2023 NFL Scouting Combine Takeaways: QBs, WRs & TEs Heat Up Draft's Round 1 Intrigue

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2023

2023 NFL Scouting Combine Takeaways: QBs, WRs & TEs Heat Up Draft's Round 1 Intrigue

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    Florida QB Anthony Richardson
    Florida QB Anthony RichardsonStacy Revere/Getty Images

    The third round of NFL combine workouts made for arguably the most intriguing day of the entire week. Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends took the field Saturday, and the skill players did not disappoint.

    Signal-callers were in the spotlight for much of the day, though the battle to be the top quarterback in the draft didn't get any clearer. The other two positions garnered plenty of attention too, and teams in need of offensive help will have plenty of options next month.

    It's also become evident that the 2023 draft class is extremely athletic. For the third straight day, we saw a historically good performance.

    The big unknown now is in what order these tantalizing offensive prospects will come off the board. Saturday's session was impressive, but it didn't do a lot to clarify the early draft picture.

    Let's dive in to the latest buzz and our biggest takeaways from Saturday at the scouting combine.

Bryce Young Measures Up

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Alabama quarterback Bryce Young answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 3, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has the most impressive game film of any quarterback in this year's draft class. He's a legitimate playmaker at the position who threw 79 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions over the past two seasons. Young, though, never relied on physical talent alone.

    "He is a sharp processor, though slightly less so in 2022 than in 2021, and understands how to play within the rhythm of a concept," Derrik Klassen of the Bleacher Report Scouting Department wrote. "He has a great understanding of which throws aren't open and how to avoid forcing the ball."

    The question mark with Young has always been his size, and to a degree, he answered that on Saturday. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner measured in at just over 5'10" and 204 pounds. While that's still small for an NFL signal-caller, it's in line with future Hall of Famer Russell Wilson and 2019 first-overall pick Kyler Murray.

    John McClain @McClain_on_NFL

    So Bryce Young is 5-10 1/8, 204. Russell Wilson was 5-10 5/8, 204. Kyler Murray was 5-10 1/8, 207. Young has every trait teams want in a QB. Texans' fans hope he's ticketed to Houston. <a href="https://twitter.com/gallerysports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@gallerysports</a>

    What this means is that any team already high on Young should remain so. No one expected Young to suddenly come in at 6'2", and the fact that he's virtually identical in size to Murray—a two-time Pro Bowler who has already earned that all-important second contract—should alleviate a lot of concerns.

    Young probably still isn't a fit for every quarterback-needy team, but nothing about his combine appearance should have him falling down draft boards. Young didn't work out on Saturday, so for him, the next step of the process will be Alabama's pro day on March 23.

Anthony Richardson Had a Day

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 3, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Bryce Young's measurement was one of the most anticipated events of combine weekend. The testing of Florida signal-caller Anthony Richardson was another.

    Richardson, who is the third-ranked quarterback on the Bleacher Report Scouting Department's draft board—behind Young and top-ranked QB C.J. Stroud of Ohio State—has long been viewed as the most physically gifted quarterback of the draft class.

    "Richardson's rare bundle of traits are worth a risky bet. Players with his build, athletic profile, arm strength and advanced pocket management are hard to find," Klassen wrote.

    Well, Richardson showed just how much athletic upside he has in Indianapolis. His performance included quarterback-record measurements in the vertical and broad jumps.

    Field Yates @FieldYates

    Anthony Richardson's combine profile: <br><br>Height: 6042<br>Weight: 244<br>Vertical: 40.5" (best ever by a QB)<br>Broad: 10' 9" (best ever by a QB)<br>40: 4.44u

    The 6'4" signal-caller also ran an official 4.43-second 40-yard dash. His combination of size, arm talent and blazing speed will likely have Richardson going in within the draft's first 10 selections:

    Cameron Wolfe @CameronWolfe

    4.44 for QB Anthony Richardson at 6-4, 244 pounds. We've never seen a QB test like this at the NFL Combine. <br><br>Noted yday on NFL Now, Richardson impressed Carolina Panthers in draft meeting. Consistent talk in Indy was Richardson goes top-10, maybe higher. <a href="https://t.co/vCiD4veHjG">pic.twitter.com/vCiD4veHjG</a>

    While Richardson did struggle with accuracy in college and will need to improve the consistency of his mechanics, his upside is undeniable. Some teams will be willing to bet heavily on that upside because winning championships in the NFL means being able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts.

