The Definitive Rebuttal To Everyone Writing Anthony Richardson's NFL Obituary Before He's Even Drafted

James Gilbert. Getty Images.

We're close enough to the 2023 NFL Draft where it's high time that the myths, misnomers and misconceptions surrounding Anthony Richardson be put to rest. The Carolina Panthers hold the No. 1 overall pick, and if I were them, I'd pull the trigger on the Florida quarterback. Panthers owner David Tepper made his fortune on being bold and betting on upside. Why stop now?

I'll tell you why Tepper might stop now. Because Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are more polished prospects. Stroud is the "safe" pick. Young is the unprecedentedly diminutive, slight-of-build QB to be under consideration at this spot.

Now if you've been following the NFL Draft buildup, seen any of my mock drafts or whatever, you know that I've been pounding the table for Richardson for a while now. But let me tell you, it wasn't until I really dug into what happened this past season with Richardson, the supporting cast around him, and took into account the full context of where he is at this point in his development that I fell head over heels. For the uninitiated, please enjoy some basic highlights:

I know. It's trendy and cute to have a hot sports take, die on that hill instead of admitting defeat, and not being open to things that will disprove your initial thoughts. Sometimes in life, you're presented with new, better information and — SHOCKER! — you change your mind.

Case in point: When I first read the news that Anthony Richardson was declaring for the draft, I laughed. Literally. Laughed out loud. And I wrote this back in early December:

"I'm a little stunned by Richardson's decision. I feel like there are at least three, maybe four quarterbacks who have a great chance of being drafted ahead of him. […] Richardson completed only 53.8% of his passes this year. That's beyond awful. For some of the 'wow' throws he inevitably puts on his tape, there are as many (er, more) baffling decisions and flat-out poorly thrown balls.

"[…] Between how inconsistent he is as a passer and his limited live reps, Richardson's red flags are plain to see. Indulge my obscure cross-sports pollination for a second, but I swear, this guy feels like a Bruno Caboclo 'two years away from being two years away' type of case."

Sounds like the boilerplate evaluation the vast majority of people make regarding Richardson, doesn't it?

I could've just stuck with that, slapped him somewhere in the 20s on my big board and been done with it. Stick to my original take of Bryce Young being the can't-miss, slam-dunk No. 1 pick — which he still very well could be.

For whatever reason, I was compelled to dig deeper, because after all, that first start of 2022 Richardson had against Utah was unbelievable. I wondered what happened to that player the rest of the season.

Once Richardson lit the NFL Scouting Combine on fire and confirmed just how fast and explosive he is by participating in drills and a throwing session, it was time to come out with the updated take: I was totally wrong about Anthony Richardson back in December. He is my QB1 in the 2023 draft, and No. 2 overall player.


As has been said many times before by many draftniks and professional talent evaluators, you're not watching the Combine and suddenly deciding a prospect is superior only because of workouts. It's only to confirm what you've seen on the game tape. As I explain in Snyder Cut-level detail on this TikTok, there are so many more encouraging signs from Richardson's film that translate to success on Sundays than you could possibly imagine if you only box score scout him.

I'll now dive deeper into the major points made in the TikTok.

The notorious accuracy criticism

A 53.8% completion rate isn't going to get it done in the NFL or at any level of football really. HOWEVER, what if I told you Richardson is far more accurate than that number suggests. Look no further than his final start as a Gator:

There were two other short-area throws in this game that were sort of careless and off-target, but in my estimation, were catchable and could've led to big plays.

And the way Florida's offense was set up was so wonky. You know what else doesn't help your completion percentage? When you're given fewer short-area passes to throw than literally any other QB prospect since the 2017 draft class.


And if you really get granular and look into the splits on Richardson's passing chart, you see that he actually connected on 60.9% of intermediate throws (87 attempts). I realize I'm about to make a college vs. NFL comparison and it's not a one-to-one, but Patrick Mahomes completed intermediate throws at the exact same 60.9% clip last season.

ALSO, PFF graded him at 93.1 (out of 100) on deep passes. Those attempts were often the instances in which Richardson really got to properly run play-action, hence this:

Then you look at attempts behind the line of scrimmage, and Richardson is at 80.4% even with a whopping six dropped passes on such throws. For a little context, Josh Allen hit on 78.8% of his behind LOS throws for the Bills this past year, and even NFL passer rating leader Tua Tagovailoa, who's made his living on accuracy, connected on 81% of those.

Richardson's glaring issue is in the short area, from one to nine yards. But even within THOSE splits, you see how easily rectifiable the situation can be. His worst-graded, least-accurate area of throwing is on the short right: 8-for-19 passing, 0 TDs, 3 INTs.

You can bet the young man is drilling that shit leading up to the draft.

There might not be an easier set of throws to correct for a right-handed QB than throwing short to your right. And there's so little distance in air yardage from throwing behind the line of scrimmage to less than 10 yards. Much of the key to it lies in the mental side of the game, too. It stands to reason Richardson can correct his precision here, and I'm sure that'll become easier as he gains more experience and reps.

Inferior developmental circumstances

Bryce Young worked with Bill O'Brien, who won four AFC South division titles in the NFL as the head coach of the Texans. Two of those were with Deshaun Watson under center. The other two? With a Brian Hoyer-Ryan Mallett tandem in 2015, and in 2016 with BROCK OSWEILER. Oh, and O'Brien was a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for Tom Brady in New England for a few years as well. Bill Belichick thought enough of O'Brien to bring him back to New England as OC this year. Decent track record.


