Earlier today Anthony Richardson confirmed what Tony Pauline has been reporting for several weeks — that he is going pro and declaring for the 2023 draft.
The response on the internet has been predictable because the narrative on Richardson has been set in stone for a long time.
“He’s too raw”
“He’s not ready”
“He needed to go back for another year”
Too many people, particularly in the mainstream media, seemed to make their mind up about Richardson three games into the season as he struggled against Kentucky and USF (having excelled against Utah in week one).
I’ve watched every game he’s played for Florida, just as I’ve watched every game for each of the top quarterbacks in the 2023 draft.
I’m not going to try and argue that Richardson doesn’t have room to grow or clear areas where he can improve. It’s not unfair to say he would’ve benefited from another year at Florida. I don’t think the inaccurate throws he’s had this season are down to serious technical flaws. I suspect it’s just about game experience, timing and getting comfortable with playing the sport at a high level.
Plenty of the other big names have their own flaws and concerns that aren’t talked about as often. Bryce Young’s unique size (5-10, 185lbs) for example or C.J. Stroud’s intermediate accuracy and dependency on the talent and scheme at Ohio State. Those kinds of issues. They come up — but not at the same rate as ‘Richardson’s too raw’.
What he lacks in experience he makes up for with extreme physical brilliance — the kind that we’ve only seen with the likes of Josh Allen in recent history. That’s not to say it’s an apples for apples comparison. For example, Richardson is an even better runner.
Here’s what he’s capable of:
HOLY PUMP FAKE ANTHONY RICHARDSONpic.twitter.com/g0XwwWcUAM
— uSTADIUM uNIVERSITY (@uSTADIUMCollege) September 4, 2022
Anthony Richardson is such an interesting prospect. But regardless of any shortcomings he works through, he puts a tonnnnn of high-level stuff on tape.
Like sliding away from the slant, feeling out pressure, and aligning his front shoulder and feet in sync with his eyes. pic.twitter.com/YtjJlkdinz
— Cory (@realcorykinnan) December 3, 2022
Exhibit A (well..Exhibit Q for how many I have already seen from Anthony Richardson) pic.twitter.com/n90wvdWCTs
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) December 3, 2022
The declaration of Florida QB Anthony Richardson for the 2023 #NFLDraft is so interesting. Freak physical talent (w/ arm + legs) that only really started 1 season and has a lot to work on all while putting up similar numbers to Will Levis. Can do this: pic.twitter.com/EF9QbXsdGr
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) December 5, 2022
Not only that — he’s actually played in a system (unlike at Ohio State, Tennessee and Washington etc) where he’s required to make protection calls, adjustments and play in something akin to a pro-style scheme.
We get into the habit of forgetting how other players entered the NFL in a similar, rough-diamond state. I’ve posted this a few times over the last few months and it’s worth another review:
— In Patrick Mahomes’ final year at Texas Tech he had a run of six straight games with an interception. He lost seven games in 2016. He had 25 interceptions in his final two seasons in college.
— In Andrew Luck’s final year at Stanford he ended with a run of six straight games with an interception. He lost two games in his final year despite playing on a loaded Stanford team. He had eight games with 256 passing yards or fewer.
— Josh Allen had 21 interceptions in his final two years in college. He had a completion percentage of just 56.3%. He had three games in 2017 with sub-100 passing yards and he started his final season with six picks in his first seven games.
— Russell Wilson had 25 interceptions in his final two years at NC State. He never had a completion percentage above 60% at NC State. He had 11 games at Wisconsin where he threw 255 yards or fewer — including six sub-200 yard games. He also lost three games in his final season at Wisconsin.
Essentially, some of the highest rated players in the NFL today and in the recent past had problems with turnovers, consistency and needed to improve at the next level. You can add to this list too. Justin Herbert never truly delivered at Oregon while stuck in Mario Cristobal’s wretched offense. Who thought anything of Joe Burrow when he flopped at Ohio State and landed at LSU, where he got to throw to Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson? Jalen Hurts was benched for Tua Tagovailoa and had to transfer.
Richardson needs work but so does every quarterback who enters the league. Even golden-child-status players such as Trevor Lawrence.
None of them are the finished article.
As such, teams are left to play the percentages. Who is best prepared for the next step in terms of football education (not reliant on being over-coached or coddled by scheme)? Who has the physical tools to be among the best in the league? Who is elevating their team, versus riding the coat-tails of great recruitment?
Richardson made a badly rebuilding Florida watchable at times this year and didn’t get the creature comforts available at other schools.
He isn’t alone. For some reason people are increasingly tone deaf about the benefit of certain schemes and environments. It’s the big argument nobody is prepared to make for Will Levis — who didn’t get a wide-open, half-field read scheme with either great pass-pro, receivers or a system designed to get the ball out quickly.
Here’s an updated list of the sacks given up by each team in college football possessing a big name QB:
Oregon — 4 sacks in 12 games (0.33 per game)
Georgia — 7 sacks in 13 games (0.54 per game)
Washington — 7 sacks in 12 games (0.58 per game)
Ohio State — 8 sacks in 12 games (0.67 per game)
Florida — 12 sacks in 12 games (1.00 per game)
Alabama — 20 sacks in 12 games (1.67 per game)
Tennessee — 23 sacks in 12 games (1.92 per game)
Kentucky — 42 sacks in 12 games (3.50 per game)
As you can see — who you play for (and with) matters.
Florida had no dynamic weapons destined for the first two rounds of the 2023 draft. They aren’t supported by a great defense. The cupboard is bare as they start to build under a new coach.
Despite all of that they’ve had a quarterback who has being throwing 60-yard touchdown bombs and then a series or two later running an 80-yard scramble for a score. They’ve had a quarterback being clobbered in the pocket, somehow staying on his feet and delivering a pass. They’ve had a quarterback able to keep them in games, striving to compete and looking every bit the superstar in the making — just with some inconsistent play mixed in to temper the hype.
Statistically he has 26 total touchdowns and nine interceptions. Let’s compare that to three others praised for their production:
C.J. Stroud — 37 touchdowns, six interceptions
Bryce Young — 31 touchdowns, five interceptions
Michael Penix Jr — 33 touchdowns — seven interceptions
These three get a lot more hype than Richardson online. All have far better environments to play in. Stroud and Penix Jr play in schemes that are favourable with better weapons and you can see the sack numbers above.
Put Richardson in a different situation and I think his numbers would be even better. I am not convinced Stroud, Young or Penix Jr would’ve succeeded at Florida this year.
As the process goes on — and I’ve been saying this for a few weeks — I think there’s a chance the NFL will fall in love with Richardson’s potential and he could go #1 overall. He has by far the biggest upside of the quarterbacks at a time where players like Josh Allen are the talk of the town.
Ideally he goes somewhere and sits for a year behind an experienced QB — just as Mahomes did behind Alex Smith. It shouldn’t be a surprise, however, if someone throws him in at the deep end as Buffalo did with Allen and they just endure two years of growing pains.
But what about the Seahawks?
They currently have the #3 pick courtesy of Denver — behind only Houston and Chicago.
It’s hard to imagine they go any higher than #3. The Texans are clearly the worst team in the league. The Bears play the Eagles, Bills, Lions and Vikings to finish the season and will probably lose-out.
Again — having studied this draft class extensively — I think there’s a chance Houston takes Jalen Carter with the top pick. Increasingly he looks like that rare thing — a disruptive interior pass rusher. They have a second high pick courtesy of Cleveland and might be prepared to wait on a QB, trade up or even skip until next year. This is clearly a long process for the Texans and they have a shell of a roster.
The Bears will go defense. This will be Carter’s floor barring anything unforeseen and it’s the likely landing spot for Will Anderson if the Texans take the defensive tackle.
You can make a strong argument for Carter or Anderson to Seattle. I see no realistic prospect of Carter reaching the Seahawks — which is a shame given his ideal fit status. Anderson is far more of a project than people think. He’s not a Bosa brother or Myles Garrett. He is a 245lbs DE/OLB and given how poorly Seattle has utilised those players (apart from Uchenna Nwosu) there has to be some worry that he’d simply get caught in the wash as we’re seeing with Darrell Taylor and Boye Mafe — two other young players deemed to have a lot of potential.
The rest of the pass rushers are overrated. Myles Murphy is an athletic pussycat and Bryan Bresee hasn’t played enough. Tyree Wilson is intriguing but you don’t want to go down that road at #3 ideally.
If Carter is gone — or Carter and Anderson — or even if they’re not, a quarterback should still be considered.
It’s fantastic that Geno Smith is playing so well and the Seahawks will try to keep him. We also need to be realistic about a player who turns 33 next year and has, so far, enjoyed one good season in his NFL career. The Seahawks will view picking as high as #3 a bonus. A gift from Denver. It won’t be anything they intend to do again any time soon.
For that reason, it would be sensible to consider re-signing Smith and adding a quarterback with immense potential who can learn and develop in the background. It would be the same as Smith/Mahomes — a plan that we can all agree has worked rather well.
It’s also worth saying given all the reported interest John Schneider supposedly had in Mahomes and Allen — Richardson shares some physical similarities.
I’m quite comfortable with either situation. If they add a defensive player to improve a terribly performing unit, that’s a good plan. If they invest in a quarterback, that’s also a good plan.
One other thing to consider is that with only $29.9m in effective cap space for 2023 — the Seahawks simply might be priced out of the Geno Smith market if he receives good offers from other teams. I’m not convinced he will do but I suppose Nick Foles parlayed his Super Bowl run into a hefty four-year contract worth $88m with the Jaguars — including $50m guaranteed. That was also in 2019 — the financial situation has improved dramatically since then.
Smith probably isn’t going to win Super Bowl MVP to max-out his market like Foles. However, it’s not totally unrealistic that needy teams (Washington, Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, the Jets) might swoop in and make the situation tricky (and expensive). In that instance, we’ll be having a very different conversation.
Either way — I think drafting Anthony Richardson to draft and develop should be a strong consideration by this team.
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