With as many as four quarterbacks steadily mentioned by analysts in the first round of mock drafts, all eyes around the NFL will be on this group to see if anyone separates from the rest of the pack. We don't know how many of them will go through testing or even throw at the event, but here are the names to watch.
These are the players who analysts expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Anthony Richardson (Florida) – It's pretty rare these days to see top quarterbacks go through the gamut of athletic testing, as they typically choose to spend their preparation time in the winter months getting ready for meetings and playbook questions they'll face over the process. That said, if a quarterback in this class were to blow the doors off the athletic testing, it would be Richardson. The sophomore earned a spot in the Top 50 of Bruce Feldman’s Freak List last summer, mainly because of his rare combination of size (he's listed 6-foot-4, 236 pounds) and speed (Florida coaches say he has 4.4 ability in the 40-yard dash). That speed shows up on tape where he is a threat to bust a big run at any point. Richardson is much more than a runner, however, and his raw arm talent is something to behold.
Malik Cunningham (Louisville) – Cunningham checked in at the Senior Bowl at under 6-feet tall and just 188 pounds, which would make him the lightest quarterback drafted in at least the last 10 years if he hears his name called in April. Despite that frame, this guy has been ELECTRIC over the course of his four years as a starter for the Cardinals. If he tests, expect Cunningham to get close to breaking some quarterback records at the Combine.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA) – "DTR" has started 48 games in his career in Chip Kelly's offense with the Bruins and has gotten better every year as a passer while also producing yardage on the ground. Used often in the option game, Thompson-Robinson has the ability to make the first defender miss and break off long runs. I'm excited to see him go through his passing workout as well, but he should impress in the athletic testing portion before that starts.
The Drill to Watch
For the quarterbacks, what we get to see on television ultimately comes down to their throwing session with the wide receivers and tight ends in attendance. Overall, the quarterbacks will throw slant routes, out routes, curl routes, dig routes, post-corner routes, and deep go routes. Those last three routes call for the quarterback to push the ball down the field, and here are things you may notice on those passes.
Velocity and accuracy are important for any quarterback. See which passers are able to combine both elements on these throws.
It's hard for quarterbacks to make these throws – which require a bit of timing with the receiver – to guys they've likely never worked with before. It's always interesting to see which quarterbacks are just willing to cut it loose in this situation. Sometimes a pass is thrown right where it should be, but it falls incomplete. It's important to note that those disconnects are not always on the quarterback.
Here are the players who have a chance to shine in these drills:
C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) – It doesn't take long while watching Stroud at Ohio State to see that this guy is just a naturally accurate passer. He throws with impressive touch, timing, and ball placement to targets at every area of the field. He should really impress in these drills.
Tanner McKee (Stanford) – Standing tall at 6-foot-6, 226 pounds, McKee's ability to repeatedly hit receivers in stride is what made him an effective part of the Cardinal's offense the last two years as a starter. He's only got 21 games under his belt, but McKee's consistency should carry him a long way when it comes to the passing reps in Indy.
Jaren Hall (BYU) – Before, and after, Zach Wilson was the starting quarterback at BYU, that was Jaren Hall's job! Hall faced some injuries halfway through his career with the Cougars, but has since been a healthy contributor to their offense as a very efficient passer with impressive ball placement and touch to all areas of the field. Those traits will serve him well in these drills at Lucas Oil Stadium.
These players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unique journey to get to this point?
Stetson Bennett (Georgia) – If you're even just a mild college football fan, you've likely heard the story of Stetson Bennett, the former walk-on with no FBS offers who went to Georgia, tested the waters at the junior college level, then returned to Georgia to go 29-3 in the last three years as a starter with two National Championship Game wins and a seat in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist to boot. Like Cunningham, Bennett is small for the position (listed at 5-foot-11 and may come in at under 190 pounds as well), but he's been counted out before.
Hendon Hooker (Tennessee) – Hooker took the college football world by storm in 2022, his second year starting for the high-flying Volunteers offense. A third-team All-American, Hooker put up video game numbers this year with 27 TDs and just two interceptions at a 69.6 percent completion rate. He RARELY put the ball in harm's way this year, and had Tennessee geared up for its first College Football Playoff berth before tearing his ACL late in the season. Hooker, who won 13 games as a starter for Virginia Tech before transferring to Tennessee, co-wrote a children's book with his brother two Decembers ago and has been known as one of the best people off the field in the nation these last two seasons. Hooker is someone you root for.
Tyson Bagent (Shepherd) – It's not often you get a Division II quarterback in Indianapolis for the Combine, but Bagent certainly deserves it. The 6-2, 213-pound passer shattered a number of records at that level of competition throughout his career and has earned a seat at the table this week. Bagent is also the son of a world champion arm wrestler (look it up!).
These are the players of note with a special statistic or measurement that sets them apart from their peers.
Bryce Young (Alabama) – Listed at 6-feet, 194 pounds (his size will be a big topic of conversation this week), the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is an excellent quarterback prospect. The only quarterback in Tide history to hit the 3,000-yard mark twice as a passer, Young's quick release, repetitive accuracy, and automatic touch will allow him to shine in passing drills (if he chooses to partake). Some stats that I look at with quarterbacks have to do with how they attack the middle of the field and how they perform on third down. Young's passer rating in both areas is the best of this group, and by a wide margin.
Jake Haener (Fresno State) – Pro Football Focus has a stat that they refer to as "adjusted completion percentage," where it removes throwaways and drops from the equation to show what a quarterback's "true" completion percentage looked like when targeting a receiver. Of all the quarterbacks in Indianapolis, Haener's adjusted completion percentage from a clean pocket was better than anyone else's (83.1 percent). That stat is backed up on tape, where the sixth-year senior hit receiver after receiver right on the numbers both from the pocket and on the move. The Senior Bowl MVP also went 18-5 the last two years as a starter for the Bulldogs.
Will Levis (Kentucky) – While Haener's "adjusted completion percentage" was the best in this Combine class from a clean pocket, Levis' was the best while under pressure from this group (72.9 percent). The toolsy Penn State transfer was banged up this season, working in a new offense with a ton of turnover around him, but there's no denying his raw talent. A clean workout in Indianapolis could help calm some of the concern around his game.
The Rest of the Pack
Everyone else who will take part in the events in Indianapolis (in alphabetical order):
Max Duggan (TCU), Aidan O'Connell (Purdue), Clayton Tune (Houston)
We get to read all about the measurements for all these players over the next few weeks ... but wouldn't it be nice to have some context? What is considered a "good" 40-yard dash time? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted at each position has looked like over the last decade (based on my own personal research).
Height: 6030 (6'3")
Hand Size: 958 (9 5/8")
Arm Length: 3200 (32")
Wingspan: 7678 (76 7/8")
Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch): 4.80
Official 40-Time (Laser): 4.82
10-Yard Split: 1.65
3-Cone Drill: 7.09
Short Shuttle: 4.33
Broad Jump: 113"
Vertical Jump: 31"