C.J. Stroud had the luxury of four eventual first-round wide receivers to throw to in Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Marvin Harrison Jr.

Not to mention a coach in Ryan Day who Urban Meyer handpicked to take over Ohio State's powerhouse program. Day has been buzzed about in the past as an NFL coaching candidate and has experience at the pro level as a high-ranking assistant.

So while Young and Stroud had multiple years in those systems, Richardson was learning a new playbook entering 2022 under Billy Napier, whose system led to Louisiana rushing for over 3,600 yards in 2019. That was the apex of Napier's offensive success. In the Sun Belt Conference. A guy who runs the ball that much in such a gimmicky system was making a jump up several levels in quality of competition. 

With a hat tip to J.T. O'Sullivan's The QB School YouTube channel, you can see how a lot of the offensive architecture in the passing game was awful.

…And it really gets ugly when you watch Florida's wideouts try to separate on short-area concepts. 

Being on a rebuilding program in the SEC with a new coach in Year 1 is a tough gig. Young and Stroud have been in far better environments and have a full season's worth of starting experience over him. And yet, people want to write Anthony Richardson off before he's even in a remotely decent situation to progress.

Pocket presence is insanely good for having so little experience

It's only one play, but stuff like this is all over Richardson's film.


Everyone makes fun of him because he had such a great vertical leap and that doesn't mean fucking jack for playing the quarterback position. 

…Uh…unless you count the explosiveness to power through contact when people are diving at your legs, the untapped potential in his lower-half mechanics that could make his arm even stronger, and the twitchiness to be able to make crazy pocket maneuvers like this look easy. But yeah, go ahead and bash him for being "just an athlete" and using his leaping numbers as your premise.

Another important stat: Richardson's pressure-to-sack conversion rate is 9.2%, which is even lower than the uber-slippery Bryce Young. Richardson is not a one read and run quarterback. Even though he can make house calls like this…

You see him go through multiple progressions and make full-field reads with regularity. As is evident from that Florida State package in particular. He's not nearly as raw in that area as you'd expect for someone with so few games played in college, nor are his pocket instincts lacking in the slightest.

The insane running ability raises Richardson's floor as a prospect

Even if it takes Richardson a year or two to show major improvements as a passer, he can get away with a lot becuase of how freakish he is as a runner. You see that play against LSU. You know about the Combine 40 time. We're talking about literally the best athlete to ever play the position.

Again…put this guy in a competently-designed offense with weapons. On top of that, take full advantage of his unique playmaking ability with his legs. I'm telling you. The return on investment is a special, superstar player.

Not all one-year college starters are created equal 

The fact that Richardson only has 13 collegiate starts, given where he already is as a player amid the circumstances he was dealing with, is actually a green flag to me. I mentioned that LSU game earlier. Only his seventh start. Already showing polish like this:


Being a one-year college starter is a red flag in and of itself. That's what makes Richardson such a tricky evaluation for many. Here's the reality: If he really was as bad as a lot of people want to make him out to be as a passer, there's no way he'd be held in such high esteem around the NFL. He wouldn't be a projected high first-round pick. That teams are even considering such an investment in him shows how ridiculous Richardson's potential is.

Panthers legend Steve Smith Sr. — who to be clear, likes Richardson way less than I do and prefers Young and Stroud by a large margin — said it well:

Take a look at the recent one-year starters to go early in the NFL Draft. It ain't pretty: Mitch Trubisky, Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance. Two busts. One dubious TBD in Lance. Trade rumors are swirling around Jones, who's maybe, what, the seventh- or eighth-best QB in the AFC? But Mac was so pro-ready! Such a high floor! And so deadly accurate with his sparkling 77.4% completion rate coming out of Alabama.

Jury is still out on Kyler, the smallest QB ever drafted No. 1 overall who can't stay healthy and apparently doesn't care to work hard at film study.

You could look at all those cases, combine that with the widely held notion that one-year starters can't make it in the NFL, and make the logic shortcut to assume that Richardson will be a colossal bust. That's an insult to him, though. None of these guys have close to the ceiling that Richardson has. 

The only guys from that group who didn't have documented maturity or attitude issues were Trubisky and Lance. By all accounts, Richardson has impressed and seems to have the levelheaded demeanor, obvious physical tools and desire to be great.


In conclusion, once more: Anthony Richardson is QB1

So go ahead, take a flier on the fun-sized Young and legitimately hold your breath and gasp for air every single time he gets hit. Play it "safe" with C.J. Stroud, who had two incredible offensive tackles, and a likely second-round center blocking for him, not to mention elite weaponry at Ohio State. Stroud is a rich man's Dak Prescott in his absolute best-case scenario.

Although I think Young and Stroud are worthy of the No. 1 overall pick on their own merits, don't get it twisted, I'd take a shot on Richardson and never look back given those alternatives. I enjoy this "riding a bike" analogy postulated by The Ringer's Ben Solak, who I have a lot of respect for AND who also thinks Richardson should hear his name called first on draft night!

Richardson is less of a gamble than you think it is; Richardson will be ready to play sooner than anyone seems to think. His accuracy issues are confined to one area of the field, and are tied to scheme, lower-body mechanical flaws and lack of time on the field. But those mechanical issues are more a matter of inconsistency, because he's shown the ability to do it very often, especially on longer throws. The natural upper-body motion, torque and the effortless velocity Richardson can generate are astounding. Oh yeah, and he could well emerge as the most effective rusher at his position in NFL history. That's very much in play.

The limits on where Anthony Richardson can ascend to as a quarterback, in my humble opinion, lie only in the imagination of his NFL coaching staff.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok