Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson was one of the most talked about quarterbacks heading into the 2022 season. Many top draft analysts pegged the 6’4”, 230-pound quarterback as a future top-10 draft pick, and his first game seemed to validate the hype.
Richardson looked like the Heisman front runner after the Gators week one victory over the Utah Utes. From his electric down the field throws, to his playmaking ability outside of the pocket, to the pump fake on the two-point conversion, Richardson became an overnight sensation.
But boy do the mighty fall. After his exhilarating 2022 debut, Richardson fell off quickly in each of his following games. But is he still a first round talent? There should be no doubt about it.
Richardson’s Fall From Grace
In his week two outing, Richardson imploded against the Kentucky Wildcats, completing only 14 of his 35 passes for 143 yards and two interceptions. He followed that up by struggling against South Florida, completing 55.6% of his passes for 112 yards and two more interceptions.
In his fourth game of 2022, he rebounded well against Tennessee, even in the loss. With only a 54.5% completion percentage, he still managed to tick 453 yards in the air along with two touchdowns and one interception. He also added 62 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. And on Sunday, Richardson completed eight of his 10 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
While Richardson has yet to live up to the preseason hype, he delivered when called upon. Even in defeat, Richardson’s composure was noticeable as the Gators clawed back against the Volunteers.
He may still be behind in terms of where the media thought he would be, but Richardson is showing that his tools and traits are unmatched.
NFL Precedence is Changing
Over the past decade plus, the NFL has given quarterbacks an exceptionally short leash. In today’s NFL, quarterbacks are at maximum allowed three to four years to show any promise before the team and front office begin to look elsewhere.
Josh Rosen was replaced after a single year in Arizona. Sam Darnold was traded in favor of Zach Wilson after four years in New York. Baker Mayfield was traded following his fourth year in Cleveland.
But yet, teams have seen the fruits of their labor as of late. After less than stellar starts to their careers, Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jalen Hurts have given general managers and coaches much to think about in terms of quarterback development.
Allen had all the intangibles you could ask for coming out of Wyoming, except for accuracy. In his first two years in Buffalo, he completed less than 60% of his passes. But over the past three seasons, his completion percentage has skyrocketed. Pair that with his arm talent and mobility, and the Bills now have one of the most dynamic weapons at their disposal.
Tagovailoa’s term in Miami was on the ropes after the team attempted to both trade for Deshaun Watson and sign Tom Brady to replace him. But yet, he remains the starter to this day, with nothing but confidence from new head coach Mike McDaniel. Tagovailoa now has the best completion percentage of his career and has nearly doubled his QBR from his first two seasons, along with a 3-1 start to 2022.
Finally, Hurts was never meant to be a full-time starter in the NFL. He was drafted to backup the often injured Carson Wentz and to be a dynamic playmaker in the backfield. But after Wentz’s career in Philadelphia collapsed, Hurts took the reign and has yet to look back. Hurts led Philadelphia to the playoffs in his first year as a starter, and has only improved his game since. Hurts looks to be one of the MVP front runners and helped the Eagles to an undefeated 4-0.
How Richardson Compares
Richardson is not unlike the aforementioned quarterbacks. Each quarterback was 22 years old or younger when they were drafted, and Richardson will join that list. While none of the three were complete prospects, each had tools that many coaches believed were elite. Allen had his arm, Tagovailoa had his accuracy, and Hurts had his mobility.
Richardson has one of the most explosive playmaking abilities of the draft eligible quarterbacks along with a cannon of an arm. While the accuracy has been lackluster at best, the traits are all there. At 22 years old, a quarterback is far from his prime and far from his peak development. It may take two or three years to fully see Richardson ascend, but the talent is enough to bet on.
Think of Jordan Love when he was drafted. Aaron Rodgers still had plenty of years left to play, but Green Bay decided to bet on the future upside. Richardson offers so much more than Love who was taken 26th overall.
If a team with a solid bridge quarterback is looking to solidify their future, Richardson should be the answer as long as he continues to develop throughout the remainder of the 2022 season. The Colts, Commanders, Giants, Lions, and Vikings should all keep a close eye on the Florida Gator prospect as the season unfolds.