never has to come off the field, and a savvy offense can use him to mess with defensive matchups, moving him around the formation to exploit mismatches.
Should you take a back, even a great one, if you’re in the early phase of a rebuild? Probably not. In that world, edges and tackles make more sense. But there are not eight prospects in this class who are ready to make more of a Day One impact than Robinson. There are not eight prospects in this class who are better than Robinson.
Arthur Smith can now get super funky with the pieces on this offense. What is a Drake London, Kyle Pitts, Bijan Robinson, Jonnu Smith personnel grouping? Is that 12 personnel? Is it 11, with Pitts as little more than a receiver? Is it a no-backs-one-tight-end grouping, with Robinson sliding into the slot and Pitts pushing out the perimeter? Is it something closer to 13, with London using his length and tenacity to dig out defenders as a blocker in the slot?
It’s any and all of those things, right? The possibilities are endless! Amid matchup chaos, all three will thrive. Unless, as a defense, you have enough flexibility on defense to move your secondary around to matchup with Robinson, Pitts, and London as they bounce and move around the formation pre-snap, you’re left with no choice but to drop off into zones and rally to the ball. That will make life all sorts of easier on Desmond Ridder as he tries to prove he can become a viable NFL starter.
When the Falcons added Jonnu Smith in free agency, I wrote about how the pieces they had assembled conflicted with the offense that Arthur Smith was actually running – and how Jonnu Smith would likely prod Arthur Smith to embrace his traditional instincts. Drafting Robinson bucks against that. Moving to more of an ISO-based offense (even if it’s only a slow uptick) will maximize the team’s top three offensive weapons. That’s a win for the Falcons and it’s a win for Kyle Pitts.
9. TRADE: Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Why does it feel like the draft always falls just right for the Eagles? At what point does Roger Goodell just walk to the podium and announce “‘I am vetoing the Eagles pick. Howie Roseman can’t keep getting away with this”?
So long as Goodell suppresses his inner Jessie Pinkman, Roseman and the Eagles will continue to lord over the draft process. I mean, seriously? How? Jumping up to grab Jalen Carter for the cost of a fourth-round pick, are you kiddin’ me?
Carter was one of the most enigmatic players in the draft. He was the finest lineman on the best defense in football for two straight years. On Georgia’s historic 2021 unit — four of whom now play for the Eagles! — he was the standout player. Had he entered the draft last season, he would have been a favorite to go first overall.
Off-the-field issues and questions about his football character gave some teams reservations about selecting Carter. On the field, there were no questions. He is, in essence, Thanos on a football field: Too big, too quick, too strong for any player to contain him. In the run-game he is a solid, unbreachable brick wall. On passing downs, he ignites dynamite. He can vaporize a play before it has begun. Speed, balance, strength, he has everything you need to be a dominant interior rusher.
Roseman took a gamble on the upside. The Eagles have one of the two most talented rosters in the NFC. With Jalen Hurts locked in a long-term deal at quarterback, they expect to contend for titles for the next season five years, at least. They won’t be drafting anywhere near the top ten again in the near future barring an injury to their star quarterback. Roseman used the rare opportunity to grab a blue-chip prospect at the top of the draft, who just so happens to line up at the team’s biggest position of need and might be the most gifted player in the entire class.
The Eagles have now landed the top two interior linemen in the past two drafts: Jordan Davis and Carter, the top-two players on Georgia’s historic 2021 defense.
It will be interesting to see how the Eagles’ defense evolves this year now that Jonathan Gannon is in Arizona. The defense is unlikely to be as passive on the back end as it was in the Gannon days. But will they maintain their devotion to the Light Box theory?
To run a light box consistently in the league — as Brandon Staley will let you know — you need six studs up front. The fewer players in the box taking on all that pro football might and creativity, the better those six need to be — individually and collectively.
Adding Carter should allow them to persist with a light box-oriented defense. He can play multiple spots along the front, and he has the strength in speed to toggle between two-gapping structures on one down and then serve as the get-off-the-ball penetrator on the next.
10. Chicago Bears: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
The Bears needed to exit the draft with better protection around Justin Fields. Ten is rich, but Wright fits the bill.
The top thing on Wright’s CV: He played Alabama’s Will Anderson, the best overall prospect in the class, to a draw when the two faced off this season. That was an NFL on NFL matchup, and Wright showcased his chops in pass protection.
Wright switched from right tackle to left tackle for his senior season and had his best year yet. He didn’t allow a sack and only gave up a pressure on 1.7% of his pass-blocking snaps this season, trailing only Ohio State’s Dawand Jones and Peter Skoronski among Power Five tackles.
At 335 pounds, Wright has some of the best functional strength in this class. He is a mauler in the run game, which fits nicely with Luke Getsy’s profile as a power-then-play-action coach.
There remain fair questions, however, about how much Tennessee’s offense, with its unusual pass sets, helped conceal some of Wright’s issues: His initial get-off and his through-the-rep technique. Wright played as though the game came easy to him; he was simply too big and was slick enough when out of his stance for pass-rushers to run through him or around him. In the NFL, when he doesn’t have a mass or power advantage, how will he hold up? Can he dropback into a set and win down-in and down-out thirty times a game?
That’s where Chicago makes a ton of sense. If Wright can’t — at least early — Chicago’s run-centric scheme will help protect him. The team dodged a bullet when Mike McGlinchey opted to sign for the Broncos instead of accepting the Bears’ enormous contract offer. In Wright, the Bears have landed a similar profile of player for a fraction of the cost, and with the potential to become a force in pass protection, something that McGlinchey is not.
There are certain spots where Wright at ten would have felt like overkill, but for what the Bears want to be on offense and who was available, it’s a pick that makes sense.
NFL Draft Analysis: