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Carolina Panthers

Anthony Richardson aiming toward a high ceiling

Anthony Richardson

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Anthony Richardson hadn't hit Florida's indoor practice facility ceiling with a football before Thursday.

But after his breakout combine performance a few weeks ago, and having seen Will Levis launch a pass to the rafters during Kentucky's pro day last week, Richardson set his mind on showcasing arm strength.

And he couldn't help but add the accomplishment to his pitch for being selected first overall in this year's NFL Draft either – a pick the Panthers hold.

"I'm a workhorse," Richardson said when explaining his case for the No. 1 pick. "I'm going to work to be the greatest. I'm going to continue to work. A lot of people would say I have a lot of things to clean up, so I'm definitely going to try to clean those things up. And I did hit the roof."

It's only fitting that the literal ceiling was a central figure on Richardson's pro day, given a lot of the talk around the 20-year-old quarterback who has 13 college starts heading into the NFL is around the type of player he could become, with the tools he already possesses.

"Obviously, he's got a ton of talent, a lot of upside," general manager Scott Fitterer said moments after Richardson's workout. "The more you play, the better it's going to be, as far as processing and timing. But he's got everything to work with. … He's more than a project; he's a really good player."

Richardson said he sought to show off accuracy in his pro day workout, and he was mainly on point while throwing to more familiar targets.

He flashed a big arm, too, after estimating he could throw 80 yards during his meetings with teams Wednesday night.

"Tremendous arm strength," Fitterer said when asked to evaluate what he saw from Richardson. "(He) made every throw, showed touch, showed timing, showed everything we needed to see."

The question marks around Richardson arise because he played one full season as a starter in college – last season – the first for Florida under head coach Billy Napier.

"Anthony's a humble kid; he's a smart kid," Napier said. "Just a really inexperienced player. Was a first-year starter in a new system. And everybody around him was in a new system and teaching a new system. So we all know what this guy's capable of. It's just a matter of repetition. He's going to provide the work ethic and the attitude, and he's going to have a phenomenal career."

Richardson threw for 2,549 yards as the Gators' passer in 2022, completing 53.8 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions.

But his physical traits are what have scouts high on his potential. Richardson dazzled in Indianapolis, as the 6-foot-4, 244-pound athlete posted a 40 1/2-inch vertical jump – the highest of any quarterback at the combine since at least 2003 – along with a 10-foot-9 broad jump, tied with Arkansas' Matt Jones for the best mark by a combine quarterback in the same time frame. He ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, fourth among quarterbacks who have run the 40 at the combine since 2003, and completed passes at the combine as well.

"Even before the combine, watching his tape, there are plays and throws all over the tape that scream top-of-the-draft pick," head coach Frank Reich said during league meetings earlier this week in Arizona. "And that's a credit to him. I think he has upper-body mechanics that are really solid. Obviously, his completion percentage is lower than you want at this level, but 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, without getting totally into it, just the more experience he gets – he's a guy who you feel like is going to get better fast."

Heading into Florida's pro day, Richardson didn't necessarily have anything to prove in his workouts, but he elected to throw anyway – and his reasoning was simple.

"All the other quarterbacks threw the ball (at their pro day), and they're great quarterbacks," Richardson said. "So I just wanted to show how great I was as well. Just coming out here and having fun with my brothers for maybe the last time was definitely a blessing."

When Richardson says "all the other quarterbacks," he obviously means his fellow members within the consensus top four in this year's draft – Levis, Alabama's Bryce Young, and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud. The Panthers visited all four across the last two weeks, and hopefully left with a more straightforward evaluation of the top four, as the draft is quickly approaching in April.

"We were able to see everything as far as their on-field performance," Fitterer said. "We got to meet a lot of guys behind the scenes, which was a big part. But (Richardson's pro day) was a great way to end the tour right there."

Most of Carolina's full tour contingent was on hand for Richardson's workout, including Fitterer, assistant general manager Dan Morgan, vice president of football administration Samir Suleiman, Reich, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, senior assistant Jim Caldwell, and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown. Passing game coordinator Parks Frazier also joined the crew for Florida pro day.

Fitterer and Morgan couldn't make it to Wednesday night dinner with Richardson (they flew in later following this week's league meetings in Arizona), though he did meet with other members of the Panthers' travel group.

Richardson said he didn't eat dinner since he'd eaten before, but he did leave with a good impression.

"It was great," Richardson said. "They do have the No. 1 pick, so in case they were to draft me, I'm trying to get expectations, just figure out what they need from me, what they want from me as a player, as a quarterback, and as a person. Just gathering information, that's the main thing."

Richardson knows he has places to grow too. He mentioned that he wanted to work on "everything," from footwork and accuracy to leadership and decision-making.

But he also acknowledged what many coaches, scouts, and executives have – and it's that the ceiling on him is unknown.

And it could be higher than the one at Florida's indoor facility.

"I don't know what my ceiling is; I'm just going to work," Richardson said. "I'm just going to try to get better day by day. So Lord knows what my ceiling is and what it will be."

View photos from Thursday's pro day at Florida as quarterback prospect Anthony Richardson worked out for NFL teams.

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