Panthers’ Frank Reich weighs in on quarterbacks Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson ‘Plays and throws that scream top pick’

Panthers hold the top overall selection

Carolina Panthers head football coach Frank Reich talks with former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at Alabama's NFL pro day, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt) (Vasha Hunt, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PHOENIX – Anthony Richardson smiled and laughed, bemused, if not mildly offended at the suggestion that he’s been assigned a project quarterback label.

While the imposing, athletic Florida star quarterback is one of the most intriguing draft prospects at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds, he also acknowledged he could still stand for more improvement in terms of adding polish to his game.

“I don’t even know what that means, ‘project label,’” Richardson said in February at the NFL scouting combine “But I’m willing to bring anything and everything that they need from me. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to be dedicated to my craft. And I’m just going to be a leader in that organization. So, just grow and continue to grow.”

Richardson aced the combine testing. He ranked first in every category, including height and weight and with a scorching 4.43 40-yard dash, 40 1/2 inch vertical leap and a 10-9 broad jump. Yes, that’s faster than former Gators quarterbacks Cam Newton and Tim Tebow when they were at the combine. And the vertical leap and 40-yard dash are combine records for a quarterback.

Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich, whose team traded up for the top overall pick, is intrigued by Richardson. The Gators standout will visit the Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans and Texans, according to a league source. He will work out for scouts this week at his Pro Day, and the Panthers will send a large delegation that includes Reich, general manager Scott Fitterer, owner David Tepper, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown.

“He’s an exciting player,” Reich said at the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. “Even before the combine, watching his tape, there are plays and throws all over the tape that scream top pick top of the draft pick, that’s a credit to him. I think he has upper body mechanics that are really solid.”

Richardson, 21, passed for 2,549 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season for the Gators. He completed just 53.8 percent of his passes. His talent, though, is incredible. With NFL coaching, perhaps Richardson can become a great quarterback like his idol and frequent comparison, Cam Newton.

Richardson is an intriguing player with a rare combination of size, arm strength and playmaking skills. He rushed for 1,116 yards and a dozen touchdowns.

“Obviously, his completion percentage is lower than you want at this level,” Reich said. “I don’t get too discouraged at things like that. I see a lot of upside talking to him a little bit at the combine. You can tell how smart of a guy he is and a guy like that the more experience he gets he’s a guy you feel is going to get better fast.”

The Panthers and Texans, who have the second overall pick, are both expected to draft quarterbacks.

The highest ranked quarterbacks are former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and Ohio State standout C.J. Stroud.

“Worthy of the discussions that are being had about being the top pick,” Reich said. “Different styles of play, but both of those guys you mentioned are very accurate passers, process very well, smart, football junkies good leaders different styles of leadership, both really good leaders playmakers both really good.”

Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and