I remember buying a suit from Express in the Oaks Mall. It was nice enough, a traditional black two-piece that could pair with a classic white collar and colorful tie. It didn’t break the bank for a soon-to-be college grad who still delivered pizzas to pay the bills, but I couldn’t afford to have it tailored. Putting it on ahead of attending a job fair at the O’Dome, I definitely felt like a bit of a schlub.
There is nothing like your first professional job interview as an adult. For most of us, it involves handing over a copy of our resume, perhaps showing off some clips or examples of our work, and answering mostly mundane and rote questions for maybe 15 minutes. We thank the interviewer and leave, knowing that even if we don’t get the job, we’ll eventually find one that will allow us to begin our careers.
For elite athletes, the stakes are just a little bit higher.
The annual NFL Scouting Combine is a week-long spectacle televised live every day. The days begin early and end late. Prospects meet with coaches, scouts, and evaluators from up to 32 teams. They are interviewed by writers, podcasters, radio and TV personalities. And most stressful of all, they are poked and prodded and measured and tested — physically and mentally, and in just about every way possible.
As I covered the event for my first time earlier this month, many former players I worked with spoke about how nervous they were during their own Combine experience. Bills Pro Bowl tackle Dion Dawkins told me he had a dry mouth the whole week, making it hard to hold long conversations. Packers star running back Aaron Jones remembered being anxious in interviews — and on the field.
Nine former Gators battled through those nerves in Indianapolis, looking to impress and improve their draft standing. Most of them had great experiences and did some things that boosted their profiles.
And the one with perhaps the most on the line had one of the greatest Combine weeks ever.
QB / 6’4 1/4”, 244 pounds
40: 4.43 / Vert: 40.5” / Broad: 10’9”
Projected Draft Slot: Top 10
The conventional wisdom surrounding the workouts and testing at the Combine is to avoid overemphasizing them, unless they are really bad or historically good. With enormous expectations and every eye in the football world on him, all Richardson did was grade out as the most athletic quarterback in the history of the process.
Anthony Richardson shattered quarterback records at the #NFLCombine, earning a maximum athleticism score of 99 (pending official numbers).— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 4, 2023
QB Combine Ranks (since 2003):
40-Yard Dash: 4.44 (2nd)
Broad Jump: 10'9" (1st)
Vertical Jump: 40.5" (1st)
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You’ve no doubt seen and read a lot about Richardson’s week in Indianapolis. He was the buzz of the draft leading into the Combine and turned up the volume on that buzz every time he spoke to teams or the media — and practically grabbed a megaphone when he stepped on the field Saturday night.
Early in the week, as Richardson began meeting with teams — he says he met with around 20 — reports began to surface that he was captivating and charming. His leadership and acumen shined in conversations and at the white board.
Who had the most impressive NFL Scouting Combine? Anthony Richardson. And it goes beyond the 40-yard dash too. From @GMFB: pic.twitter.com/5JwZaxcwxz— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) March 6, 2023
In this piece on NFL Network, Richardson showed off the charm with former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci, winning him over with his story, his personality, and his football IQ.
When Richardson had to recall Mooch’s play, he nailed it perfectly — except he had the quarterback in shotgun. Mooch made a point to mention that Steve Young almost never was in shotgun, but you have to forgive Richardson for that considering the evolution of the game over the past 30 years ... and the fact that I don’t recall a single snap he took under center in Gainesville.
As his Saturday workout approached, the AR buzz was roaring. Everyone knew something special was going to take place, but even that didn’t prepare us for what we saw. First up was the broad jump.
Anthony Richardson: back to back broad jumps. First was best at 10-9. pic.twitter.com/HmU08i2T2s— StaceyDales (@StaceyDales) March 4, 2023
Tied for the longest broad by a quarterback ever. Next, the vertical jump.
Anthony Richardson just set a combine record for quarterbacks with a 40.5” vertical with this… pic.twitter.com/68muNURNwq— StaceyDales (@StaceyDales) March 4, 2023
Having set or equaled the all-time QB distances in both jumps, Richardson headed for the 40 with a shot at the triple crown of testing.
Anthony Richardson is having himself a day.— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
4.44u on his first run. @GatorsFB
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/G1Uv9cyPst
The official time was revised to 4.43, far and away the best at this year’s Combine by a QB — but only the fourth-fastest since tracking began in 2003.
As impressive as those record-setting performances were, what everyone inside Lucas Oil Stadium and watching on NFL Network wanted to see were the throwing drills. AR’s footwork, mechanics, and accuracy are what is actually in dispute about him as a player; those are the questions he needed to answer. And while he wasn’t perfect, he more than held his own with a display full of power, precision, and touch.
Anthony Richardson PUT ON A SHOW at the Combine #PMSLive pic.twitter.com/47Wr6gMT2z— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 6, 2023
Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner told me Richardson looked better throwing the ball, especially on shorter and intermediary routes, than he expected. He was able to drive the ball outside the numbers with ease and not sacrifice any accuracy or touch. The couple of errant throws were caused by some balance and footwork issues that Warner said can be cleaned up.
And the deep balls? Absolute things of beauty.
Anthony Richardson letting it FLY. @GatorsFB— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/mRi0vkL7X6
After one of the greatest weeks for a draft prospect in recent memory, Richardson has started to climb even higher in mock drafts. Three updated mocks on ESPN, NFL.com, and The Athletic had him slotted fourth overall. And after the Panthers traded up to the top spot, The Ringer had Richardson going first overall.
Will the Panthers draft Anthony Richardson no. 1 overall?— The Ringer (@ringer) March 11, 2023
With Carolina trading up today for the top pick, @DannyBKelly has them taking their QB of the future. pic.twitter.com/fMXlDvNCHZ
Since I began writing about Richardson in December, I’ve been surprised at my own evaluation of him and the reactions from Gator Nation. I initially thought Richardson was a borderline first-rounder and should have returned to Florida, worked on fixing his obvious issues, and improved his tape. Once I talked to more experts and former players and rewatched many of his plays, I changed my mind and understood his talent was too great and there was enough good tape to push him into the upper half of the first round.
Now just about everyone has him going in the top five.
Richardson knows his work is far from over. He has repeatedly admitted that footwork and accuracy are his biggest weaknesses. I’d add consistency and mental toughness to that list. He’ll have more meetings with teams as the draft approaches, and one more workout at Florida’s Pro Day on March 30.
Spencer Hall — as he usually does — had one of the best lines I’ve heard about Richardson. He said Richardson is an amazing idea; the reality doesn’t live up to that just yet. For over two years, Gator Nation had an idea about what he could be and how he could lead Florida back to the promised land. For all his brilliance, the idea never came to fruition in Gainesville.
The million-dollar-question for NFL teams is whether they have the right system that can finally turn all that potential into something legendary.
Here is how Anthony Richardson compares athletically to not only every QB, but every single prospect to participate in the NFL Combine and/or a recorded Pro Day since 1999, per @mockdraftable.— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) March 8, 2023
He's an 89.8% match with Khalil Mack lol pic.twitter.com/LisZpywzDJ
OL / 6’5 3/8”, 330 pounds
Bench: 23 reps (at 225) / 40: 5.31 / Vert: 23.5” / Broad: 8’5”
Projected Draft Slot: Late 1st-early 2nd round
Torrence might have been dinged just a little by a lack of great athleticism. His testing numbers were all pretty pedestrian.
O'Cyrus Torrence is a OG prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 6.43 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 468 out of 1309 OG from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/FuNYxWuBN7 #RAS pic.twitter.com/HNwrAih5IK— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 6, 2023
That said, he is almost the diametric opposite of Richardson: His modest numbers are buttressed by elite tape and production in college. Despite the lack of foot speed, he might be the top interior lineman in the draft.
O’Cyrus Torrence, @BuckyBrooks’ top interior OL, performs the wave drill @GatorsFB | @78_KingBo— NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2023
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/UUPYqo1DUe
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always translate to being selected in the first round as the league values offensive tackles and skill position players much more.
No matter where he’s selected, he’s the biggest sure thing to come out of Gainesville since the Pouncey twins. Pencil him for a 10-year career and multiple Pro Bowls.
DL / 6’5 5/8”, 310 pounds
Bench: 22 reps (at 225) / 40: 4.88 / Vert: 31.0” / Broad: 9’2”
Projected Draft Slot: 2nd-4th round
After Richardson, Dexter had the best week of any Gator in Indianapolis. He impressed with his combination of size, speed, and strength.
.@GervonDexter is a large man making this look easy. @GatorsFB— NFL (@NFL) March 2, 2023
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/IBSQvBjs06
Future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Calais Campbell could not stop talking about Dexter on our Thursday night broadcast. He must have mentioned Dexter close to 10 different times when talking about the best he was seeing on the field.
Gervon Dexter is lighting it up on the field at the Combine during DL drills. As Calais Campbell just said on NFL+, he’s making himself some money moving around like this. @GatorsFB pic.twitter.com/MzDhL8GY9D— Shawn Kopelakis (@shawn_kopelakis) March 2, 2023
Because of Dexter’s uneven production, lack of explosiveness at the snap, and tape that didn’t always show the highest motor, I thought Dexter was at risk of falling into the fourth round. Now I think he’s going in the third at worst — and has a chance to climb even higher with a great Pro Day.
Rashad Torrence II
S / 5’11 5/8”, 193 pounds
Bench: 20 reps (at 225) / 40: 4.72 / Vert: 33.5” / Broad: 9’11”
Projected Draft Slot: 4th-7th
Torrence has probably spent most of this month working on speed training ahead of Florida’s Pro Day. His 4.72 40 was extremely disappointing for the undersized safety. If not for another Florida safety we’ll get to in a minute, it would have been the worst among all defensive backs.
Torrence did show good agility and hands during on-field drills, and his bench press was actually quite good for a smaller defensive back. That will match the tape that showed him as a willing, hard-nosed tackler. He remains a Day 3 pick.
Rashad Torrence II bench actually helped quite a bit, pulled him above 3.00.https://t.co/06537DISV1 #RAS pic.twitter.com/AZ9YUVby7e— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 4, 2023
Brenton Cox, Jr.
OLB/Edge / 6’3 7/8”, 250 pounds
Bench: 24 reps (at 225) / 40: 4.82 / Vert: 33” / Broad: 9’7”
Projected Draft Slot: 4th-7th
Cox didn’t light up Indianapolis like I thought he could. His 40 time was below average for an edge guy, especially given his weight. It led to his overall athletic score being middle of the pack.
I kind of expected more from Brenton Cox. A mid range #RAS is quite a bit lower than what I was hoping to see from him. pic.twitter.com/i1Ruk7EJfH— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 3, 2023
In on-field drills, Cox flashed more of his athleticism and strength. His explosion and power were evident in the pass rush drill. Colts legend Dwight Freeney and Patriots star Matthew Judon both pointed out Cox’s power when he hit the dummy bags and sent them all the way down to the turf each time.
Brenton Cox Wave Drill #NFLCombine2023 pic.twitter.com/7yQUwvSs8D— WalkTheMock (@WalkTheMock) March 2, 2023
Most surprising to me was the smoothness and agility Cox displayed in off-ball drills. If he’s asked to drop into coverage at the next level, he showed he’ll be serviceable.
Florida EDGE Brenton Cox Jr. putting on a show, as always, at the NFL Combine.— Mike Kadlick (@mikekadlick) March 2, 2023
Cox worked with hands on with Bill Belichick and the #Patriots at the @ShrineBowl last month. A NE target for sure. pic.twitter.com/253tpptmV5
All in, he’s locked in as a day 3 pick.
WR / 6’4”, 229 pounds
Bench: 18 reps (at 225) / 40: 4.55 / Vert: 35.5” / Broad: 10’6”
Projected Draft Slot: 6th-UDFA
Like Cox, I expected Shorter to put up better numbers than he did. His 40 wasn’t slow, especially for a big, physical receiver, but it was still in the bottom third of this class of wideouts. Shorter looked good on the field, though, displaying clean route-running and strong hands.
