Anthony Richardson’s Range of Outcomes & Recent Dynasty History (Fantasy Football)
The goal of the exercise was to examine players without arriving at a singular rank as our only point of discussion. Every NFL player has a range of outcomes and we essentially make bets on the probabilities of them hitting those different thresholds. The median projection is normally what you see when you look at rankings but in the Ultimate Draft Kit this year, we are adding an upside meter giving fantasy managers confidence intervals in the ceiling case.
The sky is the limit for Anthony Richardson already in 2023 according to fantasy managers. He is being drafted as the QB10 in this “upper-to-middle tier” of dynasty QBs brimming with youth. I wrote this EXACT same article two years ago regarding Trey Lance… who also was being taken at QB10 then.
It’s also worth noting how little we’ve seen of Richardson on the football field as a starter. 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-5 of the NFL but the lack of experience and high-profile games (much less wins) needs to be taken into account.
For a detailed look at Richardson as a prospect, I took a deep dive in his Rookie Profile before the NFL Draft. For more on Richardson’s dynasty outlook, the Dynasty Pass found in the Ultimate Draft Kit+ is a must.
Let’s compare Richardson to other 1st round QBs, identify their similarities as runners, and then project a range of outcomes for dynasty.
Exploring Historical Comps
For this exercise, I want to examine Richardson’s and pair him with a couple of historical QB examples that are similar in the sense that they meet the following criteria:
- Drafted as a 1st round QB
- Possessed Major Rushing Upside in College
For the data set, I looked at every 1st round QB drafted since 1995 (75+ different guys) and then narrowed that list to every QB that saw at least a 10 percent rush share in their best rushing season, a total of 36. That was the threshold I found where college rushing production dictated that they were likely to carry over into the NFL. You can also see the emphasis on dual-threat QBs over the last two decades where the “pro-style” drop-back passer of yesteryear slowly faded as a 1st round must at the position.
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
It’s a pretty fun list and some of the numbers at the top are eye-popping. You sometimes forget how dominant Johnny Manziel was… 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.
Scenario 1: The Median Outcome
This scenario might be the most measured and perhaps a wimp’s way out considering you might not have the time nor have invested in Richardson for a median projection. Unfortunately, it’s easier seeing him finish somewhere in the extended middle (somewhere between 65-70 % likelihood) which likely means you missed out on the shot for greatness or a dumpster fire. If he only slightly increases his dynasty ADP from his rookie year and tops out as QB5-8 but never any higher, you likely made a wise investment although you might wish the returns were higher with a player with this type of hype.
There were simple criteria here for Richardson to meet in Year 1.
- Showcases dual-threat ability- It’s ok if his TD rate isn’t quite there but rushing is
- Starts 9+ games– Among rookie QBs with this threshold, 75% were a QB1 in the next two years.
Dynasty Archetypes for This Scenario:
- Michael Vick– The hype never matched the fantasy production. Madden 2004 aside, Vick only finished inside the top-5 at the QB position three times in his career and never threw for more than 21 passing TDs. Legal issues also stunted Vick’s fantasy prowess but nevertheless, he never developed in the completion percentage department as you can see.
|Year||Age||Tm||GS||Cmp%||Pass Yds||TD||TD%||Rush Att.||Rush Yards||Rush TDs||FF|
- Marcus Mariota– Ok, you might be shrugging. Why is he not in the bust category? For a 2nd overall draft pick and the cornerstone of a team, yes. 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 early on. Mariota averaged over 20 fantasy points per game in games he finished his first two years, higher than what Josh Allen did in his first two years. Don’t ask me about 2022 Mariota.
Scenario 2: He Crushes.
The obvious trump card Richardson possesses for fantasy is the ability to rush the ball. I wrote a couple of years ago about Rookie QBs & What History Can Tell Us when Kyler Murray came into the league. The main findings were since 1990, every rookie QB that crossed 80 rushing attempts has not only been a fantasy force but maintained a top-10 QB per game pace. To give perspective, 80 rushing attempts is 4.7 per game in this new 17-game era.
I gave up a couple of
- Steichen + Richardson is the perfect fit; Colts surprise in AFC South
- He goes full RG3 & Justin Herbert– Those are the only two rookie QBs have gone for 27+ combined TDs and over 300+ fantasy points. I didn’t include RG3’s comp simply out of shielding the pain of remembering what could’ve been. That injury still haunts me. Herbert slayed as a rookie but Richardson will never be the same accomplished passer. They are different archetypes.
- Reaches 600+ rushing yards as a rookie- To put that number in perspective, over last decade, only three QBs finished with 600+ rushing yards as a rookie: RG3, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson. It’s rarified air.
Let’s say Richardson does hit one of those marks as a rookie. What could he look like if we were using other QBs to compare?
