Anthony Richardson: This Year’s NFL Draft Tempting Prospect Who Says He’s “Not from Earth”

Heading into the NFL Draft, there’s always a prospect out of college that everyone is fascinated with, despite not being the perfect player.

Sometimes, it is due to the physical traits displayed on the Combine; sometimes, to his personality; or sometimes, to his display on his particular pro day in front of scouts.

This year’s golden boy is Anthony Richardson and, in his particular case, he has impressed at every stage of the process.

Richardson ran the fastest 40-yard run of any quarterback, as well as jumping higher and farther in the Combine.

But it was on his pro day, at the University of Florida, where his big arm and his skills in every way ignited social networks and made teams drool with his potential.

He literally almost threw the ball out of the building when one of his powerful throws hit the roof of the indoor facility.

Richardson became the most tempting prospect in the draft; reports indicate that some see him as the next Josh Allen — a diamond in the rough that will take years to perfect but has elite potential — and that teams, even the No. one Carolina Panthers, are considering taking him away.

It’s those rough edges that could move him down the draft order. But the perspective of “what if…” that comes with Richardson — and at just 20 years old — is one that general managers and coaches across the league haven’t been able to ignore for years.

NFL analyst Lance Zierlein described him as a player with “elite size, strength and athletic ability for the quarterback position … potential to perform in a variety of offensive schemes… arm strength to throw toward the back of the field and into narrow windows” in his official draft profile, but also notes his inaccuracy in passing.

With the possibility of nine of the top 12 picks being in the hands of teams in need of passers, Richardson could find a new home anywhere in the league.

Diamond in the rough
Richardson burst onto the football scene not because of his ability to throw the ball, but to catch it.

In his first game with Eastside High School in Florida, Richardson played receivership and was caught making an extraordinary one-handed reception, similar to Odell Beckham Jr.’s with the New York Giants.

That video posted more than four years ago, has become a harbinger of the athleticism Richardson is now known for.

Richardson says he has gotten a new tattoo that reads “1 out of 1” to describe his unique abilities.

“A lot of people say I’m a different race. I always tell people I’m not from Earth,” Richardson told ESPN. “I’m gifted, I’m talented. I feel like God made me different, and I just try to use that in my daily life.”

He quickly earned the starting quarterback job, before deciding to attend the University of Florida; The university was only 15 minutes from his institute.

Richardson’s start with the Gators was disappointing: he didn’t play the freshman year and attempted just 64 passes in the second.

It wasn’t until his junior year in college when he made his mark, starting 12 games and throwing for 2,549 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions, that the team finished with a 6–6 record with him at the helm. He also rushed for 654 yards and nine more scores.

This means Richardson has only played 13 college games in his career before entering the draft. According to ESPN, that would be the fewest college games by a first-round quarterback in the draft if selected in that round, along with Mitch Trubisky, since 2002.

Despite the lack of experience, the evidence on the tape shows Richardson has the ability.

Richardson’s electricity with the ball in his hands is not limited to the throw; The young quarterback has had touchdown runs of 45, 60, 73, 80 and 81 yards in the past two seasons.

But despite those incredible plays, both throwing and running the ball, Richardson will need “a lot of work to reach a potentially high ceiling,” according to Zierlein’s assessment.

“His accuracy on short, simple throws left much to be desired due, in part, to poor footwork and inconsistent pace. Footwork issues can be corrected, but the challenge will be determining whether it can be at least a functionally accurate passer at the next level.”

But it’s that hope Richardson can make the most of his potential that has teams intrigued.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Richardson’s draft value skyrocketed from a mid-first-round pick at the end of the college season to a top-five pick in a matter of months.

Analysts compare Richardson to Cam Newton, a physically dominant quarterback with some accuracy issues.

In 2011, Newton was coming off an exciting final season with Auburn, winning the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA championship, and eventually went on to have an extremely successful NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, including winning the NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 2015.

Matching the production of an MVP is a very high bar, but Richardson’s ceiling is such that Newton’s track record is what a team expects to select him in the top five of the draft.

Richardson would also continue the trend of teams prioritizing players in the draft who can excel at both throwing and running the ball. Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance and Justin Fields, in 2021, and Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts, in 2020, can count on mobility in their arsenal of weapons.

And no one wants to miss out on choosing a franchise quarterback; nobody wants to be the Chicago Bears choosing Trubisky instead of Patrick Mahomes. While Mahomes has won two Super Bowl rings and two league MVPs, Trubisky is on his third team and has established himself in a backup role.

On Thursday, Richardson could be selected first or could be left out of the top 10.

His rare combination of athleticism and a big arm is an intriguing prospect and could make general managers pull their hair out if they choose to overlook him or he could totally transform his prospects if he reaches his potential.

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