    It may take a year or two for Richardson to realize his full pro potential, but that was the book on Josh Allen when he came out too. The Buffalo Bills quarterback has since emerged as a top-tier dual-threat signal-caller.

    Athletically, Richardson matches up with anyone who plays the position. His ceiling could make him the first quarterback off the board in April.

Other Quarterbacks Stood Out as Well

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    Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
    Ohio State QB C.J. StroudZach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Bryce Young and Anthony Richardson were the stars at quarterback on Saturday, but they were not the only quarterbacks to perform well.

    C.J. Stroud didn't test, but he did measure in at an archetypal 6'3" and 214. He also flashed his trademark accuracy, fluid delivery and ball placement during position drills. That package of traits is why Stroud is in the mix to be QB1 along with the more dynamic Young and the supremely talented Richardson.

    Eleven Warriors @11W

    C.J. Stroud is so smooth. <a href="https://t.co/JBlFxO5exM">pic.twitter.com/JBlFxO5exM</a>

    While Kentucky's Will Levis might be a notch below Stroud, Young and Richardson, he's another potential first-round pick who didn't disappoint. The 6'4", 229-pound prospect logged a 34-inch vertical and a 124-inch broad jump and showed plenty of arm talent during throwing drills.

    NFL @NFL

    Showing off the cannon.<a href="https://twitter.com/will_levis?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@will_levis</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/UKFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UKFootball</a> <br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NFLCombine?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NFLCombine</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a><br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/tPHB35dxXq">pic.twitter.com/tPHB35dxXq</a>

    Georgia's Stetson Bennett isn't likely to be an early draft pick, and that has a lot to do with his size. He measured in at 5'11" and 192 pounds. He has an even slighter build than Young, and he doesn't possess the same ability to improvise and turn broken plays into big gains.

    Bennett, though, might have had the most impressive series of deep balls on the afternoon.

    B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

    Stetson Bennett showing off the DEEP BALL 🏈<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/76eoV1jmOj">pic.twitter.com/76eoV1jmOj</a>

    That arm strength, along with good athleticism (4.67 40-yard dash) and a proven ability to thrive on the biggest stage (two-time national champion), will earn Bennett an opportunity in the NFL.

    Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is still recovering from a torn ACL and didn't participate in any drills. However, his medical check yielded a positive outlook.

    Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

    <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tennessee?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tennessee</a> QB Hendon Hooker, who tore his ACL in November, received positive medical reports here in Indy, sources say. He's three months after the operation and on track to be ready for the season opener.

    As a 6'3", 217-pound quarterback who threw for 3,135 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games this past season, Hooker should also get some serious consideration in the middle and late rounds over draft weekend.

Jalin Hyatt Making for an Interesting Evaluation

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    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 04: Jalin Hyatt of Tennessee participates in the 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    As is the case at quarterback, there is no clear-cut WR 1 in this draft class. The Bleacher Report Scouting Department has TCU's Quentin Johnston as its top-ranked receiver, with USC's Jordan Addison and Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba also ranked inside the top-16 overall prospects.

    Addison (4.49 seconds) was the only one of the big three to run the 40 on Saturday, and he also had a smooth performance positional drills.

    B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

    USC WR <a href="https://twitter.com/Espn_Jordan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Espn_Jordan</a> cooking 🔥<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/FDchq6DoPv">pic.twitter.com/FDchq6DoPv</a>

    Smith-Njigba, who battled a hamstring issue throughout 2022, didn't run the 40-yard dash. He did participate in drills, however, and according to Brandon Thorn of the Bleacher Report Scouting Department, rave reviews came from those around the league based on his positional workout.

    According to Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski, who is on-site in Indianapolis, Smith-Njigba "has consistently been graded as one of the top wide receiver prospects in this year's class."

    However, Addison and Smith-Njigba were not the biggest receiver standouts of the day. That title goes to Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt, who might just make the picture at the top of the receiver pool very interesting.

    Hyatt is the No. 89 prospect on the B/R board, and this likely stems from the offense he ran in college.

    "There are mixed feelings on Jalin Hyatt throughout the league because of his limited route tree in college and Tennessee's offensive scheme," The Athletic's Dane Brugler wrote in January. "But Hyatt is above average in two areas that will translate well to the NFL: linear speed and ball skills."

