Why Florida Gators’ Anthony Richardson is the most intriguing player in the NFL draft

The 21-year-old quarterback met with the Bucs this week at the NFL combine. He’s drawing lots of comparisons, but his skill set is one of a kind.
Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson speaks during a news conference Friday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson speaks during a news conference Friday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. [ DARRON CUMMINGS | AP ]
Published Mar. 3|Updated Mar. 5

The comparisons always have chased Anthony Richardson around the football field.

The Florida Gators quarterback has heard many discussed. But there are only two he isn’t willing to dismiss.

“I started calling myself Cam Jackson in 11th grade,” Richardson said Friday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. “Just trying to make big plays, just like Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson.”

The 6-foot-4, 244-pound Richardson has the size of a franchise quarterback. Apparently, he also is confident in his speed, telling the Falcons during an interview this week that he can run a 40-yard dash faster than tight end Kyle Pitts, his former Gators teammate who ran a 4.44 at the combine in 2021.

But less flattering comparisons than Newton and Jackson may await Richardson when it comes to his downside.

Some look at Richardson’s less-than-stellar college passing numbers ― a 54.7 completion percentage, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions — and his one season as a full-time starter, and wonder if he really should be regarded as a potential top 10 overall pick in the NFL draft.

The league is full of over-drafted quarterbacks who had tons of success in college but whose skill set did not transfer to the NFL, such as Tim Tebow, Josh Rosen and Johnny Manziel.

From an athletic standpoint, Richardson blows all those guys away. Saturday, he set NFL combine records for quarterbacks with a vertical jump of 40.5 inches and broad jump of 10-9. Unofficially, he was timed at 4.43 in the 40-yard dash.

During meetings with the Lions, Texans, Panthers, Falcons ― and, yes, Bucs ― this week, Richardson has been trying to convince teams of his ability to process information quickly and improve his accuracy.

With so little experience as a redshirt sophomore, the Panthers put Richardson on the board to determine his football acumen and had him repeat a play they taught him earlier in the interview.

“Just getting to know them, just getting on the board and drawing a few plays for them and recalling a play they taught me earlier in the meeting,” he said. “That was another great interview.”

During his media session Friday at the NFL scouting combine, Richardson bristled at the notion that some teams may consider him more of a project than a can’t-miss prospect.

“I guess teams know I have room to grow,” he said. “They see sparks in me. I see them myself as well.”

Richardson already is ranked behind more accomplished and experienced quarterbacks such as Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis by most NFL draft experts.

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson is unlikely to still be available when the Bucs pick at No. 19 in the draft.
Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson is unlikely to still be available when the Bucs pick at No. 19 in the draft. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
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He plans to participate in every drill during Saturday’s workout at the combine, which no doubt will have him rising quickly on many draft boards.

Teams also have gotten to know more about Richardson during his formal visits in which he demonstrated a maturity that may belie the fact he’s only 21.

“If you ask a lot of people around Gainesville, I had a black little mountain bike,” Richardson said. “When you saw me, you saw my little brother on the handlebars. I had to take him to school. I had to take him to get food. You know, I had to get him dressed for school. So, you know, that’s my brother, but I love him like he’s my son. I’m just glad that he’s a part of my life. I love him, and I can’t wait for both of us to live out our dreams.”

Richardson said he “grew up early in life.”

“I raised my younger brother, because my mom was working two or three jobs every year,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know my situation, they don’t know my story. That’s why I’m here, to share my story.”

Whoever calls Richardson’s name on draft day will need to have a plan to bring him along slowly. All four NFC South teams have unsettled quarterback situations. The Falcons (No. 8 overall) and Panthers (9) both pick ahead of the Bucs (19).

But general manager Jason Licht said Tuesday in Indianapolis that the Bucs wouldn’t rule out drafting a quarterback even as they plan to give another former Florida QB (Kyle Trask) every opportunity to win the starting job.

“It went pretty well,” Richardson said of his meeting with Licht and head coach Todd Bowles. “Just getting to know them. Talking about my life. Talking about ball.”

It’s unlikely Richardson will be available when the Bucs pick, but if he is it would be a gamble worth taking. They won’t have to play him right away, and the value of the position would trump their other needs in a year when they don’t figure to contend anyway.

“I don’t think he’ll be there at 19. If he is, he should definitely be on the board for (the Bucs),” said Trevor Sikkema, an NFL draft analyst for Pro Football Focus. “Especially since the team looks like it’s about to step out of a winning window and it might be a bit before they legitimately get back.

“I’m certainly hesitant because it’s never a guarantee that accuracy improves with that big-arm QB. But it’s a swing worth taking with how talented he is.”

There simply isn’t a quarterback in the NFL draft quite like Richardson. In that respect, comparisons are tough to come by.

Down the road, however, Richardson knows exactly whom he hopes to remind everyone of.

“I want to be a legend,” he said. “I want to be like Patrick Mahomes, and I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats. I will be one of the greats, because I’m willing to work that hard and get to that point. So, to answer your question, I feel like I’m going to be one of the greats in the next few years.”

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