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NFL Scouting Combine review: Anthony Richardson causes stir

The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up from Indianapolis on Sunday, with Florida QB Anthony Richardson as the standout performer.

Most of the college stars that participated seem to have either lived up to or exceeded expectations, with one or two really shaking up the top of the mock draft boards just seven weeks away from the draft.

New QB1 contender emerges

When the 2022 college football season concluded, Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson was a significant long shot to go first overall in the 2023 NFL draft.

The numbers from his one and only season as a starter were unspectacular, but his game tape was enough to garner some comparisons to Josh Allen, who was a similarly big-armed, physical prospect with a few rough edges back in 2018.

In what is not a particularly athletic draft class of QBs, Richardson stood out a mile at the combine - where he recorded the highest vertical jump ever by a quarterback, 40.5 inches, and the longest broad jump by any triggerman - 10 feet, 9 inches.

Analysts had him as the likely fourth quarterback off the board in April because of his size and mobility, but Richardson - +400 to be the Number 1 overall pick - has put his name into the QB1 conversation.

Bryce Young, the -200 favorite to hear his name called first, did nothing to hurt his chances of going first overall.

The Alabama passer measured in at 5-10 and tipped the scales at 204 pounds in Indianapolis. And while some talent evaluators could harbour worries that Young may be undersized going into the NFL, he remains the Heisman Trophy-winning star of a pro-style Crimson Tide offense that showed solid leadership characteristics throughout his two-year stint as Nick Saban's starting signal-caller.

Ohio State's CJ Stroud, who is +300 to be the first QB drafted, left the athletics to the others and just put on a throwing clinic for the scouts during his on-field work at the combine. He looks to be the surest bet among the top-echelon QBs, although his ceiling may not be as high as others.

A record-breaking combine class

Richardson wasn't the only one to leap into the record books as BYU offensive lineman Blake Freeland produced the best vertical jump that anyone in his position has ever done - 37 inches - while Illinois' Jartavius Martin came close but only tied the record for a safety's vertical jump, at 44 inches.

Although John Ross' 40-yard dash record remained intact, Aaron Donald's best time for a defensive tackle was beaten by Calijah Kancey. 

The 280-pounder, who will follow in Donald's footsteps when he graduates from the University of Pittsburgh to the NFL, clocked a 4.67-second dash to beat the All-Pro's time from the 2014 combine by 0.01 seconds.

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Georgia talent factory to the fore again

Georgia's stellar draft class from 2022 was clearly not a one-off as several Bulldogs improved their standing with outstanding displays of athleticism in Indianapolis last week.

Pass rusher Nolan Smith clocked a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, which is second only to Odafe Oweh's 4.36 from two years ago among edge defenders. But his 10-yard split, which is often a great indicator of explosiveness at the snap, clocked in at 1.52 seconds, which is a combine record for pass rushers.

Smith led the Bulldogs with three sacks, seven tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hurries when a torn pectoral muscle ended his senior year in late October, so his combine performance was a timely reminder.

And that 10-yard split could be a huge reason why he gets drafted late in the first round.

Teammate Darnell Washington measured in with the largest wingspan of any tight end in combine history, a jaw-dropping 83.75 inches, which he put to good use for an extended one-handed snag in drills.

He also posted the third-best short shuttle of all players in this year's combine - a blistering 4.08 seconds.

With DT Jalen Carter virtually guaranteed to be a top-six selection and OT Broderick Jones projected to be one of the first offensive linemen to come off the board, it's highly likely that the Bulldogs' 2023 draft class could go close to matching last year's incredible five first-round selections, all of whom were on the defensive side of the ball. 

Wide receiver class underwhelm

Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba reminded the league about his talent with some seriously impressive three-cone and short shuttle drills. Smith-Njigba, who is evens to be the first WR drafted, endured a tough final year at college which saw his season disrupted by a hamstring injury.

His 6.57 three-cone time and 3.93 clock for the short shuttle were both the best efforts by receivers in Indianapolis.

He didn't run a 40-yard dash, but hardly any of the receivers that did don their spikes raised any eyebrows as only five broke the 4.40-second mark, compared to eight in 2022.

Nebraska's Trey Palmer underlined his status as the premier deep-threat prospect with the fastest 40-yard time of 4.33, but that trailed Tyquan Thornton's blistering 4.28 clock of last year.

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