University of Florida alumna Laura Rutledge discussed the trending topics in football and more.
Who’s Going No. 1?
The annual NFL Draft is around the corner and will begin April 27 in Kansas City, Missouri. As the draft gets closer and closer, Rutledge said things get funky across the board.
Rutledge believes Young is the first quarterback taken overall by the Carolina Panthers, despite the criticism behind his build. Several NFL analysts and scouts have made their concerns publicly about the height of the former Alabama quarterback. However, the Associated Press reported today that Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has no reservations about Young’s stature.
When it comes to the second pick of the draft, Rutledge said Houston will most likely take Stroud, but she would not be surprised if the Texans went with Richardson. The former Gator quarterback has increased his stock after his impressive Pro Day. Additionally, Richardson blew people away at the NFL Combine by running the 40-Yard Dash in 4.43 seconds and had a Vertical Jump of 40.5″
Who’s the Best Non-Quarterback Player in the Draft?
Prior to the NFL Combine, Jalen Carter was in the conversation to be a Top 3 draft pick. But right before the annual combine event, the former Georgia Bulldog was issued an arrest warrant for his involvement in a reckless driving and racing situation. A few weeks later, he was sentenced to probation for the January crash that killed one of his teammates.
Although the defensive tackle is eligible for the 2023 NFL Draft, his stock has dropped significantly since the incident. However, Rutledge has Carter as the best player on the board outside of the quarterback pool. The Georgia standout had 32 total tackles and 16 solo tackles in his last season with UGA.
“So it’s not the perfect pick for the best non-quarterback player, but I still think when it comes to a complete, dynamic, athletic at his size, capable of game changing, especially in today’s NFL with the position that he plays, I think it’s Jalen Carter,” Rutledge said. “And that’s why you’ll see, you know, despite everything that’s happened and some of that’s been resolved, that’s why you’ll see him go in the top 10 for sure.”
Which Team Can Gain the Most from the Draft?
Every year, NFL teams try to use the draft and their picks to formulate a plan for success in the upcoming season. Rutledge said the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants are the teams that can use the draft to get them over the edge and possibly make themselves playoff contenders.
After going 3-13 in the 2021 NFL season, the Lions went on to go 9-8 last season. The team made a radical leap after drafting defensive sensation Aidan Hutchinson. With Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers possibly on the move and adding some pieces from this year’s draft, Detroit has a strong chance to compete for a NFC North title.
The Giants are the other team that she believes could make a splash in the draft. Although the Giants lost to the Eagles in the Divisional Round of last year’s playoffs, the team more than exceeded expectations. Brian Daboll, head coach of the Giants, took home the 2022 NFL Coach of the Year award and the team finished 9-7-1.
Rutledge said even though this year’s receiver class may not be as good as classes of the past, she thinks if the Giants can add some pieces from that group to their roster, they can make an impressive leap forward.
Future for NFL Quarterbacks
What is going on in Baltimore?
The world wants to know, what is happening with Lamar Jackson? The former league MVP requested a trade from the team in March, but after the team announced they signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., it appears Jackson may stay in Baltimore. However, Rutledge said there is so much more to be worked out before this QB saga concludes.
She said there is a chance that the Ravens wait out the draft to see if a team misses out on a quarterback and perhaps, might want to go after Jackson. However, the quarterback has a heavy price tag and Baltimore put a non-exclusive franchise tag on him. This means if another team does sign Jackson, the Ravens would receive two first-round picks.
But Rutledge believes it is more likely Jackson sticks with the Ravens as it would not make sense for the team to sign OBJ and have their quarterback walk.
“Well after the OBJ signing on Sunday of last week, it’s like we all just assume that Lamar is gonna go because they tweeted out a screenshot of his FaceTime,” Rutledge said. “And listen in today’s day and age, that’s good as gold, right?”
Is Trask Still Next?
After Tom Brady announced that he is retiring from professional football, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are searching for his successor. Many believed it would be backup quarterback Kyle Trask but after the Bucs signed Baker Mayfield, people are wondering if the former Gator is Tampa’s guy.
Although the quarterback position may not be clear at the moment, Rutlidge said either quarterback will be in good hands with the new offensive coordinator. Dave Canales was signed by the Bucs to be their next OC. In the previous season, Canales was the quarterbacks coach for the Seattle Seahawks, where he has received a large amount of credit for turning quarterback Geno Smith’s career around after he made the Pro Bowl last season.
“So I think whomever starts for the Bucks, whether it’s Kyle Trask or Baker Mayfield, will be the beneficiary of this good coaching,” Rutledge said. “And for our sake as Gator people, I hope it’s Kyle Trask and I hope he catches some people by storm. I think he may surprise a few and people look back and say, ‘Man, we didn’t see this guy coming, but here he is.'”
NIL in Gator Nation
Rutledge also discussed her new role with Florida’s new Name Image and Likeness program. She is on the advisory board for Florida Victorious, the NIL partner of the Florida Gators.
How has NIL changed Gator student-athletes’ lives, and how can you get involved? Join us for The Future of Gator NIL Town Hall hosted by @ESPN's Laura Rutledge. Click here for more details and to register:
https://t.co/XViZGhq9cS #GoGators #GatorNation #FloridaVictorious #NIL pic.twitter.com/BReeD49xhz
— Florida Victorious (@Fl_Victorious) April 15, 2023
She said one of the best things about Florida Victorious is that it involves all sports and it gives a NIL opportunity to female athletes, which is something she deeply cares about. The goal of Florida’s NIL partner is to not just help athletes but to make sure everyone feels good about where the money is going and how it’s being allocated. Rutledge also mentioned how she is honored to work with other Gator greats like Anthony Richardson, Danny Wuerffel and Trey Burton.
Lastly, she understands that not all fans are behind the idea of NIL. She believes Florida Victorious will make all fans proud.
“I think fans will end up as we all have to accept this reality of NIL, whether we like it or not,” Rutledge said. “Fans will end up being proud of this, you know, as the central focus of NIL and making sure that the money really goes to the people that it should, these student athletes who deserve that and then some.”