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2023 NFL Draft: What We Learned from Florida, TCU, Tennessee pro days

Representatives from NFL teams attended the Florida pro day on Thursday, where quarterback prospect Anthony Richardson filled the skies with deep and intermediate passes that demonstrated the prospect's tremendous arm strength and athleticism. Richardson, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah's No. 10 overall prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, was the headliner, but it wasn't the only event that had teams' attention. Evaluators traveled to see potential first-round prospects at Tennessee and TCU pro days, as well.

Here are five takeaways from the day's activities.

1) Anthony Richardson puts on another aerial display. Four weeks ago, Richardson put on a showcase performance at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, leaving Indianapolis as the buzziest quarterback in this year's draft. On Thursday, Richardson had the QB stage all to himself at the Gators' pro day.

Richardson's throwing performance was a lot of what people expected -- terrific arm talent flashing from a physically blessed human being -- but also a few surprises.

First, the pace and feel was very relaxed to begin. (Richardson even warmed up in his socks before starting.) His early throws were loosy-goosy, and it only picked up intensity toward the end of the session. Richardson showed off his arm strength by rocketing a ball off the roof of the Condron Family Indoor Practice Facility, which apparently is the new thing now after Alabama's Bryce Young and Kentucky's Will Levis did similarly at their pro days last week.

Richardson's final toss was what everyone wanted to see: a nearly 70-yard throw across his body -- and across the field -- on target to wideout Justin Shorter. Then Richardson, put a cherry on top with this laughably athletic display, a roundoff back tuck (or so I am told):

"I definitely had fun," Richardson said. "Anytime there's a football in my hands, it's fun."

No surprise: Richardson's throwing script included more vertical shots than those of the prior QB pro days, even more so than Levis, who possesses comparable arm strength.

The ease with which Richardson can launch balls downfield certainly stands out. As Jeremiah noted during the NFL+ broadcast, "It does look like he's throwing a Nerf ball out there."

To Richardson, this was all-natural stuff he was showcasing.

"Honestly, the off-platform stuff, I don't really work on that," he said. "I do it sometimes during training and my trainers are like, 'Whoa -- do that again. What was that?' I'm like, 'That feels normal.' I used to do it in the backyard with my friends, spinning around and tossing the ball up in the air.

"So I'm just trying to implement that a little bit in my pro day, and just showcase my arm talent. That was the main focus."

But NFL Network's Steve Smith also noted that on Richardson's shorter routes that he tended to throw some too hard and on a line.

"All these fireballs he's throwing from five yards away? He needs to show some touch," Smith said on Thursday's NFL+ live stream.

All of Richardson's skills were on display in Gainesville. His throwing mechanics -- especially with the lower half of his body -- were mostly improved from what he put on tape in 13 college starts. But we also don't have too many more answers about some of his developmental shortcomings and what that means for his NFL forecast. Richardson seems to understand this.

"At times I was very inconsistent throughout the season, so I'm just trying to put that behind me and stay consistent because I know inconsistency is not going to work at the next level," he said.

2) Which team will pounce on Richardson? Now all four of the expected Round 1 quarterbacks have completed their pro days. The Carolina Panthers technically should have the bulk of information they'll need to make a decision on which quarterback they'll select with the first overall pick -- or whether they'll end up keeping it.

But assuming the Panthers stay at No. 1, the decision might essentially boil down to them picking a more ready-made talent (C.J. Stroud or Young) versus the higher-upside, more tantalizing option behind Door No. 2 (Richardson or Levis). Which begs the question: Can the Panthers possibly take that big a risk on a more unrefined talent who has a chance to be great? And: What flaws can they live with?

"One of the things with Anthony Richardson is the athleticism, is the what-if," Smith said on NFL+ as Richardson threw. "No one wants to be known as the guy who passed on Tesla or Amazon (stock)."

Richardson believes he can work through his issues to reach his peak eventually. His inconsistent tape and a 53% college completion rate are two big hang-ups now.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to be great -- I want to be the best in the world," Richardson said. "I know I will never be perfect, but I try to work towards perfection. And if I'm not working towards that, I get in my head a little bit.

"Well, I used to. But then I started to realize I can't control everything. I can only focus on my job and focus on what I'm able to do. So just working on that and putting that behind me has let me become a better player."

But Smith and Jeremiah both said they couldn't pull the trigger on Richardson at one. If Carolina does pass on Richardson, perhaps the Raiders -- who pick at No. 7 overall -- are the next team to watch. NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Thursday morning that Las Vegas met with Richardson for dinner on Wednesday and has done extensive work on the entire quarterback group, even after signing Jimmy Garoppolo, likely given the veteran's age and injury history.

Every team working on Richardson and the quarterbacks will be sure to talk to as many teammates and staff members as they can to get a better picture of the prospect. If the Raiders spoke with Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence, they likely heard a glowing review of his quarterback from last season. Torrence spoke with Pelissero and extolled the virtues of Richardson as a player and as a man.

