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The Argument For and Against Drafting Anthony Richardson with a Premier Rookie Pick

Anthony Richardson was the talk of the combine. @FF_TJHernandez argues why you should invest a high rookie draft pick in the former Florida QB while @timbmartens says you should take caution

There were a few names that had scouts, reporters, and fans all talking coming out of the NFL combine this year. But no one had nearly as much buzz as former Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson.

The NFL draft prospect had an incredible combine. He set quarterback combine records in the broad jump and vertical jump. He had one of the fastest 40 times for a quarterback ever. And his 60-yard rainbow passes had fans cheering all around Lucas Oil Stadium.

With all this hype built up, mock drafts and rankings of rookie prospects are going haywire. A week ago, Richardson was commonly seen as QB3 or QB4 in this class. He was going between picks 1.05 and 1.08 in most mock drafts.

But a week later, I took part in Superflex mocks that had Richardson as the 1.01. We saw Richardson jump Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud in several ranking sets. The question is simple: should Anthony Richardson be considered a top-3 Superflex pick?

I have joined up with fellow Nerds writer Tyler Hernandez to present both sides of the argument. We will each make a case for why you should or should not be drafting Anthony Richardson with a premier rookie draft pick this year. Tyler is up first, with the defense of Anthony Richardson.

The Defense: Accuracy Concerns Overexaggerated

The first argument against Anthony Richardson will almost always be his accuracy problems. While Richardson did finish 2022 with a 53.8% completion percentage, his adjusted completion percentage (completions+drops/aimed passes on target) comes in at 64.1% when accounting for drops (@Texanscap).

There are multiple times that we can see Richardson on film staring down a receiver or trying to force a throw, but these things can be corrected with the right coaching. This narrative would be less pervasive if Richardson came into this draft season with a 60% completion percentage (which doesn’t eliminate all drops). Quarterbacks like Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson both entered the league, never having finished a college season completing 60% of their passes. With great coaching, both were able to quickly raise that number. Anthony Richardson already has a well-documented cannon of an arm and, with the proper development, should be able to use it to dominate at the next level.

Anthony Richardson also boasts a rushing upside seen in only a couple of quarterbacks in the NFL. In 2022, three of the top six quarterbacks in total fantasy scoring ran for over 700 yards, with only one topping 4,000 passing yards. The growth of mobile quarterbacks has made the rushing upside of players like Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields as valuable, if not more valuable, in fantasy than someone who consistently has over 4,000 passing yards.

The Defense: Athleticism Can’t Be Taught

This is where I see the most value from Richardson in dynasty. With some concerns about his accuracy and decision-making, the Florida quarterback will almost instinctively take off with the ball and use his raw athleticism to make plays as he begins growing his game in the NFL. Anthony Richardson averaged 6.3 YPC this past season at Florida, and I don’t see that number going down by much, if at all, at the next level.

Anthony Richardson deserves to be the first quarterback off the board in your Superflex drafts because he has the highest ceiling at the position in terms of fantasy. Though this draft has “safer” options, such as Young or Stroud, I still believe Richardson will be a dominant fantasy option. Sometimes great fantasy seasons at quarterback don’t look like great NFL seasons statistically, but we aren’t drafting a player to win the Lombardi trophy. Look at a player like Justin Fields last season, who had 2,242 passing yards and a 17-11 TD-INT ratio on a 60.4% completion percentage. This isn’t a great season by any means for a quarterback in the NFL with what people would generally expect from a starter. Now add his 1,143 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns, and you get the QB6 in standard scoring, averaging nearly 20 ppg.

If you’re in a position to have the quarterback of your choosing in the draft, there’s a decent chance that it has to do with the lack of production at your quarterback position. Between the multiple quarterbacks expected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft and the abundance of players in free agency, there is no telling what the landscape will look like outside of the top 5-8 quarterbacks. With all the risk involved in drafting a rookie, why not swing for the fences and use a premier pick on what could be a premier player in the league? Take the raw athleticism and intangibles and let the right coaches develop the things that can be taught.

Thanks for your side of the argument, Tyler. Make sure to follow Tyler Hernandez on Twitter at @FF_TJHernandez.

The Prosecution: Inexperience and Inaccuracy

Anthony Richardson is a tantalizing prospect. He’s a physical freak. And he comes at a premier position, especially in Superflex leagues. However, there are also some other important aspects to Anthony Richardson that have me steering clear of him if I have a top-3 pick in my Superflex rookie drafts.

First, Richardson is not all that experienced at the quarterback position. He was only the starting quarterback for 13 games in his college career. He only had 20+ passes in a game ten times in the last three years.

Some will say this is known and will be part of his development. Richardson is likely not a week one starter during his rookie year in the NFL. Many have said he would be on the Mahomes plan and not play most of his rookie year. But you have to worry about Richardson’s inexperience at the position.

Secondly, Richardson’s passing in college left a lot to be desired. He looked decent at the combine, but in games at Florida, Richardson finished with a 53.8% completion percentage. Including the four quarterbacks likely to go in the first round in this year’s draft, Richardson has the lowest completion percentage of any quarterback drafted in the first round over the last seven drafts.

I have charted the 25 first-round quarterbacks from the last seven drafts. Here is a list of their completion percentage for their previous year in college. Additionally listed is the number of games they started in their college career:

Richardson stands alone for the lowest completion percentage and is tied for the fewest games started with Mitchell Trubisky. Two other quarterbacks were under 60%, and only five had started fewer than 20 games.

The Prosecution: Mobility Without Passing Yards

My final point is the argument that you aren’t drafting Richardson for his arm. You are drafting him for his legs. There is no doubt that Richardson can move with the ball. Rushing yards and rushing TDs are worth more for fantasy owners. If Richardson is successful running the ball, he can tally a lot of fantasy points. 

However, let’s look at the 2022 season of another mobile quarterback: Justin Fields. Fields came within 63 yards of the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. He was second only to Lamar Jackson in his 2019 MVP season.

But at the same time, Fields could only tally 2,242 passing yards and 17 passing touchdowns. The rushing numbers led to Fields being the sixth-best fantasy quarterback in 2022. But the talk around Fields is he is a risky fantasy option because of his arm. Many joke he’s just a running back disguised as a quarterback. 

Even after one of the best rushing seasons by a quarterback in NFL history, Fields is considered a risky play. Let’s see what he is currently going for in our trade browser tool on DynastyGM:

History in the making

Fields just had a historic year rushing the ball while not having the passing stats. This comes from a guy who had a completion percentage 16.4% higher than Richardson in his last year in college. And after that historic year rushing, this is Fields worth in trades. It is similar to what the cost of Anthony Richardson would be right now. I believe Fields could be acquired in many leagues right now for a top-3 pick.

Let’s say Richardson’s ceiling rushing the ball in the NFL is close to Fields 2022 totals. We have just seen a quarterback do that this past year. The value for that quarterback isn’t that high. And this is a ceiling. We don’t know if Richardson will ever reach that mark.

With this in mind, taking Richardson this high in a draft is an immense risk. Even if successful rushing the ball like Fields, his value would be very close to where you are drafting him. You also need him to be a great passer for his value to increase.

I would not want to take the gamble that Richardson develops to become a great passer. He wasn’t even a good passer in college. And if his value is going to be squarely on his mobility, it will be hard for that value to get much higher than it currently is.  

Tim can be found on Twitter at @timbmartens.

2 Responses

  1. Zach Wilson was also third highest in accuracy percentage and look how that turned out.

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