As Shane Steichen transitions from Eagles offensive coordinator to Indianapolis Colts head coach, one thing will remain the same: he’ll be coaching an athletic quarterback. But more so in Indy, as with the fourth pick in the NFL Draft, they picked up a quarterback with record-breaking athleticism.
Anthony Richardson’s 40.5-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-9-inch distance in the broad jump set combine records, while the 6’4″, 244-pounder also turned in a 99th-percentile 40-yard dash and burst score. Oh, and he scored a perfect 10.00 Relative Athletic Score (RAS), edging out Cam Newton and Dante Culpepper for the best of all time at the quarterback position.
However, his erratic and subpar college tape, plus his (lack of) production made him arguably the most polarizing player in this year’s class.
Seventeen touchdowns to nine interceptions on only a 53.8 completion percentage is not really what you want to see out of a prospective franchise quarterback. It begs the question, where would we be talking about Richardson if he had an average athletic profile? Would we be talking about him at all?
With effortlessly elite arm strength, maybe we still would be talking about him. But his decision-making and accuracy issues at Florida were flawed enough to slap the label of “project” on him by the football community consensus.
ADDING SOME CONTEXT
Ben Solak of The Ringer looked to diminish that label, primarily by showing examples of AR-15’s pocket presence, and his ability to process things quickly (even if that aspect could stand to be more consistent). He also points out another interesting issue, that Florida’s offensive scheme “isn’t the brightest” under Billy Napier. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard gripe about the Gators’ offensive scheming holding a player back. Prior to last season, there were grievances by some that Dameon Pierce‘s talent unquestionably surpassed how sparingly he was used at Florida. Sure enough, once he got to the pros, the only game he didn’t see the majority of the Texans’ backfield snaps was Week 1.
Another angle that looks to tame the “project” label is from Sports Info Solutions, pointing out that Richardson’s accuracy issues are not general, but show up mostly in a handful of routes. These routes tend to be in the short area of the field.
The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen provides even more insight into why concerns over Richardson’s production and accuracy should be capped. Again, Florida’s offensive scheme emphasized naturally deeper, lower-percentage throws than most schemes, and as Nguyen points out, “the Gators didn’t have receivers who got open deep or tracked passes well.”
These takes are not meant to refute that AR’s floor is as low as his ceiling is high. His accuracy issues even on short throws had Solak questioning how much of Florida’s deep-throwing scheme was born of a desire from Gators coaches to avoid short throws (which seems wild to me). Still, there are voices out there that would like to take away the harshness of the term “project,” to something a little more fitting, i.e. as Solak would say, he “has rough edges.”
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AR-15 doesn’t have to do it all himself with a running game anchored by Jonathan Taylor. The Colts also added North Carolina receiver Josh Downs as an intriguing slot prospect to complement Michael Pittman and deep threat Alec Pierce. But honestly, it doesn’t really matter what else the Colts add, Richardson’s range of outcomes is about the same.
For 12-team re-draft leagues, he may not be an immediate starter as his weaknesses project a very shaky rookie year with a short leash — likely the worst of the starting rookie QBs this season. Yet, he is rosterable due to his immense upside — especially in deeper leagues.
But, his long-term dyansty potential as the QB in this class with the highest Konami Code ceiling could convince those unafraid, and I mean absolutely unafraid, of risk to take him as high as 1.02 in rookie drafts.
(I won’t even entertain that he gets taken 1.01 over Bijan Robinson).
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS
“Overall, Richardson’s volatile accuracy and decision-making cloud his evaluation, but he is a freakshow talent with special size, speed and arm strength, and he put enough promising plays on film to be optimistic about his potential ceiling. He fits an RPO or NFL vertical-passing offense that will also utilize his athleticism, but he needs on-field reps and a patient coaching staff willing to weather the early storm,” wrote Dane Brugler of The Athletic.