    Questions about Hyatt's ability to grasp the nuances of an NFL offense remain. However, the former Volunteer left no questions about his athletic ability on Saturday. He measured in at 6'0" and 176 pounds and logged a 40-inch vertical and a 135-inch broad jump. He also ran an official 4.4-second 40-yard dash.

    Tennessee Football @Vol_Football

    🔥🔥 Official 4️⃣.4️⃣0️⃣ for <a href="https://twitter.com/jalinhyatt?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jalinhyatt</a><br><br>📺 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NFLCombine?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NFLCombine</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/RClrmEbAEX">pic.twitter.com/RClrmEbAEX</a>

    Hyatt's athleticism allowed him to dominate the college competition in 2022, and he finished with 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 67 receptions. He also won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver.

    With one of the best all-around workouts by any receiver, Hyatt has erased any doubts about where his athletic upside lies. The challenge for NFL teams will now be determining how well and how quickly he can make the jump to pro competition. Hyatt may have done enough to enter the first-round conversation along with Addison, Johnston and Smith-Njigba.

Kayshon Boutte Will Need to Shine at Pro Day

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 03: Kayshon Boutte #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball for a 53 yard touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first quarter in the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    LSU's Kayshon Boutte is one of the more intriguing receivers in this draft class. Boutte, the 33rd-ranked prospect on the B/R big board, was productive in college and flashed plenty of potential with the Tigers.

    As Klassen noted, however, Boutte struggled with consistency: "Boutte has the size, speed, route-running and blocking skills to be a good slot player in the NFL. The drops and overall incomplete film are wildly frustrating, though. Boutte will also need to answer questions as to why he was 'unavailable' for the team's bowl game and why he declared for the draft after initially deciding to return to LSU."

    On Saturday, Boutte was also one of the biggest combine disappointments. He measured 5'11" and 195 pounds, which is adequate but not exactly "big" for a receiver. He also lacked explosiveness in the vertical, broad jump and 40-yard dash:

    Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

    LSU WR Kayshon Boutte struggling today.<br><br>29" vertical<br>108" broad<br>4.50 40 yard dash

    Will Boutte's combine performance tank his draft stock? It shouldn't. We're still talking about a wideout who logged 1,782 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 13.6 yards per reception in his three years in the SEC. He's a shifty slot receiver with plenty of after-the-catch ability who shined before suffering an ankle injury in 2021.

    Jacob Morley @JacobMorley

    Kayshon Boutte - WR - LSU<br><br>One of the bigger Boom or Bust types in this class. <br><br>On one hand, his 2022 film was pretty stinky.<br><br>On the other hand, his 2021 film is littered with this. <a href="https://t.co/ECres0PXZB">pic.twitter.com/ECres0PXZB</a>

    Boutte will likely need to improve on his testing numbers at LSU's pro day if he hopes to be drafted within the first couple of rounds. Fellow LSU product Jarvis Landry was a second-round pick with similar combine numbers (4.77 40, 28.5-inch vertical, 110-inch broad), but he racked up 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final collegiate season.

    Boutte came into the combine with more question marks than Landry, and he'll need to show more through the rest of the predraft process to hold a similar draft status.

    LSU's pro day is scheduled for March 29.

Multiple Tight Ends Will Be Drafted in Round 1

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    Georgia's Darnell Washington
    Georgia's Darnell WashingtonMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    The modern-era record for first-round tight ends in one draft is three—which happened in 1973, 1978, 2002 and 2017. There's a chance that mark will be matched and perhaps broken in 2023.

    The B/R Scouting Department has three tight ends—Notre Dame's Michael Mayer, Utah's Dalton Kincaid and Georgia's Darnell Washington—ranked inside the top 34 prospects. Each of them brings something special to the proverbial table.

    Mayer, who came in at 6'4" and 249 pounds, is pro-ready and should make an immediate impact.

    "A player with his size, strength and natural ball skills will find a way to be productive out of the gate," Klassen wrote.

    Kincaid is polished and measured 6'4" and 246 pounds. He didn't work out in Indianapolis, but he did have 70 receptions, 890 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He'll likely cement his stock as a first-round prospect at Utah's pro day March 23.

    Washington, meanwhile, was 6'7", 264 pounds and ran a stunning 4.64-second 40-yard dash. He has a rare combination of size and speed. He also had a record-setting 83¾-inch wingspan.

    Marcus Mosher @Marcus_Mosher

    Georgia TE Darnell Washington has the biggest wingspan and second-largest hands ever for a tight end at the NFL Combine.

