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Three NFL scouts said this week they expect Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson to be a top 10 draft pick come April. They also said he might be the biggest gamble they have ever seen in the NFL’s unending chase for great quarterbacks.
“He is a man,” one scout said as he talked excitedly about the prospects of taking Richardson. The scout compared the 6-foot-4, 236-pound Richardson favorably to former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton. “He can be as physically dominant as Cam. You just see it. But …”
The scout stopped short of finishing his thought. Another scout seemed to finish it.
“You have to be able to complete passes,” the scout said. “I know exactly what you’re saying about the kid, he physically profiles in every way you can imagine. He’s also an extremely good kid. Incredibly coachable and respectful from what I’ve heard, which would make me feel better about it.”
“You better have a plan on how to make him a quarterback because that’s not what he is right now. He’s an athlete lining up at quarterback. That’s it. There’s no way around that fact,” the second scout said. “Look, Tim Tebow was a first-round pick and he couldn’t complete passes. This guy is a way better athlete than Tebow and I don’t say to dismiss Tebow.”
Anthony Richardson is both the prototype of the modern quarterback from a measurable standpoint and a player who lacks experience. Between injuries in high school and limited playing time in his first two seasons, Richardson had thrown less than 200 passes coming into this season. This season, Richardson led Florida to a .500 record (6-6) with a completion percentage that was only slightly better than that (53.8 percent).
Florida Was 6-7 All-Time In Games Anthony Richardson Started
While Richardson provided a share of highlight reel plays, such as a touchdown pass he tossed early in the year after shaking off a potential sack, he is also just as likely to string together a long series of three-and-out possessions.
“The team that takes him better be like Kansas City when they took (Patrick) Mahomes. They had Alex Smith in place and they could let Mahomes sit for a year and just learn. That gave him a chance to be ready. If you play this kid right away, he’s not going to be ready for what he sees. He wasn’t ready for what he saw at the college level.”
Every scout also said they wished Richardson had stayed in school for another year. At the same time, the temptation to be drafted so highly, couple with the risk of another injury like the one he had in high school was took much to assume the risk.
Each of the top five draft picks in the 2022 NFL draft received contracts of more than $30 million guaranteed. Each of the top 10 received at least $20 million guaranteed. That is life-changing money, especially for a young man who grew up in the poorer section of Gainesville, Florida, just miles from the University of Florida.
The downside of staying home is that Richardson went through two coaches, switching to Billy Napier’s system this year. Napier’s system was considered more quarterback friendly (his quarterbacks had completely more than 62 percent of their passes in his three years at the University of Louisiana before coming to Florida).
“I don’t know how that affected him because he didn’t play that much before Napier got there. What I saw was a guy who processed the offense slowly, but that’s not necessarily fair. We saw the same thing with Justin Fields as a rookie when he showed up in Chicago and now he processes a lot faster,” one scout said. “But you’re talking about processing slow at the college level and then trying to figure it out at the NFL level.”
At the same time, the Bears have put in a plan for Fields this year to help him along and didn’t play him last year as a rookie until they deemed him ready.
He Won’t Turn 22 Until May
Richardson may not be as fortunate next season. Of the teams that possess the top eight projected picks in next year’s draft as of now, only three (Houston, Indianapolis, and Carolina) have obvious quarterback needs. The other five (Denver, Chicago, Jacksonville, Arizona, and Detroit) have established starters or are financially committed to the passers they have.
“I assume Indianapolis and Carolina will have new coaches since they already fired their guys,” one scout said. “Houston? Who knows? What you’re going to have on the board is (Will) Levis, (C.J.) Stroud, (Bryce) Young and Richardson if they all come out. The there will be another team in the top 10 that will end up needing a guy. That team probably gets Richardson because the other three are safer. Personally, Young scares me because of his size, but he can throw. He can run an offense, I know that right now.”
“I have no idea.”