INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — After a day of talking, it was time for the quarterbacks to put their money where their mouths are and prove it on the field during the NFL Combine.
The Athletic’s Vic Tafur reported that the Las Vegas Raiders will be keeping a close eye on seven quarterbacks, including Florida’s Anthony Richardson, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis, Fresno State’s Jake Haener and Stanford’s Tanner McKee. So, below are my takeaways from their on-field performances in Indy.
[Side note: Tafur also mentioned Bryce Young from Alabama and Hendon Hooker from Tennessee are on the Raiders’ radar, however, they didn’t participate in the workout. Young opted out while Hooker is still recovering from a late-season torn ACL.]
Levis was by far the biggest standout from the first group of quarterbacks. There was a noticeable zip on his passes as the ball was flying out of his hand, and he showed off some of the impressive arm strength that he was talking about during his press conference. His best passes were on the deep digs over the middle as most of those throws were on time and right on the money.
He also measured in at 6’4 and 229 lbs and had some impressive jumps with a 34” vertical and 10’4 broad jump, both of which were elite grades according to RAS.
However, toward the middle of the workouts, it felt like Levis started aiming the ball instead of letting it rip which led to some errant throws. Also, it’d be remiss of me to not at least admit that his performance could have been slightly inflated by working with an underwhelming group — compared to the second cluster — overall.
The Kentucky product did finish strong and ultimately, proved that he’s one of the better quarterbacks in this draft class.
The workouts kind of proved everything that’s been said about Haener’s game heading into the combine. He looked pretty good on the short to intermediate throws, where he was throwing with good velocity and accuracy, but it was a slightly different story when he had to throw deep.
On the longer passes, it was almost pretty consistent that his first toss would look rough and then he’d pick it up on the second and third attempts. Unfortunately, there are no mulligans in the NFL so he’ll have to clean that up. It also doesn’t help his stock that he measured in right at 6’ tall.
The Bulldog did have an impressive 35” vertical and, at the end of the day, he had a solid performance overall but it did feel like there was some meat left on the bone.
As the title states, Richard stole the show on Sunday. It all started with the athletic testing where he caught everyone’s attention — while the first group of QBs were still throwing — with a 40.5” vertical and 10’9 broad jump. Those numbers were good enough to set combine records for the position and earned 10 out of 10 grades on RAS’ scale, a consistent theme with his workout.
When I got to Lucas Oil Stadium, people were saying it was announced earlier that Richardson wasn’t going to run the 40-yard dash. I’m not sure if that was just incorrect information or if he had a change of heart, but he’s definitely glad he ‘laced ‘em up’. The Gator dropped jaws with an official time of 4.43 seconds, the fourth-fastest time for a QB in the event’s history, behind Michael Vick, Reggie McNeil and Robert Griffin III.
Oh, and Richardson only ran once and finished with a 10.0 RAS score...not bad.
Then he started throwing and continued to impress. His big arm was on display as a lot of his deep balls looked effortless and I started having flashbacks of Vick flicking his wrist and tossing 60-yard bombs. I was also kind of impressed at how Richardson took some heat off of his short passes, something that was a bit of an issue in Gainsville.
Richardson did have a few moments where his footwork got a little sloppy and that impacted his accuracy on a few throws. Still, he’s probably the biggest winner of the combine so far.
Stroud and Richardson were back-to-back in all of the drills and created a really fun competition to watch. They clearly were trying to top one another and established themselves as the best quarterbacks to participate in the on-field drills.
I’d say the Florida product definitely won the arm strength battle while the former Buckeye was more accurate, though it was pretty close on the latter.
Stroud showed good timing and anticipation on a lot of the intermediate throws and was great when throwing in rhythm. He even made some nice adjustments when the receivers weren’t running sharp routes. There weren’t a whole lot of negative throws from him, except for a couple of deep balls that fell a little short. Granted, it didn’t help that he was throwing right after a bazooka.
He didn’t participate in any of the athletic tests and measured in at 6’3 on the dot and 214 lbs with 10” hands. That size graded out as “okay” on RAS’ scale.
I kind of felt bad for McKee because he was in the same group as Richardson and Stroud, so he got overshadowed. Had he worked with the first group, I think the perception of his performance would have been higher and it would have been interesting to see how he stacked up against Levis.
McKee had a good day, though. He was strong throwing over the middle and had quite a few passes that were on the money while tossing digs. His size also stood out, literally, measuring in at 6’6 and 231 lbs. Interestingly though, he only has 9 3/8” hands, which isn’t bad by any means, but his hands are 5/8 of an inch smaller than Strouds’ despite being three inches taller.
The Standford product did have a couple of forgetful throws on out routes as he was missing wide or toward the sideline. That’s not the worst place to miss as those throws won’t get intercepted or turn into pick-sixes, but at an event like this with no defenders on the field, you’d like to see more on-target completions.
I did think McKee’s deep balls were looking solid. He can throw down the field and had some nice placement on a few of those tosses. They weren’t perfect but it was a good outing overall for the Cardinal.