According to ESPN’s Todd McShay (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts will select Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson with the 4th overall pick in his recent 2023 NFL Mock Draft (*which just followed the Chicago Bears’ blockbuster trade of the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers):
4. Indianapolis Colts
Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
It’s time for a long-term solution at QB for the Colts, considering no team scored fewer points than Indianapolis (15.8 per game) last season, the team’s fifth straight season with a new Week 1 starter under center. And the Richardson hype train is just hitting full steam, plowing through Indianapolis last week. Looking at combine results since 2006, he posted the best quarterback vertical (40.5 inches) and broad jump (10-foot-9) and then rolled out a scorching 4.43-second 40, which tied for the fourth-fastest time at the position over that span. Richardson capped off his big day by showcasing his huge arm in the throwing portions of the workout.
His physical traits are exciting, and if coach Shane Steichen can work with him on his footwork and accuracy, the sky’s the ceiling. On one hand, Richardson threw 17 touchdown passes — including three of 40-plus air yards — and rushed for an FBS QB-high 6.4 yards per carry in 2022. On the other, he completed 54.7% of his throws over 13 career starts. The upside comes with risk, and I do think he might need more time to develop before taking over as an NFL starter — which means the Colts could be active in the QB free agent market, too. But if the 6-4, 244-pound signal-caller can put it all together, sign me up for big-time throws to Michael Pittman Jr. and highlight-reel runs on Sundays in Indy.
The listed 6’4” 232 pound redshirt sophomore completed 176 of 327 pass attempts (53.8%) for 2,549 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions during 12 starts for the Gators in 2022. He also amassed 654 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns on the ground.
Having just blown up at the NFL Combine—even more than initially expected, there’s no question that Richardson is the most athletically gifted quarterback of anyone in this year’s draft class (and really, he’s up there with any quarterback historically all-time). His potential and upside is simply enormous at the next level, as he could become an NFL superstar.
That being said, not without significant risk.
With limited starting experience and still clearly developing as a passer, Richardson remains a bit raw throwing the football, so there’s still a fairly low floor here—as he may be the ultimate ‘boom or bust prospect’ of any quarterback prospect in this year’s NFL Draft.
As McShay mentions, he needs to further refine his footwork and accuracy, but that’s something that can be improved upon with good coaching and some development time.
However, in addition to his rocket launcher of an arm, Richardson has also shown surprisingly strong pocket presence for such a young and inexperienced starting quarterback. He also has the unique improvisation and playmaking ability to escape pocket pressure and extend plays.
His special ability as a runner is well documented, as he demonstrates vision, speed, strength, and explosiveness in the open field, as easily the best dual-threat quarterback coming out in this year’s draft class (and really in recent memory).
If new Colts head coach Shane Steichen is hoping to find his next ‘Jalen Hurts,’ then Richardson is easily the best option—as he can tailor a dynamic rushing offense that along with star running back Jonathan Taylor in the backfield, features RPOs, play-action, etc. that will keep defenses guessing, off-balance, and make the Colts very difficult to stop on the ground (*assuming they can shore up starting right guard). He has the arm strength to prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box too, as he can make them pay downfield if they’re not staying honest.
Even if it requires some initial patience (and perhaps growing pains in the passing game), Richardson has the youth, athleticism, and upside to eventually be a Top 5 starting quarterback in the NFL, and if there’s a ‘hill to die on’ among all the best quarterback prospects this year, that’s not necessarily a bad one to bet on all things considered.
Quite frankly, he’d be a fine pick at #4, especially if both Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud are already off the board for the Colts. If the Colts are going to swing, they may as well swing big and for the fences—as Richardson can ultimately be an elite franchise QB.