Justin Shorter Gauntlet Drill pic.twitter.com/MpG4vHItZ4— Receiver Life (@ReceiverLife_) March 6, 2023
Overall I think Shorter slightly improved his draft stock for the week, but he’s still right on the cusp of being drafted or going undrafted. Here’s an interesting comp for Shorter — especially for Packers fans like the guy editing this piece — from Kyle Yates.
I'm working on a massive Player Comps article with the NFL Combine data that will be out later this week. I had to share this comparison.— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) March 6, 2023
Justin Shorter & Allen Lazard.
40-Yard Dash: 4.55/4.55
Broad Jump: 126/122
Of note, Lazard went undrafted. Of course, he’s had a pretty good career so far in Green Bay — and seems like enough of a favorite for Aaron Rodgers for the Jets signing him to be a sign of good will. If his NFL career is similar, Shorter would take it, I think.
Trey Dean III
DB / 6’2”, 200 pounds
Bench: 25 reps (at 225) / 40: 4.75 / Vert: 36.5” / Broad: 10’4”
Projected Draft Slot: 5th-UDFA
Much like his career at Florida, it was an up and down week for Dean. He ran the slowest 40 by a defensive back; then put up the most reps on the bench press — and fourth most all-time by a DB.
.@GatorsFB DB Trey Dean III is 200 pounds and just bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times.— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
That's the most by any DB this year.
: #NFLCombine continues today at 1pm ET on @nflnetwork
: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/zAW5C5D9mD
On the field, he had some good drill reps, showing off lateral movement, good hands, and better closing speed than top-end speed.
Trey Dean Backpedal and Break#NFLCombine pic.twitter.com/NoOWomW80Z— WalkTheMock (@WalkTheMock) March 4, 2023
But that 40 time was a huge red flag. After the Combine, Dean tweeted — and subsequently deleted — that he had labral tears in both hips but still decided to run in Indy. That’s probably another red flag for NFL teams.
The pressure will be on Dean to deliver at UF’s Pro Day if he’s hoping to salvage his draft prospects.
LB / 6’0”, 232 pounds
Projected Draft Slot: 4th-7th
Miller spent the week in Indianapolis but did not go through any workouts or testing. His recovery from foot surgery is going well, but he likely isn’t going to be healthy enough to work out at Pro Day. That’s going to leave a lot of questions for NFL personnel in their evaluation. The film will show a productive, running-stuff will linebacker.
I’ve seen some analysts suggest Miller could come off someone’s board as early as the third round, but I’d expect him to be available on day 3.
#Florida standout linebacker Ventrell Miller has met with close to every team at the #NFL Combine in Indianapolis, league sources tell @_MLFootball.— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) March 3, 2023
Per source, Miller who was the 2022 Florida Man of the Year and 2x Team Captain will be ready to go and participate in Rookie… pic.twitter.com/KSwkQiMxGS
OL / 6’5”, 306 pounds
Projected Draft Slot: 5th/6th/7th/UDFA
One of the stranger Combine stories involves Gouraige. He arrived in Indianapolis healthy, met with teams, and went through medical evaluations. When he woke up Sunday morning, though, his ankle was swollen.
#Florida OT Richard Gouraige came into the Combine healthy, but woke up with a swollen ankle after a pain tolerance test created an injury, sources say. He had been planning to do all drills, but now won’t be able to thanks to the situation caused during his medical exams.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2023
Prior to his injury, Gouraige was ready to go through all drills and testing, even walking the Lucas Oil Stadium field late on Friday night to get a feel for things.
At around 9:20 pm, one player wandered onto an empty Lucas Oil field— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) March 4, 2023
I believe it’s Florida OL Richard Gouraige pic.twitter.com/X95PVCWUgg
Most likely, the ankle swelling is a minor setback — and one shouldn’t impact his draft prospects at all. He remains a Day 3 guy and should be back to full health by Florida’s Pro Day on March 30.