Former NFL head coach and offensive guru Marc Trestman is evaluating the top quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft. This is the second in a series of his evaluations.
Others in Series: Will Levis | Hendon Hooker | C.J. Stroud
As I continue breaking down the 2023 NFL Draft‘s quarterback class, let’s turn our attention to a quarterback who will spark great debate throughout the NFL landscape this spring, Florida’s Anthony Richardson (scouting report). He has been mocked as high as No. 1 overall this year.
Like my previous breakdown of Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (scouting report), this three-game evaluation is not nearly complete by NFL standards. Richardson’s full participation in the NFL Combine cannot hurt him and is a positive sign of his vulnerability to open up athletically, physically and personally to scouts, coaches and personnel staff throughout the league.
Richardson had only one full season of on-field play, so teams will take a deep dive into his football intelligence, personality and psychological makeup.
I’ve looked at all of Richardson’s passes on video against LSU, Georgia and Florida State. Vetting a quarterback in the NFL is a highly rigorous and detailed task that includes watching every game played and digging deep into the personal background. Three games simply are not enough, and the combine was one of the first steps in this vetting process.
We can’t discern as much as NFL teams do in just three games of evaluation, but these three games clearly painted a picture and provided an understanding of his strengths and weaknesses leading into this year’s draft.
>>READ MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Anthony Richardson Evaluation
2022 Games Watched
- Oct. 15 vs. LSU: Lost, 45-35
- Oct. 29 at Georgia: Lost, 42-20
- Nov. 25 at Florida State: Lost, 45-38
During three seasons with the University of Florida, Richardson only started 13 of 24 games played, including all 12 regular-season contests in 2022. This was a relatively small sample size to evaluate a quarterback. Richardson’s evaluation was complicated more by the jaw-dropping physical and athletic talent displayed on tape and at the combine.
In his lone starting season, Richardson was elected as a team captain. He decided to skip Florida’s Las Vegas Bowl matchup against Oregon State, which the Gators lost, 30-3. I will not place judgment on his decision.
By NFL standards, Richardson’s statistical resume is substandard. He has 24 career passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions and completed 54.7 percent of his passes. Richardson’s rushing numbers significantly bolstered his stats and were a key variable for Florida’s offense, as he ran for 1,243 yards and 12 touchdowns in 160 career attempts.
Arm Talent, Accuracy
Richardson’s arm talent was one of the first things that jumped out on video. The ball exploded out of his hand, getting on receivers quickly. He can make the same extraordinary throws elite NFL quarterbacks make to wow viewers.
Yet, during my three-game study, Richardson appeared inaccurate on multiple levels, which was validated by his low-50s completion percentage in 2022. In his last two games against Georgia and Florida State, he completed just 49 percent and 33 percent of passes, respectively.
Richardson can make all the throws, which showed up on some exceptional post-and-go routes. But he also missed wide-open receivers in outside lanes and up-field seam areas. I saw too many poorly located throws and ill-advised passes in the red zone. There were plays where he planted, set and threw, getting the viewer excited with exceptional accuracy. Then, it all went sideways with wide-open misses.
The inconsistency started at times with his drop, base and low staging of the ball. It extended to his arm angles that ranged from over-the-top to three-quarters and failure to follow through when the pocket permitted. All of this led to some phenomenally accurate throws and more head-scratching misses.
Richardson’s passing inconsistency also extended to the movement game outside the pocket.
At times, while on the move to his right or left, Richardson could not compensate for his awkward body position to complete passes consistently. Occasionally, he looked awkward and uncomfortable.
While Richardson has the necessary arm talent, his arm doesn’t overcome the head-to-toe mechanical errors that start at his base and continue to his throwing motion. When we pulled out his best throws, we saw his ability to take a meticulous drop and deliver accurately. Combined with his size and elite athleticism, you envision a player that should get first-round consideration. But the No. 1 priority of an elite QB is consistent accuracy. That is simply not the case for Richardson right now.
Can he show the same growth in accuracy as Josh Allen? That is the bet NFL teams will make as the first and early rounds unfold. Arguably, you cannot be a No. 1 pick if you’re not accurate, and Richardson’s accuracy was merely sufficient at best and not worthy of a starter’s grade from the games I watched.
Richardson is 6-foot-4, 244 pounds, and is an impressive-looking athlete on tape. This was validated by a record-breaking workout at the combine, and the tape confirmed it.
In the pocket, there were times when he did not show a good sense of immediate pressure, spatial awareness, or an innate sense of when to escape. While there are some incredible escapes, there were also failures to move under immediate pressure.
There is no question Richardson has courage in the pocket and a willingness to take a hit to complete passes, but his ability to process in the pocket quickly enough remains in question. His footwork fluctuated from ideal to sloppy, leading to him sometimes drifting into pressure and other times to a quiet area to freely deliver.
When he gets out of the pocket, even as big a man as he is, he must consciously protect himself and not expose his right shoulder to oncoming tacklers.
The mental aspect of Richardson’s game was filled with unpredictability.
Sometimes, he processed quickly to get the ball up and out; other times, he simply held the ball too long, with or without pressure. His tape continued to show exceptional ability, but inconsistency was the issue.
There were moments when Richardson locked onto his primary target and took off to run when it wasn’t available, yet other times we saw the ability to work through progressions and finish to his flare control receiver.
After a productive combine, there will be many hyping Richardson in the first round. The side of the combine we didn’t see was the in-depth interviews and psychological testing that will continue with workouts and coaches’ visits to college campuses and player visits to NFL facilities.
Drafting a naturally talented player with such a small body of work and a lack of consistent accuracy is simply not the formula for a high draft pick. If a team rolls the dice and drafts Richardson in the first round or any early round, they have to believe strongly that he can be coached through these visible inconsistencies and be patient enough to give him time to develop.
If a quarterback is drafted in the first round, he should be considered the starter unless drafted by a team with a decorated veteran quarterback in place, giving the newly drafted quarterback time to grow on the field and in the classroom. Richardson’s lack of game experience, production and most importantly accuracy are just three of many boxes that cannot be checked off.
September is right around the corner, and even with all this impressive talent, there is too much work ahead and too many unknowns to project him as an immediate starter.
NFL decision-makers who will consider drafting him early must ask themselves how much work and time it will take Richardson to grow into the player that shows up on his highlight reel.
I am hopeful that evaluators who spoke to Richardson at the combine left thinking positively about him as a person, a leader and someone who can grow into the face of a franchise. I wish him nothing but the best as his NFL journey begins.
Marc Trestman is a former NFL, CFL and college coach. He coached in four Grey Cups in the CFL, winning three over seven years with Montreal and Toronto before becoming head coach of the Chicago Bears. Follow him on Twitter at @CoachTrestman.