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Anthony Richardson is a nice player and a nice NFL Draft prospect. He’s a guy that might be a serviceable NFL starting quarterback.
He needs to be drafted into a good situation with a veteran quarterback from whom he can learn while spending a season or two on the bench.
But if the betting odds are any indication, he’s quickly becoming a player that people view as “the guy” and that’s just ridiculous.
I don’t see it. When I put together my first Big Board for the 2023 NFL Draft season, Richardson wasn’t on it. Granted, I only ranked the Top 20 prospects for the first iteration.
But when I do the Top 32 later this week, I’m not convinced Richardson will be on that either.
If anything, his Combine performance makes me more nervous about him. Historically, quarterbacks who graded as elite athletes haven’t done much in the NFL.
Sure, Robert Griffin III had his career derailed by injuries. But that’s part of the issue when you draft a quarterback whose best traits are athleticism over passing ability.
Again, this isn’t even a critique of Richardson as much as it is about his placement among NFL Draft prospects.
Anthony Richardson as a top NFL Draft pick puts him in a tough spot
If a team takes Richardson as one of the first quarterbacks, possibly even in the Top 5, people will expect him to perform immediately. Richardson is not that guy.
Could he develop into an NFL quarterback? Definitely. But he’s not nearly a good enough passer right now. And therein lies the problem.
He’s going to struggle if he’s expected to start next season, especially if it’s for one of the quarterback-desperate teams who finished in the basement of the league.
In my first mock draft, I had Seattle selecting Richardson at 20th. To me, that makes a lot of sense.
First, mid-first-round picks face tempered expectations compared to high first-round pick. Second, Seattle can re-sign Geno Smith and give Richardson someone to learn from as the backup. Again, as a later first-round pick, the team wouldn’t feel pressured to rush him into action.
But if, say, Houston takes Richardson at No. 2 (I’m not suggesting that will happen, but play along), he would almost certainly be expected to start Week 1 next season. If he doesn’t, it means someone like Davis Mills beat him out in training camp.
Both scenarios are problematic for Richardson’s NFL future.
Richardson benefits from a later selection vs. earlier
In a strange way, I think it’s better for Anthony Richardson if a team DOESN’T draft him in the Top 10. If, say, the Jets selected Zach Wilson in the 20s instead of #2, would people feel differently about him?
Heck, Justin Fields is overrated in part because he went in the middle of the first round instead of above guys like Wilson and Trey Lance.
Then you look at guys like Desmond Ridder (third round) and Sam Howell (fifth round) who sat behind veterans for most of their first seasons, got some opportunities late, and now will compete to start next season. Those guys, regardless of whether or not they are successful, are in a far better position TO succeed.
Even Kenny Pickett (20th overall) started the season on the bench and had some success. Zach Wilson, thrown right into the fire, has completely lost all confidence and his career might already be over.
The point I’m trying to make is that being a Top 5 pick as a quarterback comes with high expectations and they start immediately. Quarterbacks taken later don’t experience that in the same way.
Richardson profiles like the latter. But a team might draft him as the former.
That’s bad news for him and the team that reaches to take him.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