Dynasty Archetypes for This Scenario:
- Lamar Jackson– Not bad for a running back. The ridiculous run-first jokes aside, Jackson’s production in college is in a tier of his own. He was basically two players in one at Louisville en route to the Heisman and barely even making our 1st round QB data set with the 32nd selection in 2018. He’s won an MVP and shown, that despite sometimes throwing an ugly ball, he can make it as an NFL passer. Jackson is going as the QB3 in startups. Richardson isn’t quite as dynamic as Jackson on the ground (no one is) but you can see the path for a QB bent on rushing the ball having paired success through the air and becoming basically unstoppable for fantasy.
- Cam Newton– The comparisons have been made already with similar 40-times (4.55) and the height. Newton also spent some time with lesser competition at Blinn College before transferring to Auburn for that unbelievable 2010 campaign. Newton is on his way out 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 Rihcardson’s skill set at the next level.
- Daunte Culpepper– This is a throwback and one of the better comparisons of what Richarsdon could be. Culpepper also famously beefed up and came into the league with a lot more strength. Oh, and he also had Randy Moss. Nevertheless, Culpepper was a game-breaker for fantasy (and graced that Madden 2002 cover) right from the get-go. Even if the ride ended after five years, that early dominance is perhaps unmatched in terms of top-end points per game from a dual-threat QB.
- Josh Allen– Raw. Big arm. Knows how to take off and run. Yes, we know that Allen came in with a bunch of question marks but after 2020’s near MVP season, if you have him in dynasty (QB4 in ADP), you are licking your chops. Allen also showed that the completion percentage numbers that dogged him at Wyoming and his first two seasons in the league were actually correctable. Richardson has a similar trajectory so expect these two to be tied in people’s minds. It is worth noting that Allen is a rarity for fixing accuracy issues. It just doesn’t change for most QBs.
All four of those are generational fantasy QBs so expecting Richardson to be in that group is a top 5 % outcome in my book. Shane Steichen and the passing weapons he gets outfitted with are going to be the key. The goal-line “push role” that Jalen Hurts had in Philadelphia is likely following Steichen to Indianapolis so 6+ rushing TDs is going to be on the table every year. But what made Josh Allen so special was hitting eight rushing TDs as a rookie. Keep in mind Allen had his moments as a rookie but averaged only 172 passing yards per game and only 17 fantasy points per game.
Scenario 3: Dude is a Big-Time Bust
Yikes! That sounds a bit harsh. But this is usually the pendulum swinging to the other side in arguments. If you’re not a fan of Richardson for various reasons, it can be easy to see everything with poo-stained (instead of rose-colored) glasses.
The biggest spots on his resumè have to start with the sample size. We simply haven’t seen him play enough real games with real competition. He also played in a system that never actually forced him to be much of a volume passer. 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.
- Terribly inaccurate, looks overmatched as a throwerOver the last decade, 19 rookie QBs had a sub-60 % completion rate in 7+ starts. That includes players like Andrew Luck (54%), Josh Allen (52.8%), Trevor Lawrence (59.6%), Justin Fields (58.9%) who would become future fantasy stars. On average, if they kept their starting job, their completion rate rose 4 percent in Year 2. ALL of them increased except for failed top-3 picks Blake Bortles & Zach Wilson. We’re not expecting Richardson to be above 60 percent but he can’t be Zach Wilson. Dear God no!
- Gets injured loses value (i.e. the Trey Lance route)
Dynasty Archetypes for This Scenario:
- 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…
- Josh Freeman– This was my draft profile comp for Lance coming out and perhaps it was a bit unfair. Freeman had a good, not great last season at Kansas State but it was his tools that got everyone excited. He had a rocket arm with size (6’6) and for fantasy actually was better than you remember finishing as a top-15 QB three years in a row with Tampa Bay. This was highlighted by a 2010 sophomore season where he threw for 25 TDs and only six INTs while adding almost 25 rushing yards per game on the ground. Nevertheless, he flamed out quickly lasting six seasons, and never really learned how to not turn the ball over.
- Johnny Manziel– Woof. I know. It’s weird even typing this name considering where he’s landed in life. Disregard the off-the-field antics for a moment and remember Manziel’s main calling card was ripping apart defenses in college both through the air and on the ground. He had the 2nd highest rush share among 1st round QBs in our data set behind only Lamar Jackson. However, the translation to the NFL was downright awful, to say the least, as Manziel started a mere eight games. Total. As a runner, his magic act vanished topping 35 yards only once and the extreme rushing upside was gone. He averaged only 4.6 rush attempts per game, the same as what Daniel Jones did last year which is more of a little bonus than a featured part of his game. Manziel was a liability reading coverages and arguably is one of the biggest flops in NFL history.
Ok, honestly we could come up with about five more different scenarios for Richardson. But hopefully, this exercise allowed you to zoom out and block out the noise that comes from being the 3rd overall draft pick. The hype for fantasy is resting on the laurels of his rushing upside. Assess the range of outcomes and make your bet on which one seems most likely when you mix in your talent evaluation. Who knows, we might be having a different conversation about Richardson this time next year…