2023 NFL Draft bold predictions: Trey Lance joins Minnesota Vikings, Browns don't trade up

2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages
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The Carolina Panthers make Anthony Richardson the first-overall pick

It's been a while since I've seen a draft prospect create this much division in draft circles. Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson had a statistically subpar 2022 season.

In 12 games, he completed just 53.8% of his passes (176 completions on 327 attempts), 2,549 yards, and 17 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He added 654 yards on the ground and nine additional touchdowns. It was his only season as a starting quarterback in college. And yet I've totally bought into the upside for Richardson.

Richardson all but punched his ticket into the first round with his unbelievable NFL Combine testing (4.43-second 40-yard dash. 1.53-second 10-yard split, 40.5-inch vertical jump, and 10-foot-9 broad jump), and by all accounts, his post-combine interviews and workouts have several teams enamored with the raw but promising quarterback prospect. And at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds, it's not surprising that NFL coaches would be overcome by the upside Richardson presents with all his dominant physical tools.

While the tape might show some errant passes and more inaccuracy than I'd like to see, it's also apparent that Richardson already navigates the pocket like an NFL veteran. And with some coaching on his footwork (look what Panthers head coach Frank Reich did with Carson Wentz in both Philadelphia and Indianapolis), the accuracy issues could disappear, leaving the Panthers with the NFL's newest and most dangerous dual-threat quarterback.

I still believe Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are the safest bets when it comes to finding a franchise signal caller in this year's draft. But Richardson has a ceiling unlike any quarterback in recent memory if everything comes together. This is a bold prediction I can see happening to kick things off Thursday night.