INDIANAPOLIS – Anthony Richardson smiled and laughed, bemused, if not mildly offended at the suggestion that he’s been assigned a project quarterback label.
While the imposing, athletic Florida star quarterback is one of the most intriguing draft prospects at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds, he also acknowledged he could still stand for more improvement in terms of adding polish to his game.
“I don’t even know what that means, ‘project label,’” Richardson said at the NFL scouting combine “But I’m willing to bring anything and everything that they need from me. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to be dedicated to my craft. And I’m just going to be a leader in that organization. So, just grow and continue to grow.”
One day later, Richardson aced the combine testing. He ranked first in every category, including height and weight and with a scorching 4.43 40-yard dash, 40 1/2 inch vertical leap and a 10-9 broad jump. Yes, that’s faster than former Gators quarterbacks Cam Newton and Tim Tebow when they were at the combine. And the vertical leap and 40-yard dash are combine records for a quarterback.
Nonetheless, Richardson is one of the fastest-rising players. He could even wind up being the second quarterback selected. Richardson has met with the Texans at the combine.
He did note that his receivers dropped some throws last season, saying: “I can’t also catch every pass.”
Richardson, 21, passed for 2,549 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season for the Gators. He completed just 53.8 percent of his passes. His talent, though, is incredible. With NFL coaching, perhaps Richardson can become a great quarterback like his idol and frequent comparison, Cam Newton.
Richardson is an intriguing player with a rare combination of size, arm strength and playmaking skills. He rushed for 1,116 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
“I want to be a legend,” Richardson said. “I want to be be like Patrick Mahomes, I want to be like Tom Brady. I wanna be one of the greats, you know, I will be one of the greats because I’m willing to work that hard and get to that point.”
At his size, he most closely resembles Newton, a former NFL MVP.
“You know, growing up, it was always Cam Newton for me,” Richardson said. “So a lot of people say Cam and I believe it is Cam.”
Richardson is diligently working on his fundamentals. He’s been honing his skills with a private quarterback coach.
“When it comes to touch, if you watch my film, I definitely can add some touch to this schemes,” Richardson said. “It’s just growing up, I’ve had a lot of people telling me I’m throwing it too hard. So, when I’m trying to lighten up, it’s not as accurate as I want it to be. So, I don’t care if somebody’s complaining about I’m throwing it hard. They better catch it.”
Richardson is popular at the combine with multiple meetings, including the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders and New York Giants, according to league sources.
That project label didn’t throw Richardson off his game at the podium.
He kept it moving and maintained his poise. He was very comfortable talking with reporters.
“You know, my guy right there said I’m a project,” Richardson said while looking at the reporter who labeled him as such. “So, I guess teams already know that I have room to grow, so they see sparks in me. I see them myself as well. So, I don’t have to talk about experience with them because they watch the tape, and they know I’ve been playing football for a while. You know, it’s just a matter of what level I’ve been playing on. So, I think I’m ready. I know I’m ready. They’ll get that from me.”
Many NFL general managers have emphasized privately that Richardson has the highest ceiling of perhaps any quarterback in this draft and the lowest floor level.
Growing up in Gainesville, Fla., Richardson stayed home to play for the Gators after passing for 4,633 yards in high school with 37 touchdown passes, 1,633 yards and 41 touchdowns.
“We can look at the numbers, it doesn’t look great on paper,” Jeremiah said. “ou look at the accuracy and this, that, and the other; and he has elite, elite arm strength. He is a rare athlete. You don’t see quarterbacks running away from LSU with 80-yard touchdown runs. He has big-time, big-time ceiling, big-time ability.
“If you want to fall in love with Anthony Richardson, you pop on Utah and you think he is the first pick in the draft. Even Missouri he made some big-time plays in that game. I know it’s a little bit of a roller coaster. I know he hasn’t played a ton, but teams are starting to look at some of these quarterbacks as lottery tickets, and this one has the biggest pay-out. That’s why I think you’re going to see Richardson go pretty high.”
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for Sports Talk 790.