The 2023 NFL combine is in the books, meaning that the final leg of the NFL Draft season is coming. Private workouts, pro days and a slew of invisible draft stock-related rumors will populate the NFL news stream until the end of April when the draft finally kicks off. Right after the NFL combine is a great time to take the temperature on players because teams have been able to meet with them and the majority of them have standardized measurables.
That means it’s time to bring back an offseason edition of the Four Verts column, fresh off a week in Indianapolis. Let’s dive in.
Anthony Richardson, it’s your world
The NFL combine can be a little funny in that things we know to be true can be counted twice. Everyone who has seen former Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson play knows that he’s a powerhouse athlete unlike most quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, but there’s still a level of appreciation that’s gained from watching it in person.
Richardson, unsurprisingly, blew the doors off the combine. He ran an official 4.43 40-yard dash at 244 pounds and notched a 40.5-inch vertical, vaulting him into arguably the best quarterback combine of all time. According to Kent Lee Platte of Relative Athletic Scores, Richardson’s all-time NFL athletic comparisons are Daunte Culpepper and Cam Newton. This doesn’t answer some of the questions that Richardson has on his film, but it is a strong confirmation that he has the athletic upside to become one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. Players at this size just don’t really move like that — at any position, let alone quarterback.
The reports from the combine suggested that Richardson fared well in his chalkboard sessions with teams, which at the very least shows that he’s able to explain what he was doing at Florida at a high level and whittles down the potential reasons not to draft him. Scouts and media analysts have said that Richardson’s biggest problem with his passing game right now is his footwork, not his understanding of the game. The shaky footwork can leave some passes looking scattershot, which appeared throughout his combine workout, but he also ripped some beautiful deep passes that showed off the talent that has tantalized teams.
At this point, it would be hard to see Richardson falling out of the top 10 picks of the first round of the NFL Draft. He impressed in Indianapolis in a big way that’s going to net him a big chunk of coin at the end of April.
A Northwestern defensive lineman puts his name on the map
Get familiar with the name Adetomiwa Adebawore. Adebawore is a do-it-all defensive lineman from Northwestern who had a freaky workout at the NFL combine.
Adebawore measured in at 6-foot-2 and 282 pounds, but posted workout numbers of a player that’s half his size. A 4.49 40-yard dash at 282 pounds. I’m going to repeat that for you. Adebawore ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at 282 pounds. That’s wild! (And kind of makes you wonder how he ended up at Northwestern in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there.) Not only does he have top 1 percent level athleticism, but he had some decent production over his final two years with the Wildcats.
According to Sports Reference, Adebawore racked up 17.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks over his final 24 games in college. That’s not all-world production, but also nothing to sneeze at — and NFL coaches will look at Adebawore as a player that they can coach up and teach a few things as they try to maximize his skill set.
His combination may get him into the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. There just aren’t many players with his body composition in the NFL. His frame suggests he can play defensive tackle, but his measurables paint the picture of a versatile defensive player who can have his hand in a little bit of everything moving forward. The Baltimore Ravens even asked him to do some linebacker workouts, which doesn’t mean that he would be an off-ball linebacker standing next to Roquan Smith, but just to see how he moves in coverage because standup linebackers in a 3-4 defense do have to do that at times.
Aaron Donald ran in the 4.6s at 285 pounds. Adebawore ran a damn 4.49. Get used to hearing his name a lot in the lead up to April’s draft.
Georgia, once again, stole the show at the NFL combine
It turns out, you need a lot of good players to win back-to-back national titles. Last year, the Georgia Bulldogs had a host of players set fire to the combine with five first-round picks from their defense alone. This year wasn’t quite the same level of dominance, but Georgia players stole the show at the combine.
The Dawgs had a pair of edge rushers at the combine in Nolan Smith and Robert Beal, who ran 4.39 and 4.43 in the 40-yard dash, respectively. They were two of the fastest defenders in the entire combine and they aren’t even playing positions like cornerback. They did have cornerback Kelee Ringo run the 40-yard dash and he posted a blazing time of 4.36 seconds in that drill.
According to Kent Lee Platte of Relative Athletic Scores, Georgia had five players grade out as elite athletes following this year’s NFL combine: Smith, Beal, Ringo, offensive tackle Broderick Jones and tight end Darnell Washington.
Washington was, quite literally, one of the biggest stories at the combine this year. Washington came in at almost 6-foot-7 and 264 pounds and still managed to run a 4.65 40-yard dash. Even more impressive is the time he hit in the 20-yard short shuttle — a blistering 4.08 seconds. That time was faster than all but two participants in the entire combine this year. Only Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba (196 pounds) and Kansas State’s Julius Brents (198 pounds) had faster times this year.
If you need to find a prospect with some bite this year, better go get yourself a Dawg. Kirby Smart is pumping aliens out of Athens right now.
CJ Stroud may have cemented QB1 status
Richardson had the most explosive quarterback performance at the combine, but Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud might have had the most profound. Throwing on air with no defenders around isn’t exactly the most difficult thing for a talented quarterback to do, but Stroud really looked the part of a No. 1 overall pick during the throwing session at this year’s combine.
Stroud threw the ball with confidence and most importantly, accuracy. There is an added degree of difficulty with throwing to brand new receivers in an intense environment like that, but Stroud made it look like he was throwing to receivers that he had known for a long time.
It was a different kind of impressive from what Richardson had put together, but Stroud was just smooth and in control of what was being asked of him. Of course, it’s different when there’s a host of talented edge rushers trying to flush Stroud out of the pocket, but there doesn’t appear to be a quarterback this year with a higher floor than Stroud. He might want to start looking up homes in Houston.