As of right now, three quarterbacks are locks to be first-round picks in next April's Draft. Those three are Bryce Young from Alabama, C.J. Stroud from Ohio State, and Will Levis from Kentucky. After that, it remains to be seen who the other potential first-round QBs could be.
One player who has caught the eye of many evaluators is Florida's Anthony Richardson, who has size, arm strength, and rare athleticism but questionable accuracy.
Going back to when I first got involved with scouting 40 years ago, the general thinking in scouting was that a quarterback who was not accurate in college would not suddenly become accurate in the NFL. That myth held true for many years until recently, when two first-round quarterbacks became excellent and accurate NFL quarterbacks. Those two players would be Josh Allen with the Bills and Lamar Jackson with the Ravens.
Josh Allen was not highly recruited coming out of high school and, in fact, originally went to a junior college before transferring to Wyoming. While at Wyoming, he showed rare arm talent and the ability to make plays with his feet, but accuracy was not a strong suit.
In 2016, Allen's junior year, he completed just 56% of his throws with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The following season, he again completed just 56% of his throws with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. Because of his inaccuracy, some teams were skeptical about his ability to become successful in the NFL. What teams like Buffalo, who drafted him loved, was his upside… what he can be.
Allen's inaccuracy carried over to his first two years in the NFL. In 2018 his rookie year, Allen completed just 52.8% of his throws and threw more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (10). The following year he showed some improvement by completing 58.8% of his throws and greatly improving his touchdown to interception ratio with 20 TDs and nine interceptions.
It wasn't until Allen's third season that he really took off. His completion percentage jumped an unheard-of 10 points to 69.2%. In all the years I have been involved in football, I have never seen a quarterback show such drastic improvement from one year to the next.
How did it happen? First, Josh has rare football character and worked daily during the off-season each year to improve his throwing mechanics and work on being more accurate. His natural desire to be a great player was what pushed his remarkable improvement. Now he is considered one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the League.
Lamar Jackson was drafted the same year as Allen (2018). When Jackson was at Louisville, he was known more for his running skills than his throwing ability. There were some who felt that because of his rare athleticism and questionable accuracy, he might be better off as a wide receiver.
In reality, Jackson had better numbers than Allen, but his completion percentage in 2016 was just 56%, but he threw 30 TDs to just nine interceptions. The following year he improved his completion percentage to 59% while his touchdown to interception ratio stayed about the same.
What Jackson did better than any quarterback previous to him was run the football. In his final two seasons at Louisville, he rushed for over 3100 yards. Because of his inaccuracy, there were doubters, but the Baltimore Ravens weren't one of them. As a rookie in 2018, Jackson was actually more accurate than Allen by completing 58% of his throws. Since then, he has been over 60% every year, with a high being 2019 when he completed 66% of his passes. Like Allen, Jackson has a very good football character and spends much of the off-season trying to improve his game, which shows.
Looking at Anthony Richardson, we see a player similar to Jackson and Allen when they were in college. Size wise, Richardson is a little bigger than Jackson but not quite as big as Allen at about 6'4 – 230. Like Allen and Jackson, he has outstanding arm talent in that he has a lot of velocity with his throws. Richardson also has similar accuracy problems that Jackson and Allen had in college. In 2021, Richardson completed about 59% of his throws, this past season that dropped to 54%, but when we watch the tape, we can easily see that he can make all the required throws to be successful at the NFL level.
Another similarity that Richardson has to Allen and Jackson is his ability to make plays with his feet. He has rushed for over 1100 yards in the last two seasons and averaged almost seven yards per carry. Richardson has speed and power to make things happen when he decides to run. While he doesn't have Justin Fields-type speed, I think he will easily run in the 4.5s at the Combine.
Richardson needs improvement with his footwork, and once he gets in the League next year, that will be something that his quarterback coach does daily. Improving his footwork with help improve his accuracy.
While watching the tape, it's easy to see his talent. He has a quick release, can throw with touch, and make tight-window throws. What he lacks is consistency. Good coaching will help him improve.
Because of Allen and Jackson's success in the NFL, I don't feel clubs are as worried about his accuracy concerns as they would have been in years past. If Richardson has anywhere near the work ethic to improve his game like the others, he can become a very good NFL player.
The success that Justin Fields and Jackson have had running the football in the League makes a player like Richardson that much more appealing to clubs. The modern quarterback has to be able to run and throw. Don't be surprised that come Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft, you hear the name Anthony Richardson being announced.