"He's a great player," Torrence said. "He made my time here even more enjoyable than what I had originally thought because of him being my quarterback. Like, knowing he's in the backfield anything crazy might happen. Like he might see a hole and take it 50 yards. It happened a few times. Him being my quarterback made my job a little bit easier, honestly. ...

"Him as person, the way he approaches everything, his leadership, the way the system changed when the new coaching staff came in ... but he was one of the ones that didn't complain. He didn't question anything. He just accepted the process and took the lead and led the team."

3) Torrence gives his pitch on why he's the draft's best interior lineman. A less-discussed Gators prospect, Torrence could join Richardson in Round 1 come April. The Florida guard, an All-American for the Gators last season, has been on the rise since transferring from Louisiana last year as a mauling, hulking interior blocker. (In a nice touch, Torrence even gave a nod to his former school by wearing one cleat with each of his colleges' colors.)

According to Pelissero, Torrence had dinner with the Titans on Wednesday night and meetings around pro day this week with the Rams, Falcons and Saints.

The 6-foot-5, 336-pound Torrence is not known for his athleticism, turning in so-so testing numbers at the combine and reportedly running a 8.13-second three-cone drill, which would put him in the bottom 20th percentile for that workout. But following a strong season in the SEC and a quality performance at the Senior Bowl, Torrence figures to be a top-50 selection at worst.

Torrence, however, sold himself as one of the best players at his position in this draft class. As for why he should be the top lineman drafted, he told Pelissero: "Because I'm the most dominant interior offensive lineman in the draft, and I feel like any team that gets me will get a Day 1 starter and someone who is ready to play. Somebody who is going to take it like a pro and give it all you got."

4) Hendon Hooker updates status of knee injury; surprisingly gives a small sample of throws. Yes, the Tennessee QB prospect "threw" the football at the Volunteers' pro day. But it wasn't the kind of throwing that will change NFL scouts' minds.

Hooker, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee back last Nov. 20, was on hand for Thursday's audition for scouts and helped warm up the Vols' receivers with a few light tosses to start the day, wearing a long sleeve on his left leg. This was not anything close to a scripted display, but being that it was about four months removed from surgery, it was a good sign that Hooker is well on his way to recovery.

"It felt good," Hooker told NFL Network's Omar Ruiz on NFL NOW. "These past two weeks of throwing and getting back into my motion feels excellent. I just wanted to come out here and get loose a little bit with my guys."

Hooker revealed that on Monday he met with his surgeon, Dr. Neil ElAttrache, who gave him a positive update on the health of the knee, and that Hooker's plan remains being ready for the start of training camp.

"Still ahead of schedule," Hooker said. "We will continue to take it day by day."

There has been some first-round buzz on Hooker, although that might be a bit rich for a 25-year-old passer with an injury concern. Still, there's heavy interest from around the NFL, and a Day 2 landing spot wouldn't be shocking at all for teams that might view him as more of a 2024 starting option.

Asked if he thinks he can compete for a starting job as a rookie, Hooker said his first objective is making sure his knee is 100%.

"I'm just trying to get as healthy as possible," Hooker said. "That'll help me longevity-wise. I just want to come in, be a sponge and learn as much as I can from everyone in the building."

5) TCU QB-WR tandem offer mixed results. Wideout Quentin Johnston ran two 40-yard dashes at the Horned Frogs' pro day Thursday, clocking unofficial times of 4.49 and 4.51 seconds, per NFL Network's Jane Slater.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Johnston opted to skip the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, performing the high and broad jumps there, as well as receiver drills. Johnston's speed had been sold as one of his strengths, so it was important NFL scouts received some strong clarity on that number at the pro day.

However, it was not a perfect day for Johnston, a possible first-round pick and Jeremiah's No. 29 overall prospect. After a solid start catching the ball during QB Max Duggan's throwing session, Johnston had a few late stumbles.

Following the red-zone period, Duggan wrapped up his script with some vertical routes -- his specialty as a passer in college. Most of Duggan's throws were solid during this portion of the workout, although his receivers let him down.

Johnston dropped two deep passes, including what was supposed to be the final throw of the script, slapping a blocking pad out of frustration after the second one. Duggan actually tacked on four additional throws to his planned script at the suggestion of his private QB coach, Jordan Palmer, not wanting to end their day on back-to-back drops.

The 6-1, 207-pound Duggan is considered a possible Day 3 pick. His experience, leadership, athleticism and deep-ball touch all are plusses, even if his accuracy will hurt him on draft weekend. Two off-target throws Duggan made on shorter routes required Johnston to reach out of his frame to catch.

All in all, it was a productive day for the TCU tandem. But they also both left some meat on the pro-day bone, so to speak. Among those on hand to watch were Giants head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Texans GM Nick Caserio.

Follow Eric Edholm on Twitter @Eric_Edholm.

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