    If there's an early run on the position, there's a chance a fourth tight end will join Mayer, Kincaid and Washington in the first round.

    LaPorta, Oregon State's Luke Musgrave, South Dakota State's Tucker Kraft and Cincinnati's Josh Whyle are also ranked inside the top 98 prospects by the B/R Scouting Department. The Athletic's Dane Brugler even listed Musgrave as his No. 2 tight end behind Mayer.

Sam LaPorta Is Healthy and Had a Terrific Workout

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 3, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta wasn't widely considered one of the draft's top tight ends before the weekend, though he is the 47th-ranked prospect on the B/R big board. Part of the uncertainty surrounding LaPorta involves the torn meniscus he suffered in November.

    It's worth noting, though, that LaPorta suited up for Iowa's bowl game, less than two months after his injury.

    Scott Dochterman @ScottDochterman

    Sam LaPorta on playing 6 weeks after surgery:<br>Opting out never even went through my brain. I told myself if I was healthy enough to play, I was gonna play no matter what. And missing out on my senior day left another unchecked box. I wanted to play with my boys one last time.

    On Saturday, LaPorta answered any lingering questions about his health. He had one of the best all-around workouts to go with a strong showing in positional drills.

    Shane P. Hallam @ShanePHallam

    Sam LaPorta on the gauntlet was as perfect as a TE can get. Great hands, straight line, didn't let anything come inside. <br><br>He needs the right offense, but super intriguing Round 2-3

    The 6'3", 245-pounder logged a 35-inch vertical, 125-inch broad jump and 4.59-second 40-yard dash—the third-fastest time at the position behind Miami's Will Mallory (4.54) and Old Dominion's Zack Kuntz (4.55).

    LaPorta moved well and looked every bit the player he was in 2022 (58 catches, 657 yards, 1 TD).

    Jon Ledyard @LedyardNFLDraft

    He's not as well-rounded as Kincaid, but really like Sam LaPorta's tape. Size, speed and rare elusiveness after the catch for a tight end. Some of his plays in space during his career are crazy.

    There was a lot of tight end talent on the field Saturday, and LaPorta stood out. His strong testing numbers should help him rise up boards between now and draft weekend. While he probably won't hear his name called on opening night, he appears unlikely to fall out of the second round.

    Tight end-needy teams that don't flip the switch on the position in Round 1 could be looking to trade up on Day 2 with LaPorta as a preferred target.

Trades for Quarterbacks Could Dominate the Top of Round 1

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    ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26:   Pittsburgh Steelers the pick is in logo on the video board during the first round at the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Statium on April 26, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Multiple quarterbacks are vying to be the first off the board in late April, but there's no guarantee who will be drafted first overall. However, it's becoming clear that one of the signal-callers will be the pick.

    According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the Chicago Bears have made it known in Indianapolis that the No. 1 selection is for sale. There are likely multiple suitors for the choice.

    "From my understanding, there is significant, significant interest in that pick," Rapoport said.

    Rapoport mentioned the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers as teams that could eye the No. 1 pick.

    It makes sense. Because this year's top quarterbacks come with a variety of skill sets and because there is no consensus QB1, a franchise may be eager to get the player on top of its big board.

    If the Texans, for example, believe Bryce Young is the best fit for their roster and offense, they may not be willing to run the risk of getting jumped at No. 2. If the Colts believe C.J. Stroud is their guy, they may not be willing to stay at No. 4.

    Rapoport also mentioned the Arizona Cardinals at No. 3 as another team that could be up for a trade. This adds further intrigue to the quarterback chase, as it could prompt both Houston and Indianapolis to trade up—and the Bears could conceivably become trade partners for each of them.

    According to Sobleski, Chicago could be willing to move outside of the range of top defensive prospects Jalen Carter and Will Anderson Jr..

    "Buzz continues to pick up about Chicago liking Texas Tech's Tyree Wilson as much as those mentioned, if not more," he said. "Wilson even confirmed he's already met with the team twice. Wilson may be attainable outside of the initial five selections—which makes the possibility of a trade further down the order more intriguing than initially believed."

    Young, Stroud and Anthony Richardson have strong cases as the top quarterback prospect. Teams will play coy about their preference, and some may still be sorting that out. The unknown makes it a near certainty that one team will move to No. 1 to have its pick of the class, and it could happen well before draft day.

    Statistics via Sports Reference.