Anthony Richardson’s film, albeit limited, doesn’t lie. There’s supernova talent and plays waiting for the Colts


It doesn’t take long to be wowed by Anthony Richardson. Even with fewer combined college and professional pass attempts (477) than Gardner Minshew had in 2023 alone (490), Richardson’s otherworldly combination of size, athleticism and arm talent stands out right away and brightly flashes on the screen:

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds (but saying he’s now carrying north of 250) while also putting on a show at the NFL scouting combine a year ago, Richardson has few comparisons, not just in recent memory but historically, in regards to his tangible size and athletic profile (a combination of Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb was my pre-draft comparison).

It was easy to label Richardson with the “P” word (project) when coming out of college, and it’s easy to look at his rookie year box score that contains four starts, 84 pass attempts and a sub-60% completion percentage and feel no need to peel that label off any time soon. But that project term was never fitting for Richardson’s actual style and feel for playing quarterback. It wasn’t when he was in Gainesville and it still isn’t after what he showed in under 200 professional snaps.

Richardson is a big player with a propensity for making big plays with his arm and legs. He is not some Shawn Kemp-like power player hunting for dunks and little else. It’s the little things that make Richardson such an intriguing player, and it’s the little things that give Richardson a much higher baseline than his limited experience suggests. It’s a baseline that makes the path that much smoother to reaching his cosmos-scraping ceiling.

Richard turned 22 in May. He is younger than every quarterback who went in Round 1 of this year’s NFL Draft besides one (Drake Maye, who turns 22 in August), but he plays with a poise that makes his style such a fun dichotomy between the freaky and the fundamental.

His feel in the pocket and willingness to keep his eyes downfield while maneuvering already rate at a plus-level. Richardson loves to show off the drill work he puts in, bouncing and bounding around and out of the pocket, all while looking to hunt for throws, using his legs only as a last resort. It’s a very positive sign:

Even for plays that end up as incompletions (another reason to take raw completion percentage with a large heap of salt), Richardson’s size, athleticism and maturity allow him to diminish negative plays and open doors up for positive ones that might otherwise not be possible for a large portion of other QBs.

Richardson recorded a sack rate of 7.7% in 2023, and I am optimistic that will drop given the improvement the Colts’ front five showed last season with Richardson already showing the all-important ability to negate sacks. That sack mitigation is something elite QBs showcase on a weekly basis, but it’s not the only thing they showcase. Richardson will also hunt for big plays, and that’ll make him an exciting player. He can scramble and eat up yards quickly with his legs, but also has the capability — and understated accuracy — to attack the far reaches of a defense. Sandwiched between the highlights is the minutiae that points to a player who can be so much more than a boom-bust bazooka.

Here is Richardson, in his first NFL start, stepping up in the pocket and finding a checkdown in what should be an efficient play before the running back fumbles:

Or eking out spaces to move the chains on third down, here using subtle eye movement to make a defender soften his underneath coverage and making a first down that much easier for himself:

When Richardson first looks at the receiver, it could end up in a bang-bang play and a tackle short of the first-down marker:

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One glance inside freezes No. 39:

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And the ball is on the Colts receiver for a first down on third-and-medium before the defender can react:

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Richardson’s arm wasn’t a misguided weapon. He shows a strong understanding for concepts being run and his accuracy, especially down the field, can consistently throw his teammates open:

There is also strong coaching and scheme being run by Colts head coach Shane Steichen, who is fighting for a place on the podium among the top NFL play-callers. Between Steichen’s Occam’s razor scheme and Richardson’s surprising polish, Richardson displayed a willingness to push the ball down the field and into the teeth of the defense on routes like seams and digs. Here he trusts his timing and read of the defense:

Or beating a free-running blitzer who wasn’t picked up in the protection, another instance of Richardson’s arm talent and mind coming together:

This is the style of an efficient quarterback who can continuously get on base against the defense before unleashing hell on a play-action concept or broken play. Even looking at rate metrics like success rate, when combined with the eye test of his general play, Richardson was not only more explosive but he was even more efficient than when the veteran Minshew was on the field. Forgive me for using another cross-sport analogy to describe Richardson, but there are jabs thrown in with these haymakers that will get the highlights. Speaking of which, let’s take another second to watch one of those highlights:

There is a schematic advantage for having a player who can attack all areas of the field and run the football. And Steichen, especially when the Colts entered the red zone, couldn’t wait to whip out the “quarterback run” portion of the call sheet. That Included back-to-back designed runs to Richardson for touchdowns in Week 2 against the Houston Texans (also note the hit that Richardson takes on the second score):

There are simply no players to account for Richardson besides the deepest defender on the field. The first run is a quarterback draw packaged with a bubble route. When the linebacker (circled red) leaves the box to chase the running back’s motion, Richardson’s read is to keep the ball since there are no defenders in the box left to account for him. The right guard pulls to block the remaining linebacker in the box, and it’s Richardson on the safety and results in six points.

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Sure, every coach can call a run between the tackles for any quarterback. But, you feel a little better calling it for Richardson than perhaps someone like Minshew or Jacoby Brissett. Certain quarterbacks who have the special combination of size, athleticism and toughness — Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Richardson, Cam Newton, hell, even Culpepper — concepts like this draw can be called on a weekly basis in high leverage moments that can earn first downs or put points on the board:

These plays are easy buttons for a quarterback, play-caller and an entire offense, and they can strip defensive coordinators and defenses down to their core teachings of gap soundness and tackling. In the hands of a capable play designer like Steichen and the Colts’ coaching staff, these back-to-back touchdowns against the Texans are just scratching the surface of what they can come up with with Richardson behind center.

There is a limit and downside to that deal with the quarterback run devil. Remember that hit Richardson took on the second (beautifully designed) touchdown? That hit, along with a few other unfortunate blows while handling the football, forced Richardson out of three of his starts and out of the entire 2023 season altogether. For Richardson to stay on this path of a true needle-moving quarterback, one with the upside of a perennial MVP candidate, he has to learn how to take care of his body and get down or rid of the ball a half-beat quicker. I have optimism that he will quicken his pace as a passer with more experience with different concepts, but how he finishes plays as a runner is what I am most focused on for the future of his career. Despite his incredible size, Richardson started and completed only one game all last year because of the multiple injuries he suffered while taking on NFL defenders. (Don’t let anyone tell you the SEC is full of “NFL defenders.” The NFL is full of NFL defenders.) That final blow resulted in an injury to the AC joint on his throwing shoulder, prematurely ending his rookie campaign.

Richardson was already back participating and throwing in the Colts’ offseason program, but every day and play missed is exponentially more important for a young player like him. And he is a player who needs to start accumulating hundreds, not dozens, of plays to stay on the path to stardom.

Between Richardson’s lack of college experience and his initial short foray with the Colts, it’s easy to keep waving him away as something to earmark for the distant future. But from the glimpses of his short stint in 2023 and what the Colts are building on offense, if Richardson can stay on the field for the entirety of his second season, he has a chance to make a big statement in 2024. This is why he is my dark-horse pick to win MVP in 2024. He’s like a metronome doused in gasoline, with his supernova flashes combined with his understanding for accomplishing the little things of playing quarterback, knowing already that, at such a young age, simply boring play works. It is impressive, methodical and, frankly, really cool to watch.

So, you have: the rare athletic profile, an understated mature style, another offseason with Steichen, a cohesive offensive line, a strong run game spearheaded by Jonathan Taylor (Taylor and Richardson shared the field for only one play in all of 2023), plus a group of pass catchers with a nice blend of size (Michael Pittman Jr., pick a tight end), skill (Josh Downs, personal favorite Kylen Granson) and now an injection of high-octane talent in AD Mitchell.

You can see why I’m buying Richardson and the explosive environment that he’s going to launch from this year. Now let’s keep him on the field so it’s all systems go.





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