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Is Anthony Richardson the NFL draft’s next Josh Allen? Or Mitch Trubisky?

He’s an athletic outlier. But his inexperience and inaccuracy are also outliers among first-round quarterbacks.
 
NFL draft prospect Anthony Richardson had a Florida Gators football career with few true comparisons.
NFL draft prospect Anthony Richardson had a Florida Gators football career with few true comparisons. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published April 21, 2023|Updated April 21, 2023

Even among one of the most unpredictable things in sports — first-round quarterbacks in the NFL draft — former Florida Gators starter Anthony Richardson stands out as a crapshoot among crapshoots.

He’s an athletic outlier with the size, speed, strength and arm talent deserving of the Carolina Panthers’ No. 1 overall pick.

“From a testing standpoint, we’ve never seen anyone like Anthony Richardson,” ESPN analyst Matt Miller said.

From a production standpoint, we haven’t seen many like Richardson, either. His inaccuracy and inexperience will put him at or near the bottom of first-round quarterbacks since 2000.

Though Richardson has no true peers, we examined the last 23 drafts to see which first-round quarterbacks offer the best comparisons for his athleticism, experience and production. Here’s what we found and how they fared:

Accuracy (54.7 career completion percentage)

Bills star Josh Allen is a rosy comparison for former Florida Gators football star Anthony Richardson's NFL career.
Bills star Josh Allen is a rosy comparison for former Florida Gators football star Anthony Richardson's NFL career. [ ADRIAN KRAUS | AP ]

Closest comps: Joey Harrington (55.2%), Jake Locker (54.0%)

Others in the ballpark: Josh Allen (56.2%), Michael Vick (56.3%), Lamar Jackson (57.0%)

Analysis: The only first-round picks with lower completion percentages than Richardson were Locker and Kyle Boller (47.8%), who combined to start 70 games across a dozen unremarkable seasons. Harrington was the No. 3 overall pick and went 26-50 as a starter. Vick and Jackson, like Richardson, are electric runners; they’ve made multiple Pro Bowls each. Allen is the best-case scenario because of how much his accuracy has improved. He has completed 63.9% of his passes since the start of his second season with the Bills.

Career passing efficiency (133.6)

Former Bucs quarterback Blaine Gabbert and former Florida Gators football star Anthony Richardson had similar passing efficiency numbers in college.
Former Bucs quarterback Blaine Gabbert and former Florida Gators football star Anthony Richardson had similar passing efficiency numbers in college. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2022) ]

Closest comp: Harrington (133.8), Matthew Stafford (133.3)

Others in the ballpark: Ryan Tannehill (134.2), Brady Quinn (134.4), Blaine Gabbert (132.6), Christian Ponder (132.1)

Analysis: A dozen first-round picks had a lower career passing efficiency than Richardson, with former Buc Josh Freeman serving as the rough midpoint. Five are/were at least solid NFL players, including Stafford, Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer. History skews this stat because passing offenses have improved as a whole; Richardson’s efficiency last year (130.96) ranked 77th nationally but would have been 25 spots higher in 2009. If we focus on the past decade, two Richardson comps have starred (Allen and Daniel Jones), two have flamed out (Paxton Lynch and Josh Rosen), and the jury is out on the other two (Kenny Pickett and Jordan Love).

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Athleticism (4.43-second 40-yard dash, 40-1/2-inch vertical, 10-9 broad jump)

Robert Griffin III didn't live up to his NFL draft status.
Robert Griffin III didn't live up to his NFL draft status. [ Times (2016) ]

Closest comp: Robert Griffin III

Others in the ballpark: Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Michael Vick

Analysis: Richardson ranks in the top three quarterbacks in the 40-yard dash, broad jump and vertical leap since at least 2006. Griffin is the only other to rank in the top four in at least two of them; he started only 42 NFL games and is now an ESPN analyst. Newton is a three-time Pro Bowler, while Mariota is on his fourth team since the Bucs picked Jameis Winston ahead of him in 2015. Tyrod Taylor wasn’t a first-round pick but also ranks in the top 10 in all three categories; he’s entering his 13th season but is on his sixth team. Desmond Ridder, the Falcons’ third-rounder last year, was also a top performer, though his four-start tenure doesn’t give us much of a sample size yet.

Experience (13 starts, 393 career passes)

Mitchell Trubisky only started 13 college games. One was a win at Florida State.
Mitchell Trubisky only started 13 college games. One was a win at Florida State. [ Times (2016) ]

Closest comp: Mitchell Trubisky (13 starts, 572 attempts), Trey Lance (17 starts, 318 attempts)

Others in the ballpark: Dwayne Haskins (14 starts), J.P. Losman (15 starts), Mark Sanchez (16 starts)

Analysis: When we analyzed first-round quarterbacks ahead of the Bucs’ Winston-Mariota decision, the number of career starts was the best predictor of success/failure. Inexperience hurts. Lance is reportedly on the trading block in San Francisco after two years. Kyler Murray and Mac Jones had 17 career college starts each; it’s unclear whether either will become a long-term starter in Arizona or New England.

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