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Carolina Panthers

Anthony Richardson's combine workout adds intrigue to first round

Anthony Richardson

INDIANAPOLIS — When Anthony Richardson was growing up, he knew what he wanted to be like. Then, there was a newer version to model his game after.

"Growing up, it was always Cam Newton for me," Richardson said. "But then when I got to high school, just seeing how dynamic Lamar (Jackson) was. I tried to implement both of those guys in my life. I started calling myself Cam Jackson in 11th grade, just trying to make big plays. Just Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson."

Saturday, he did things neither of them did.

Richardson stole the show during his scouting combine workout, with the kind of eye-popping testing numbers that made clear how unique he is in this class of quarterbacks.

Richardson set a modern combine record for quarterbacks with a 40-1/2-inch vertical leap. He also had a 10-foot-9 broad jump, tied for the best mark in that category since 2003. He also ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash. Those are elite receiver/defensive back numbers, or really for an athlete of any size.

Oh, by the weigh, he did it at 244 pounds (at 6-foot-4-1/4, with 10-1/2-inch hands). So when you consider the only three quarterbacks to run faster 40s were all considerably smaller (Reggie McNeal ran a 4.35 at 198 pounds, Robert Griffin III posted a 4.41 at 223, and Marcus Vick ran a 4.42 at 200), it helps bring into focus what a physical force Richardson is.

(For historical context, Jackson didn't run or take part in testing drills at the 2018 combine, choosing to only throw [there were people at the time who thought he might actually be a receiver]. When Newton came to the combine in 2011, he was 248 pounds, ran a 4.56-second 40, and had a 35-inch vertical.)

Cam Newton

So Richardson's testing numbers earned a lot of attention and a lot of comparisons to some other dual-threat quarterbacks of the past. As the position continues to evolve, with athleticism more prized than ever, his workout Saturday only added to the intrigue.

"I think the position has changed because of the mobile quarterbacks," Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said. "The athletes on defense, especially the defensive line, and the pass rush. These really athletic types that are getting up field.

"You need guys with mobility. I think the days of the five-step, stand-in-the-pocket guys, they're not dead, but it's moving away from that."

Enter Richardson, who, based on Saturday's workout, is largely what people are looking for.

"I'm able to do everything on the field — run over people, jump over people, run past people throw the ball pretty well," Richardson said Friday. "Just tying it all together, I feel like that just helps me become a better quarterback."

Of course, there's more to being a quarterback than running fast or jumping high, and his last season at Florida shows that.

For the season, the Gators went a lackluster 6-6. He completed 53.8 percent of his passes for 2,549 yards, 17 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.

So while Newton single-handedly dragged Auburn to a national title his final year (his only offensive teammate to be drafted that year was Panthers seventh-round tackle Lee Ziemba), and Jackson won a Heisman at Louisville, Richardson's one-year run as a starter at Florida was full of as many downs as ups.

He was magical against Utah in last year's opener, completing 17-of-24 passes for 168 yards and running 11 times for 106 yards and three touchdowns. The following week against Kentucky, he completed 40 percent of his passes (14-of-35), threw two interceptions, and wasn't a factor in the run game (4 yards on six carries).

So while he knows he needs to develop, he's still confident he can. He joked at the combine about being labeled a "project," but he's aware he needs to develop.

"So I guess teams already know that I have room to grow, so they see sparks in me," he said. "I see them myself as well. So I don't have to talk about experience with them because they watch the tape and they know I've been playing football for a while. You know, it's just a matter of what level I've been playing on. So I think I'm ready. I know I'm ready. They'll get that from me."

Frank Reich

As it pertains to the Panthers, that's an interesting discussion.

With new head coach Frank Reich's 30 years of experience as a player and a coach in the league, and an all-star staff on offense, Carolina would ostensibly be a place development is possible. From veteran assistant Jim Caldwell, to quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown bringing the run-game background from Sean McVay's Rams system, they have coaches in place who could maximize a player such as Richardson.

He was one of the six quarterbacks they met with this week (along with Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, Will Levis, Hendon Hooker, and Max Duggan), and he called it "a great interview."

"Just getting to know them," he said. "Just getting on the board and just drawing up a few plays for them and recalling a play that they taught me earlier in the meeting."

Of course, if they took him in the first round, there would be big expectations, and the references to Newton will be on the surface and often made. But Richardson doesn't shy away from such comparisons. When he watches tape, he mentioned watching quarterbacks such as Josh Allen and Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, but he's not limiting himself to the top young quarterbacks.

Anthony Richardson

"I see myself, you know, I want to be a legend," he said. "I want to be like Patrick Mahomes. I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats.

"I will be one of the greats, because I'm willing to work that hard and get to that point. And so, to answer that question, I feel like I'm going to be one of the greats in the next few years."

Saturday, he looked like one. He also made it far more interesting for the teams considering the position since he might change the way people look at it.

View photos of head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer from their press conferences and interviews with the media at the Combine on Wednesday.

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