Not long after the Indianapolis Colts called Anthony Richardson to tell him they were drafting him with the No. 4 overall pick, the former Florida Gators quarterback started crying.
“It really hit me deep,” Richardson told NFL Network. “I finally made it to this level.”
What he does and how long he lasts there is up to him. But this much is clear: one of the most polarizing and perplexing prospects in recent NFL draft history landed in a good spot.
Richardson’s physical tools are unquestioned. His 6-foot-4, 244-pound frame is sturdy enough to take a pounding — and deliver one, too. His performance at the scouting combine (also in Indianapolis) was one of the best ever by a quarterback with a record-setting vertical leap and broad jump. A notable crew from the Colts saw him hit a roof support beam during his pro day at Florida’s indoor practice facility.
“There’s not been many players like Anthony Richardson in the history of this game,” Gators coach Billy Napier said.
But Richardson was merely the third quarterback chosen Thursday night because his production in Gainesville did not match his potential. He started only 13 games, tied with Mitch Trubisky for the fewest by a first-round quarterback since 2000. His completion percentage (54.7) was the third-worst of any first-round passer in that span, too.
That’s where the Colts come in.
Why Anthony Richardson could star with Colts
Indianapolis’ new coach is Shane Steichen, whose last job was turning another inconsistent young quarterback (Jalen Hurts) into a Pro Bowler as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. Before that, Steichen was the offensive coordinator for the Chargers, where he made former No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert the NFL’s 2020 rookie of the year.
The Colts’ offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, was the Jaguars’ passing game coordinator last season when former No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence improved his passer rating by more than 23 points and made his first Pro Bowl.
And Arizona’s Kyler Murray made two Pro Bowls with new Indianapolis quarterbacks coach Cam Turner on staff.
“We drafted him for what we think he can really be in the future,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard told Indianapolis reporters. “We’ll help him. We’ll bring him along.”
The roster should help with that. Former Alabama star Bryce Young will be expected to start immediately for Carolina after the Panthers took him No. 1 overall. The No. 2 pick, C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, will face similar expectations in Houston.
Indianapolis is different. Though Gardner Minshew is not a star, he has started 24 games over the past four seasons. His presence gives the Colts the option to ease Richardson into action, if they so choose.
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“He’s found a group that believed in him and wants to build around him,” Napier said. “Anthony is going to be a great Colt.”
Anthony Richardson in Gators draft history
Regardless, Richardson made his mark as one of the best NFL prospects in Florida history. He became the fifth Gators quarterback to be drafted in the first round since the AFL-NFL merger (1966) and the first since Tim Tebow in 2010.
In the draft’s modern era, only four Gators have been drafted higher: Steve Spurrier (49ers, 1967), Wes Chandler (Saints, 1978), Gerard Warren (Browns, 2001) and Lakewood High alumnus Dante Fowler (Jaguars, 2015) were all picked third. Richardson’s former UF teammate, tight end Kyle Pitts, was the No. 4 overall pick two years ago by the Falcons.
Former Gators guard O’Cyrus Torrence was viewed as a potential first-round pick but wasn’t chosen Thursday. He is expected to be an early pick when the draft resumes Friday night.
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