Around the NFL: News & Notes ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft

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Around the NFL Draft: Levis Odds Shift, Richardson’s Accuracy, Wait For Caleb, More

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Happy NFL Draft Eve! It happens to me every year, but here I am yet again, being amazed by the NFL and the league’s ability to control not only a night but really a whole week of the sports calendar when they’re not playing games, and two other leagues are in their playoffs.

There’s plenty going on around the NFL’s biggest offseason event, and you can bet plenty more will happen between now and when the Panthers go on the clock Thursday night.

Would Panthers Take Will Levis?

In case you missed it yesterday, thanks to some wild Reddit rumors yesterday, there was a ton of speculation that Will Levis could be surprisingly going No. 1 to Carolina. The rumor came from a Reddit user claiming Levis was telling friends and family that the Panthers were taking him first overall. It caught so much steam that even sportsbook operators like FanDuel and DraftKings took betting odds off the board for the top three picks.

Since yesterday, things have settled down again, and the speculation is still very heavy that the No. 1 pick will be Bryce Young. I think partially the rumor had some juice because Levis fits the prototype of what Frank Reich has liked to work with at quarterback: large frame, big arm, all the physical traits. That said, Levis still remains very much a project. Having watched him a ton in college, outside of his physical traits I truly don’t understand the hype around him. He couldn’t beat out Sean Clifford at Penn State, and he put up very meh numbers in the SEC after transferring to Kentucky. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but it would be Young or Stroud for me if I were Carolina.

Anthony Richardson Working On Accuracy

Anthony Richardson very clearly has all the physical tools a team could want in a quarterback. Richardson is 6’4, 231 lbs, and ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. He’s got a HUGE arm, and at Florida last season, he showed some serious flashes of greatness. He’s a fascinating NFL Draft prospect. The knocks on him are his experience and his accuracy. He’s had just one season as a full-time starter in college, where he completed only 53.8% of his passes. Three times against ranked opponents last season had a completion percentage of under 50%.

Ted Nguyen of The Athletic does a great job analyzing film. He took a deep dive into Anthony Richardson’s mechanics, as well as what he’s working on to improve his accuracy leading up to the draft. And he did so alongside Richardson’s private QB coach Will Hewlett.

While they definitely get into some physical mechanics, there was a note Hewlett had about Richardson’s mental game hurdles as well that caught my eye:

“Mentally, for him, one of the things that we had to work on considerably was just letting it rip on short stuff,” Hewlett said. “He was, like, just tentative on throwing the ball with a lot of velocity on short to intermediate throws, which is specifically why we kind of designed part of his warmup to get him vertical downfield fast.”

Will Hewlett, Anthony Richardson’s QB Coach

It’s not totally uncommon for rookies, especially ones with limited starting experience, to come into the NFL a little tentative. We saw Richardson dazzle at the combine, and there’s no doubt he’s got amazing talent and tools. However, asking him to come in and be a day-one starter somewhere might be putting him in a bad spot. If he was tentative at times at Florida, you can bet that will lead to mistakes if he starts too early in the NFL, where the game speeds up that much more. I love Richardson as a prospect. I do think though, his best fit would be in a spot like Seattle or Las Vegas. There he’d have a chance to sit for a year or maybe even two and let his game develop. If he gets the time he needs to properly develop as a passer, he can be scary good.

Waiting for Caleb Williams?

Speaking of QB NFL Draft prospects, I hope you’re excited to start hearing about Caleb Williams! The USC QB is already at the top of all 2024 mock drafts! It’s not the plan for everyone, certainly, but I’m truly intrigued to see how a team like Houston approaches this draft with Caleb Williams there for the taking next year. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic (and just about everyone that covers college football) is incredibly bullish on Williams. And how could you not after last season’s Heisman Trophy performance?

If the Texans miss out on Bryce Young, which all indications say they will, do they take a QB they’re not in love with at No. 2 (or No. 12), or do they build with the best players available and let this season ride with whoever else taking the snaps? DeMeco Ryans just signed a six-year deal with Houston as their head coach, so he’s not going anywhere. Could the Texans pass on a 1st Round QB this season and set their sights on the USC quarterback? So many things can happen from now until the next draft. There’s no guarantee Williams works out, but there’s also no guarantee any of the QBs from this year’s draft work either. If the Texans only love Bryce Young, and he goes #1, I wouldn’t put it past them to grab their two best available position players at No. 2 and No. 12.

Bijan a Bear?

This is absolutely just speculation on my end at this point, but the closer we get to NFL Draft time, the more I think this is possible. It would probably mean the Bears trade back a few picks (which I would be in favor of). However, Luke Getsy was pretty clear this week that the Bears need to protect Fields but also get him weapons. The odds are the Bears draft an OL. That’s probably the right move, too. But if Ryan Poles has his heart set on a guy that isn’t there, would he jump at the opportunity to draft arguably the most talented players in this draft?

Patrick talked about it in bullets this morning, but when asked about his ideal landing spot Bijan Robinson said the Eagles. And who could blame him? In that offense with Jalen Hurts he would be fantastic. The Eagles, though, are far from a lock to grab him at #10, and the Bears have a QB and an offense that are very similar to what Philly does. I’m all for not paying RBs to massive second contracts because it’s a position with diminished value. But if you can grab a game-changer like Bijan Robinson for 5 years on a rookie deal, it’s an option worth exploring. Again, it’s not my first choice, but I’ve warmed up a lot more to the idea over the last few weeks.

NFL Draft Quick Slants

  • Tyree Wilson is now the betting favorite to be the first defensive player selected in the NFL Draft (-150). Will Anderson is next behind him (+120). Tyree Wilson has some amazing traits and tools, but this one feels like it might be overthinking. One of my bigger pet peeves around draft time is when the player stock increases this much AFTER the actual playing football is over. Wilson had a great year. He’s going to likely be a very good NFL player. But Will Anderson has been the best defender in college football for the last two seasons. Feels a bit like the Jaguars talking themselves into Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson. Not to mention, teams are concerned about Wilson’s foot. From Sports Injury Central:
  • The Jaxon Smith-Njigba sweepstakes is going to be entertaining. I’m sure Aaron Rodgers would LOVE the Jets to snag the OSU rookie with their now 15th pick. Just a reminder, as part of the Rodgers trade, the Packers jumped up to pick No. 13, and the Jets dropped back to pick #15. As much as I do NOT want to see JSN in green and gold, it would be objectively hilarious if the Packers finally drafted a first Round WR and did so, grabbing the guy Rodgers wanted in a trade for what should have been the Jets’ pick.

One. More. Day. Just get me to tomorrow night.

Author: Matt Rooney

Matt is from the Chicagoland area and has been working in Chicago sports since 2015 with stops at WGN Radio, the Chicago Blackhawks, Stadium, and NBC Sports Chicago prior to landing at Betsperts. Matt covers just about everything for Betsperts and Bleacher Nation but focuses on the NHL and college football.