This is part of a series on the best fits for the 2023 NFL Draft’s top four quarterbacks.
>> Others in Series: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud
Quarterback pro days are a spectacle, and Anthony Richardson’s (scouting report) was no exception.
A quarterback of that size throwing with such ease — without the laces and off the roof — and capping it off with a backflip added a distinct chapter to an otherwise familiar and predictable book.
But a big part of the pro day viewing fun is noticing what’s taking place on the periphery of the actual workout. What can you see besides the quarterback and how he throws? Where does that lead your curiosity?
Does Seattle Make Sense?
Thursday in Gainesville, my eyes went to Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who was standing right next to Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich. They were as close as they could be to Richardson without tripping him at the top of his drop.
Reich has been at all of the top-four quarterback’s pro days. The Panthers traded up from No. 9 to No. 1 for one reason: To take their favorite of the top quarterbacks after studying every last detail about them. Reich has to be there.
Carroll’s proximity to Richardson Thursday and his presence at all the top quarterback’s pro days — along with general manager John Schneider — makes me wonder. The Seahawks and the Detroit Lions are the only two teams coming off winning seasons with two first-round picks. Having a pair of Round 1 selections as opposed to just one changes the game and allows for creative thought regarding Round 1 strategy.
Are the Seahawks’ decision-makers just doing their due diligence? Or are they committed to selecting a quarterback at No. 5, then addressing a more “traditional” team need at No. 20? It’s my favorite first-round quarterback mystery.
It’s certainly possible Richardson ends up with Seattle, but that’s not his best fit.
Seahawks Aren’t Desperate
First, I see a line of demarcation at the top of this quarterback class, and it’s drawn between Bryce Young (scouting report), C.J. Stroud (scouting report), and whoever you deem “next best.”
Suppose you like Richardson, great. If Will Levis (scouting report) is your guy, cool. If you’re a Hendon Hooker (scouting report) guy, I can buy that, too. The point is, they’re not in the same tier as Stroud and Young. Whether it’s the Indianapolis Colts at No. 4, Seattle at No. 5 or the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 7, spending that pick on the third or fourth-best quarterback in the class isn’t wise. I wouldn’t attach those expectations to one of those prospects.
A realistic view of the Seahawks’ quarterback situation and the team’s standing in the NFC has to be at — or near — the top of their draft discourse.
They’re coming off a solid 9-8 season, their first in a decade without Russell Wilson as their starting quarterback and one in which Geno Smith exceeded expectations. He played well enough to earn a three-year, $105 million deal that’s beneficial for both team and quarterback.
Unlike Carolina and Indianapolis, Seattle doesn’t need a quarterback. Zooming out from its quarterback to the team and its place in a pedestrian NFC, I hope Seattle isn’t a team that cannot see the forest for the trees.
The NFC is there to be had. Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles are formidable, and the San Francisco 49ers are right there, but then it’s wide open. Every team between “competitive” and “good” last year, with a returning quarterback, should believe they can compete for the conference championship.
Let’s consider the NFC quarterback landscape. Just two years ago, Aaron Rodgers was the NFL MVP, Tom Brady was just behind him and Matthew Stafford led the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl win. Well, Brady is retired, Rodgers is likely headed to the AFC, and Stafford’s health status is unknown.
Remember where Jalen Hurts was at the end of 2021? He had a good first year as a full-time starter, but he looked more than a standard deviation away from being a conference champion. His rapid turn from solid player to MVP candidate was aided significantly by a team that committed draft assets to accelerate his development.
Dak Prescott, Daniel Jones, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Brock Purdy and Smith can all compete in the NFC. Their organizations should be scheming ways to enhance the team around them rather than planning for what they could be three years later.
Seattle should use the No. 5 and No. 20 picks with this season in mind, a nod to the level playing ground in the NFC, and a belief its quarterback might be better with a pair of first-round picks around him.
Where does that leave Richardson? Quite likely off the board before Seattle even picks at five. His level of talent and upside will likely lead a team to call his name sooner rather than later on April 27th.
>> READ: Richardson Meeting with Several Teams After Pro Day
Commanders Are Best Fit
Regarding Richardson’s best fit, not his draft position, I’m looking outside the top 10. Richardson’s lack of experience and inaccuracy concerns me. He started 13 games, only completed 54 percent of his passes, and Florida finished 6-6 in Richardson’s starts.
Production needs to be considered as much as potential. Richardson didn’t perform like an all-conference quarterback, let alone a top-10 draft pick. That’s where the Cam Newton comparisons don’t align and lack regard for how good Newton was. Newton played at such a high level he claimed the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship. Richardson didn’t approach either.
I don’t think he’ll be available at this point, but a possible fit with the Washington Commanders at No. 16 overall has grown on me.
Unlike Stroud in Carolina or Young with Houston, starting Richardson this fall is not a good idea. Ideally, he’d go to a place where a veteran is ready to handle the job for a season or two before handing it off.
A Soft Landing Spot
Jacoby Brissett fits the bill. In his previous seven seasons, he’s toggled between being a trusted backup and quality starter, spending time underneath Brady and Andrew Luck. Brissett’s combo of experience and who he’s been around would serve a talented understudy like Richardson well.
Sam Howell showed promise last year in limited playing time, but he was only a fifth-round pick. I don’t see that modest investment as a hurdle to Richardson making sense at 16.
The other thing to like about a Richardson-Commanders fit has to do with their offensive coordinator. Eric Bienemy spent the last 10 seasons with Andy Reid, the previous five as his offensive coordinator.
His proximity to and responsibility for Patrick Mahomes’ development has to matter a ton here. The ways Reid and Bieniemy tapped into Patrick Mahomes’ unique talents, the creative game plans and the keen play-calling they used, Bieniemy was right there for all of it.
I’m excited to see how his decade with Reid and six seasons with Mahomes show up in Washington. It would only add to the anticipation if he had another incredibly talented quarterback to work with.
Paul Burmeister, a former starting quarterback at Iowa, is a studio host with NBC Sports and the radio voice of Notre Dame Football. For a decade he worked as a studio host at NFL Network. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulWBurmeister.