2023 NFL Draft Profile: Anthony Richardson (Fantasy Football)
Part of every young football fan’s journey is to play Madden (or NCAA Football), and simply spend an inordinate amount of time on your Create-A-Player.
You’d give him funky pads, perhaps beef them up to 400+ pounds while keeping that 4.4 speed, and make sure their name was as out there as possible. We all went way too deep on these characters only to find out that they’d never really translate to the actual football field.
Yep, after Florida’s Anthony Richardson blew the doors off the NFL Combine, we have a real-life Create-A-Player in front of us. Will his otherworldly performance be an outlier? How many of us have slowed down, caught our breath, and watched the tape long enough to see what this guy did as a Gator? After reviewing Richardson’s production in college and comparing him using his athletic measurables, let’s find out what we see on film and what our eyes aren’t seeing take place on the football field before giving a final outlook on his fantasy future.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2023 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2023.
College Production Profile
It was a slow burn for Richardson to eventually take over as the starter at Florida. He came in as a local (Eastside HS) and 4-star recruit although less heralded than you might realize. After sitting behind Kyle Trask and Emory Jones, Richardson played his way into the starting role midway through the 2021 season. His skills as a runner were prevalent early before entering 2022 as the clear starter. A reminder that Richardson was facing legit defenses in the SEC and Florida’s talent pool in 2022 wasn’t exactly as top-notch as we’ve seen in years past. Keep in mind the Gators finished at 6-7 on the year.
As a runner, he finished with nearly 25 percent of the team’s rushing yardage (which is close to elite for a QB) including a number of highlight reel runs I’m sure you’ll see played over and over.
Among QBs taken in the 1st round since 1995, here's how Anthony Richardson stacks up in terms of college rush share.
Also, Jake Locker says hello. pic.twitter.com/gduWkWyhEq
— Kyle Borgognoni (@kyle_borg) March 13, 2023
The major red flag in his profile is starting fewer than 20 games. For reference, Cam Newton started only 14 games at Auburn, Michael Vick had 22 starts in two seasons, and Trey Lance played only one full season at NDSU. That didn’t stop any of them from being selected in the top-3 of the NFL but the lack of experience and high-profile games (much less wins) needs to be taken into account.
Holy cow. If you peed your pants, join the club. Let’s give some context for some of these numbers:
- 4.43 40-time– 99th percentile
- 126.7 Speed Score– 100th percentile
- 100 Explosiveness– 100th percentile
- 41″ Vertical– 100th percentile
- 129 Broad Jump– 100th percentile
Keeeeeeyawwwww! Richardson posted arguably the best performance of the combine event… ever. Some of the numbers might not translate to actual NFL QB play like the vertical jump. He set the record (41″) for QBs, which was utterly insane. In fact, it tied him with WVU’s Bryce Ford-Wheaton and SMU’s Rashee Rice for the highest among wide receivers in 2023. But looking back over the last 20+ years of combine data, here are all the QBs with a 37+ inch vertical.
|2003||Seneca Wallace||22||Iowa State||5-11||196||4.56||38|
|2004||Luke McCown||22||Louisiana Tech||6-4||208||4.71||37.5|
|2011||Tyrod Taylor||21||Virginia Tech||6-1||217||4.47||37.5|
Give it up for the McCown bros! Dudes can jump! For Richardson, RG3 is the athletic comparison but 20 pounds lighter. He will also gather a ton of Cam Newton copy and pasters thanks to their impressive upper bodies. Regardless of who you want to compare him to, Richardson also apparently crushed the interview process. He went from a surefire 1st round pick to locked into the top 10.
What’s On Tape
My method for watching film is simple: get out a pen and pad of paper. Watch each pass attempt taking note of the down and distance and simply write down what I see. For a QB, I focus on accuracy, aDOT, footwork, locating 2nd reads, and how they stand in the pocket under pressure. For Richardson, I took seven of his highest-profile games.
Games Viewed: Utah (2022), Kentucky (2022), Tennessee (2022), Georgia (2022), Texas A&M (2022), LSU (2022), Florida State (2022), LSU (2021)
1. The rushing instincts are special.
There are very few QBs who should be considered in the elite tier of rushing fantasy QBs. Lamar Jackson already has cemented himself as the greatest rushing QB of all time. I mean, he’s famously called a running back for a reason. Michael Vick was a cheat code for fantasy with perhaps the most gifted flick of the wrist of any QB ever. Cam Newton was a goal-line menace using sheer power over opponents. Those three stand alone in their styles and production for fantasy.
Richardson is a faster version of Cam Newton with the ability to set up his runs with his blockers and scramble with purpose. Against Utah, his 45-yard TD run was a thing of beauty going through his progressions before running with purpose down the left sideline. He did the same thing along the right sideline against Texas A&M en route to a 60-yard zone read keeper where he sprinted untouched for a score. Against LSU, there’s a highlight reel 81-yard scamper where the entire Tiger defense seemed afraid to tackle him. He’s larger than life on the field as a runner as evidenced in this next clip below. Against Florida State, it feels like a video game character hitting a spin move and churning out an extra ten yards on sheer physical dominance.
I also wanted to add a 2021 game to the mix to see what type of steps he made. Against LSU, he came in for incumbent starter Jones and never relinquished the reins in that game on the road in LSU. He constantly extended drives with his legs before throwing a game-sealing INT with two minutes left. However, even as an inexperienced QB, you could see flashes of his game-breaking rushing ability and big arm as a freshman.
2. He had trouble on some layup throws and ones needing touch
I found Richardson a bit rushed on short-area throws, especially on screens. In my notes from the Utah game, I wrote “these screens came out at 100 mph”. The numbers back this up with the lowest completion percentage (80 %) in this class on plays classified as screens. Against Florida State, he had a stretch of 11(!) straight incompletions in the second half that were a mix of inaccuracy, drops, and poor timing with his WRs. However, one is an INT early in the 2nd quarter where he extended a play and decided to sidearm the ball in a window that just wasn’t there.
With a mobile QB, you can get extended plays that turn into big plays. But the other side is turnover-worthy plays and dancing your way to the sideline until throwing it away is the only way out. In 2022, Richardson’s 22 throw-aways when under pressure were the most in this draft class accounting for over 15 percent of his “pressured” dropbacks. He looks fine rolling to his right but if there is a consistent miss in his game, it’s throwing high. His arm motion (much like Newton) isn’t necessarily a quick flick and his footwork sometimes feels clunky which can lead to sailing passes.
Against Tennessee, he faced a consistent pass rush although the stat sheet says the Volunteers had only one sack. He did his best to elude pressure but the Volunteers’ game plan was bent on a dominant front four, getting home, and dropping into zone coverage. They consistently moved him off his marks in that game to the point where the only way to gain first downs was via the ground. In the Utah game, he had a costly turnover on 3rd down with 5:25 left when he was rolling to his left. These things can be cleaned up but raw physical tools can sometimes blind evaluators from some of the more elementary aspects of being an NFL QB.
3. He can work through progressions.
I often knock college QBs who have simplified game plans and lock in on their first read. Richardson’s athletic raw tools are evident and it wouldn’t surprise me if he threw the ball out of the stadium if asked. But there is some nuance to his game when making intermediate throws. I was pleasantly surprised with his decision-making which pointed more toward an understanding of beating zone coverages and waiting for plays to develop as opposed to challenging with his big arm.
When given all the time in the world like this play against LSU, you can see the effortlessness in his bomb downfield. But it’s setting up the deep safety with his eyes to the left before adjusting and going deep that is special. His throws aren’t heaves as much as someone “spinning” the ball with the type of velocity you want to see at the NFL level.
He looked comfortable throwing across the middle of the field reading zone and throwing to open spots as opposed to just when his wideouts were open. The Gators’ pass-catchers weren’t exactly Murderer’s Row. While you might see some big plays from WR Justin Shorter and Xzavier Henderson technically led the team with 38(!) receptions, the only consistent playmaker on the team (at least from a film perspective) was senior Ricky Piersall. Against Georgia, nothing was working deep at all and Richardson was shut down against arguably the best defensive front in college. In other matchups, I found deep crossers seem to be the route of choice especially if Richardson could roll to the right, extend the play, and see a WR streaking open simply from their CB not being able to stay in tight coverage for more than five seconds.
What’s Not on Tape
Here are a couple of takeaways from what didn’t show up:
1. Tons of snaps directly under center
While the Pistol is not a far cry from I-form, we’ve seen other recent zone-read college QBs (Marcus Mariota, among others) struggle to adjust to gameplans that do not emulate the spread formations found aplenty in college. I do not think this is a red flag the way others might caution due to the simple fact the NFL lives in shotgun-ville these days. However, it is worth mentioning as the landing spot and offensive scheme he finds himself in the NFL should take advantage of his expertise and skillset, not reinvent himself as a sole I-formation pocket passer as Mariota steadily declined in his progress.
2. Consistency in the 4th Quarter
While it’s not entirely fair to cherry-pick a specific quarter and extrapolate stats only with that data set in mind, it was something that stood out in my notes. Here are the eight games I watched, the result, his completion percentages, and then zoomed in on the 4th quarter to see how bad it was…
It was rough stuff to say the least. Those numbers have likely zero correlation to what we can expect at the next level as Richardson’s dual-threat ability actually adds to what defenses have to account for in the 4th quarter. Nevertheless, I would’ve liked to see a signature drive or two against tough SEC opponents.
In our recent 1QB Mock Draft in the Dynasty Pass, Andy took Richardson at the end of the 1st round at 1.11. In SuperFlex leagues, I would have no problem if someone wants to shoot for the moon and take him No. 1 overall IF you think his rushing production & development as a thrower give him an unparalleled ceiling. He likely will slide in 2nd or 3rd among rookie QBs in ADP and as a fringe top-5 pick in SuperFlex behind Bijan Robinson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. For those Best Ball truthers out there, he currently sports an ADP of QB22 at 149th overall, a chance to swing for the fences in your drafts. Depending on the landing spot, Richardson should have the opportunity to start right away and we showcased him in our recent NFL Draft Props article.
For QBs, I like to give a high-end, medium-range, and low-end outcome for dynasty purposes. This is not an exact science but rather a chance to look at the paths of recent QBs in the NFL, combine their draft capital, playing style, and give some comparables. It’s not perfect but it’s a push in the general direction.
- Cam Newton– The comparisons have been made already with similar 40-times (4.55) and the height but Richardson blew off the doors of combine surpassing Newton in almost every metric. Newton is out of the limelight now but for almost a decade, he was a fantasy goldmine and one of the best-rushing QBs in league history. He might be the best goal-line back we’ve seen at the QB position ever which could be part of Richardson’s fantasy trump cards at the next level.
- Justin Fields– Think of a bigger, stronger version of Fields. The development took a while and before the 2022 season, many were ready to throw him in the garbage heap. All he did was tie Lamar Jackson’s 2019 season for most games (7) of 80+ rush yards while averaging 7.1 yards per carry, the highest in the NFL. He set a record for QB scrambles (undesigned QB runs) with 70, or 16% of his dropbacks. In terms of rushing fantasy points (rush yards + rush TDs- fumbles), he ranked 12th among ALL runners. Richardson has this type of upside although Fields “benefitted” from being pressured on a league-leading 46% of his dropbacks. He had to run.
- Vince Young– Whoa Nellie… I can hear Keith Jackson calling that Texas-USC game as Young was one of the most exciting college football players in recent memory. The Titans felt the same good vibes taking Vince 3rd overall and things started out pretty well… for fantasy. Despite throwing for more INTs (13) than TDs (12) and completing 51.7 percent of his passes, he was the Rookie of the Year on the back of 553 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs, and some memorable fourth-quarter comebacks. But after that…
- Marcus Mariota– Ok, you might be shrugging. For a 2nd overall draft pick and the cornerstone of a team, he was a bust. He isn’t what the Titans wanted him to be. But for fantasy, he was serviceable and perhaps on a per-game basis a solid median (to maybe low-end) projection of what Richardson could be. Richardson never won in college on sheer passing volume.
- Trey Lance– I said it. I’m a Lance truther (for fantasy purposes) but two years in, it’s tough hanging in there while Brock Purdy gets all the love. The 49ers traded up for Lance based on raw tools over in-game competition and production. If there is a knock on Richardson, it’s seeing only 15 starts at the college level and not exactly dominating game to game. Some of the box scores might look impressive but “experience is experience“, to quote Loki in Avengers: End Game.