Panthers 'enamored' with Anthony Richardson, former linebacker says originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Who will be the first overall pick in 2023?
Well, no one really knows just yet with the draft still over a month away. But that can't stop analysts and fans from speculating, especially since the Carolina Panthers traded up with the Chicago Bears for the pick.
Former Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has a bit more insight than the casual observer after playing for the organization from 2005 to 2018. In a Tuesday appearance on NFL Network, Davis dropped a potential bomb about who could be the No. 1 pick.
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"I think it's going to be a very, very surprising pick in Carolina," Davis said coyly. "If this pick happens, who I think they are in love with, I'm not a fan of it. I just know there are a couple of guys upstairs that are enamored with the physical ability of Anthony Richardson."
The Florida quarterback would certainly be a surprising selection, even as he's risen up draft boards following a dominant combine performance. He set the quarterback record in the vertical jump and board jump while running a 4.44 40-yard dash and measuring in at just over 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds.
Even with these impressive physical skills, there are concerns about his actual ability to play quarterback in the NFL. He completed just 53.8% of his passes for the Gators last season, with 17 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions in 12 games.
Davis believes Bryce Young, who NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah projected to the Panthers in his latest mock draft, would be the better selection.
"I think he would be a great fit in this organization," Davis said of Young. "Look at his resume. The kid was a Heisman Trophy winner last year for a reason. And then when you put guys around him like Alabama had, play in the SEC, the highest level of competition in college football. I just think he would come in and fit well in Carolina, if they were going to draft.
"But I don't think he's going to be their pick."
If the Panthers do select Richardson, there will immediately be comparisons to the last quarterback they took at No. 1: Cam Newton. The top pick in 2011, Newton won MVP in 2015 and led Carolina to a Super Bowl appearance the same season.
Davis, who played with Newton for eight seasons, was quick to denounce the notion that Richardson can reach those levels.
"He's not Cam Newton, he's not Cam Newton," Davis, a Georgia alum, explained. "I watched this guy a lot, being an SEC guy. He has all the physical characteristics of being a really good quarterback in the NFL, but I don't think he's going to be that great player that the Carolina Panthers need to take them to the next level.
"When you look at Bryce Young and what he brings to the table, he's a proven winner. When you look at C.J. Stroud, this kid has proven he can win football games. Anthony Richardson, on the other hand, Will Levis, on the other hand, those guys have been in programs that could potentially be good but they just haven't been, and the reason to me has been the quarterback position."
The Panthers still have plenty of time to make their decision, but indications are that they remain undecided between Young, Stroud and Richardson.