NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Draft: Is Anthony Richardson the next Josh Allen?

Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) throws the ball against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The days of facilitators at the quarterback position are over. If all your quarterback can do is operate a passing offense as it’s drawn on paper, you’re getting lapped. The new wave of elites at the position allow their offensive coordinators to expand their playbooks and, in turn, keep defensive coordinators awake late at night. To compete with them, you better do the same.

Enter one Anthony Richardson. The Florida quarterback whose prospect profile is closer to that of an NBA lottery pick than a top-10 NFL draft pick. With 455 dropbacks, 13 starts and a 53.9% career completion percentage to his name, Richardson is the single biggest quarterback project we’ve seen projected to be a first-rounder in recent memory. So why, then, is he the single hottest name heading into the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine?

One word: tools.

From his size (6-foot-4, 232 pounds) to his athleticism (just wait until he tests) to his rocket-launcher right arm, Richardson has very few peers from a physical standpoint in NFL history. That’s not hyperbole. Just watch:

The name you’ll almost certainly hear when Richardson’s name is brought up this spring is Josh Allen. That’s going to be the comp for any toolsy quarterback prospect with accuracy issues nowadays. Allen's Year 3 emergence from a haphazard gunslinger to a perennial MVP candidate changed a lot of people’s minds about what was possible with quarterback development. It’s important to understand what exactly about Allen’s game changed, though, before declaring every toolsy quarterback “the next Josh Allen.”

To answer that, let’s start with what didn’t change. And that’s the way he plays the game. Allen has always been fearless in the pocket and always kept his eyes downfield, even with defensive linemen bearing down on him. That’s an impossible skill to coach, and it was littered all over his tape at Wyoming:

It’s also a skill that’s necessary to translate to the NFL. With Richardson, you see that same level of fearlessness and ability to keep his eyes up when things break down. That's evident in Richardson’s average depth of target when under pressure going up (11.1 yards to 12.4) last season.

As a result, he earned a passing grade under pressure from the pocket that was the best of any of the other quarterbacks getting first-round hype.

QB PFF Passing Grade Attempts
Anthony Richardson 66 50
Bryce Young 64.1 66
Will Levis 59.3 85
C.J. Stroud 37.1 46

Now that we’ve established the positives, let’s look at what was easily the most worrisome part of Allen’s tape at Wyoming and Richardson’s at Florida: accuracy. Anyone who’s followed Allen’s progression knows that his vast improvement in ball placement has come hand in hand with a vast improvement in his mechanics. Allen looked like a relief pitcher in college with an egregiously long stride and the mindset to put as much mustard as possible into every throw. 

While Richardson already throws with touch better than Allen ever did at Wyoming, issues with overstriding and footwork, in general, are all over his tape. The consistency of his mechanics is nowhere near NFL-ready. 

While that’s in no way a good thing for a prospect to have, Allen is proof that it’s fixable. The chances of Richardson having the same career path seem slim, but there’s a different NFL quarterback whose profile would make me feel confident drafting Richardson in the top 10.

That would be Justin Fields. This past season, Fields was — by almost any objective measure — one of the worst passers in the NFL. His PFF passing grade (54.4) was actually the lowest among starting quarterbacks. Yet, with arguably the worst offensive supporting cast in the NFL, the Chicago Bears still finished 22nd in expected points added per play. Fields elevated that offense almost solely through his dynamism as a ball carrier, as the Bears led the league in EPA per run (.076). They did so with the eighth-lowest-paid offensive line in the NFL. That’s a massive value add because of what Fields can do with his legs.

Richardson can be similarly effective on the ground while he grows into a more consistent passer. That makes him far less of a threat to be a “career-ender” for whichever general manager drafts him than his raw passing numbers might suggest. For all those reasons, the top-10 hype surrounding Richardson is more than justified.

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