Fantasy Court: The Case Against Anthony Richardson in 2023 (Fantasy Football)

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This article is part of the annual Fantasy Court Series. Don’t forget to check out The Case for Anthony Richardson by Aaron Larson for his opposing view.

Opening Statement

Good morning, Your Honor, members of the jury, and welcome to another edition of Fantasy Court. Throughout this trial, I will present compelling evidence and a clear narrative that will substantiate my claim beyond any doubt. I am confident that you, the jury, and the fantasy court as a whole will see the truth in my case and deliver a fair and just verdict. Thank you for your attention.

Who would dare create a case against a player with the athletic profile of Anthony Richardson? This intriguing prospect appears to have been created in a lab, sparking immense excitement over his fantasy football potential. In fact, this is the most optimism surrounding the Indianapolis Colts since 2012, when they selected Andrew Luck as the first overall pick. Richardson is not just an above-average athlete. He is the greatest athlete at the quarterback position ever tested at the combine. Despite these impressive athletic traits and measurables, Richardson is not yet prepared to excel at the professional level. His inexperience and accuracy issues as a passer will ultimately outweigh his potential to contribute as a runner and become a fantasy star in his rookie year.

Richardson undeniably possesses the potential to dominate in fantasy football with his rare combination of size, athleticism, and speed. However, this case is not focused on his future dynasty outlook or appealing potential in best ball formats. This is about his ability to make a significant and consistent impact on your redraft teams in the upcoming season. Even if Richardson is not successful as a franchise quarterback in the league, he still has a chance to be an elite asset in fantasy football. This is the primary reason for the borderline insane levels of intrigue in the prospect throughout the fantasy community. This concept was best represented by what we witnessed from Justin Fields last season. Nevertheless, even Fields, who led the league in rushing at the position last season, struggled mightily in his rookie year and failed to make a significant fantasy impression. It is clear that Richardson is not quite ready to deliver at the professional level and it will be evident in the upcoming season.

Uncut Gem

An “uncut gem” refers to a gemstone that has not undergone any shaping or polishing. They are often rough and unrefined, lacking the luster and brilliance they possess after being cut and polished by a skilled gem cutter. This term can definitely be used to describe a player like Anthony Richardson. He has not been fully developed or refined yet. Similar to an uncut gem, he has raw potential that awaits discovery and honing to shine to his absolute brightest. Without overwhelming you with metaphors, Anthony Richardson is like a brand new, sparkly red Ferrari, equipped with an unparalleled engine that we have never seen before. The challenge lies in the fact that the driver has yet to master handling such a powerful machine. To avoid potential accidents, the most advisable approach might be to leave the car in the garage for the 2023 season. You might want to buckle up because things are about to get bumpy.

SEASON GP CMP ATT CMP% YDS TD INT RUSH ATT RUSH YDS TD
2020 4 1 2 50% 27 1 1 7 61 0
2021 8 38 64 59% 529 6 5 51 401 3
2022 12 176 327 54% 2,549 17 9 103 654 9
CAREER 24 215 393 55% 3,105 24 15 161 1,116 12

There are several statistics that further illuminate the fact that Richardson is not ready to make an immediate impact in the NFL. Most notably, he had a mere 53.8% completion percentage last season with the Florida Gators. This number would rank toward the bottom of the NFL over the past decade. Although it is essential to acknowledge that he was playing in the SEC, his level of competition will only get harder as he transitions to the pros. Richardson’s experience at the collegiate level includes just 24 games at the University of Florida, with one full season as a starter resulting in a 6-7 record. He threw for 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, indicating that he could have benefited from another year in college before taking the next step in his football career. His college statistics bear a striking resemblance to those of Trey Lance. Some might take these statistical similarities with a grain of salt because Lance faced lesser competition in college. With that said, it is a fair assessment to state that neither prospect was prepared to make an immediate impact at the NFL level coming out of their collegiate programs.

Presented below are the striking resemblances between two athletic phenomena, both of whom were not ready to be starting quarterbacks in the NFL in their rookie seasons:

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PLAYER GAMES STARTS RECORD PASS TDS PASS YDS INT RUSH TDS RUSH YDS
ANTHONY RICHARDSON 24 13 6-7 24 3,105 15 12 1,116
TREY LANCE 19 17 17-0 30 2,947 1 18 1,325

According to Kyle Borgognoni’s article Kyler Murray, Rookie QBs, & What History Can Tell Us, any rookie quarterback who surpassed 80 rushing attempts since 1990 has not only emerged as a dominant force in fantasy football but also maintained a top-10 QB per game pace. It is important to mention that this statistic does not come from an extremely large sample size. If he plays a full season in 2023, it is difficult to envision Anthony Richardson not surpassing this desired rushing total. Having said that, this appears to be a record waiting to be shattered, and Anthony Richardson seems poised to be the one to break the streak.

It is respectable to state that Richardson is a tremendous athlete who is still trying to figure out how to become an efficient and productive quarterback. However, NFL teams require a quarterback who can effectively pass the ball and make sound decisions with it. While mobility can be an added advantage for the position, it alone is insufficient. A prime example of this is Taysom Hill’s journey in the NFL. Hill is a massive presence on the football field and is almost unstoppable in the running game when he gains momentum. Nevertheless, his lack of polished passing skills was the primary reason why he could not succeed as a quarterback and had to transition to other positions to extend his career. With that being said, it is important to note that Richardson already possesses far superior arm talent compared to Hill. The given example serves to highlight the crucial point that athleticism alone is insufficient for a quarterback to thrive in the NFL. Until he hones the skills of a polished quarterback, it is reasonable to assume that he will face challenges in producing as a consistent fantasy asset.

Tough Trot

While his landing spot in Indianapolis might seem promising for his dynasty outlook, there are substantial concerns about Richardson’s supporting cast for the upcoming season. Apart from Michael Pittman, the team lacks significant weapons in the passing game. Additionally, the uncertainty surrounding Jonathan Taylor‘s situation as the regular season approaches is far from ideal. Taylor’s ability to alleviate pressure from Richardson is undeniable, but his ongoing contract dispute has the potential to provoke chaos as the season draws near. Richardson and Taylor have the potential to become a nightmare for opposing defenses in the running game. However, should the currently disgruntled running back miss time to begin the season or be traded, it could result in dire consequences for both the team and their new quarterback. Even if he returns to the team by the start of the season, it would greatly benefit Richardson to have him practicing during training camp to help expedite his transition to the NFL.

It is worth noting that the Colts’ offensive line ranked among the poorest in the league last season, allowing an alarming 60 sacks. This was the second-highest total in the NFL. While Shane Steichen showcased his ability to elevate Jalen Hurts to fantasy stardom in the previous season, it is crucial to recognize that the Eagles also benefited from the NFL’s top offensive line. They also had one of the best-receiving trios in the league in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. Heading into 2023, the Indianapolis offensive line must make substantial strides to afford Richardson adequate time in the pocket to be as successful as possible. The rising concern about the team’s ability to protect their quarterback becomes even more alarming when we dive into some of Richardson’s collegiate metrics and tendencies. His 22 throwaways under pressure stood as the highest in this year’s draft class. When coupled with his 24-to-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio from last season, it is genuinely unsettling to contemplate the potential outcomes that will emerge when he faces an NFL-caliber pass rush.

The issue with drafting Anthony Richardson this year is not based on his current ADP. While he is commonly selected in the ninth to tenth round of drafts at the moment, this could escalate as the season approaches. Nonetheless, there remain other players in that range who present a ton of upside. This includes the likes of Brian Robinson, Rashaad Penny, Khalil Herbert, Zay Flowers, Elijah Moore, and Dalton Kincaid. Opting for a more dependable and established quarterback seems like a better bet than banking on Richardson’s performance this season. In order to accommodate Richardson on your bench, you would have to tie up two valuable roster spots in the quarterback position, which may not be the most efficient use of your roster construction. Considering the available options, it is clear that there are more promising choices available than relying on Richardson’s rookie season potential for fantasy football success.

Closing Statement

Every advocate of the notion that Anthony Richardson is poised to become a fantasy sensation in his first professional season invariably draws parallels to Josh Allen‘s rookie campaign. Allen’s early struggles were ultimately superseded by a stellar performance as a top fantasy quarterback in the latter part of his rookie year. While the aspiration is for Richardson to emulate Allen’s career trajectory, it is worth recognizing that Allen’s experience is a historical anomaly. Assuming that Richardson can seamlessly adapt to the league as Allen did in his debut season would be an unrealistic expectation. This has become a heavily discussed topic that is all too frequently taken as a probability rather than a less-than-likely event.

The prevailing sentiment seems to be that our anticipation for Richardson’s potential overshadows the fact that he has yet to even scratch the surface of his projected ceiling. Simply put, Richardson’s athleticism currently outweighs his quarterback skills by a country mile. Could this still translate into fantasy points? Certainly. However, relying on this prospect for consistent and significant gains in 2023 might not be wise. His hesitation on simple throws and erratic decision-making is evident. Additionally, his probable role as a starter at the beginning of the season foreshadows a steep learning curve. While his future may very well hold much promise, Richardson is the type of player who demands time to develop. Consequently, it is essential to expect struggles in maintaining a consistent presence as a QB1 for your fantasy teams in 2023. Although his athletic prowess could result in notable rushing performances on occasion, the odds suggest he might contribute more off weeks than rewarding ones. The evidence presented leaves no further doubt that fantasy football players should seek alternate options at the quarterback position in 2023, thereby positioning themselves for championship success in the upcoming season.

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