With the 2023 NFL Draft just days away, there’s a lot of speculation on which of the top quarterback prospects the Indianapolis Colts will ultimately select with the #4 overall pick.
However, in a remaining quarterback group outside of the #1 pick (*presumably being Alabama’s Bryce Young), that also potentially includes Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis, there’s only one guy the Colts truly covet these days...
Florida’s Anthony Richardson.
I’m not the first to the party, but here’s why:
1. He’s a Physical Freak
At 6’4”, 244 pounds, featuring a 4.43 forty time, Richardson is the only top quarterback in this year’s class who can run you over, just as much as he can outrun you.
Not to mention, put you on a poster in hoops, showcasing a ridiculous 40.5 inch vertical.
Featuring tantalizing physical measurables, he’s the most athletic quarterback of all-time to test at the NFL Combine—yes, even over recent past #1 overall pick super-freaks such as Andrew Luck and Cam Newton:
Anthony Richardson is a QB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 10.00 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 1 out of 890 QB from 1987 to 2023.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 30, 2023
Just putting this out there early.https://t.co/g6dAq3ALm4 #RAS pic.twitter.com/hjB54xb3o2
We know that Colts general manager Chris Ballard loves high-end traits (i.e., elite physical attributes that can help players win ‘one-on-one’ matchups against an opponent).
We also know that his ideal offense is playing a very physical ‘bully brand’ of football by running the football with authority—featuring a combination of power and speed, and winning in the trenches up front.
Who’s the best rushing quarterback in this year’s class?
It’s Richardson by a landslide.
Featuring speed, power, and explosiveness in the open field, Richardson would be both a dynamic and dangerous dual-threat option in new Colts head coach Shane Steichen’s offense, by being similarly deployed in the same role of last year’s breakout MVP candidate Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles.
And look at some of Ballard’s recent high picks on offense: Quenton Nelson, Johnathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr., and Jelani Woods—all offensive players with a unique combination of size, power, and even surprising speed for their respective positions.
Which quarterback features that combo the most this year—and arguably ever physically?
Again, it’s Richardson.
He’s the type of player that can athletically impose his will and put his stamp on a game.
2. The Sky is Truly the Limit
Blessed with those astounding physical measurables, a cannon for a throwing arm, and still only 20 years old, Richardson has the highest upside of any quarterback in this year’s class.
We’re talking Josh Allen, Cam Newton prime, etc., as a Top 5 NFL quarterback and perennial MVP candidate—if it all truly clicks on the field for him.
First, in an AFC that features Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, and even Trevor Lawrence among others, the Colts have to find a quarterback who’s in that same ‘alien stratosphere’ talent-wise—and Richardson may as well be a martian athletically:
“As a player, I’m not human. I’m an alien,” Richardson told NFL.com. “I don’t think I can be compared to anybody.”
Second, this will be the fifth opening game quarterback the Colts have started since former franchise quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly (and shockingly) retired following the 2018 season. If the Colts top quarterback pick ultimately flops—regardless of whether it’s C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, or Richardson, Ballard and his front office regime likely won’t survive another quarterback anyways. At a certain point, team owner Jim Irsay’s patience will end.
Why not swing for the fences here?
A safer quarterback prospect may buy Ballard and his regime a few extra years for evaluation (if he doesn’t immediately flop), but if their ultimate ceiling isn’t that of a Top 10 NFL starting quarterback that can take a team to a title, what’s the point?
It’ll all end in the same way, even if it’s slightly delayed.
The clear goal should be finding that rare quarterback who can help carry the franchise to a Super Bowl and ultimately be there at center stage hoisting up an elusive Lombardi Trophy as confetti rains down, celebrating with their teammates, when it’s all said and done.
Anything short of that simply isn’t worth the selection, and in five years time, the Colts will be facing the same critical decision in another draft again.
3. Development as a Passer
With only 13 starts under his belt, Richardson is still very much a work in progress as a developing passer—but he’s not as much of a project, as some would lead you to believe.
Despite his limited starting experience, he already has surprisingly strong pocket presence, can improvise under duress, and can really flash the deep ball, even showing feathery touch on mid to deep throws at times:
On this play, Anthony Richardson drops the ball in perfectly over Keele Ringo. Can’t make a better throw than this. pic.twitter.com/Ji8TNHR7sd— Jared Stillman (@JaredStillman) April 15, 2023
Some of the accuracy issues are fair, some of them not so much.
Richardson isn’t the best short thrower by any means, but collectively, his Florida receiver corps also dropped some otherwise catchable passes—hurting his accuracy rate:
Stop looking at box scores only… pic.twitter.com/lU6MEfGnSt— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) March 28, 2023
Josh Allen had a 56.3% completion rate his last season at Wyoming, and Hurts was said to have accuracy issues as a collegiate passer leaving Oklahoma.
Both of them have improved in that regard so much that they’re now NFL MVP candidates.
Richardson used ‘too much arm’ on short throws when called upon at times, but he also was encouraged to take a lot of deep shots within the Gators offense—namely because that’s one of his biggest strengths already passing. The ‘short-game’ is something he can get more comfortable and better at with more practice and repetition.
He’ll never be Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or maybe even C.J. Stroud as far as accuracy is concerned, but with his mobility and big arm, Richardson doesn’t have to be. His ability to escape and extend plays will present additional throwing lanes and his big arm will force defensive backs to provide extra coverage cushion for fear of being beat deep at times.
With the proper coaching (we’re looking at you Shane Steichen and staff), Richardson can clean up some of his throwing technique—particularly as it relates to his footwork, but this is someone who can absolutely become a more accurate thrower in time at the pro level.
He’s already a formidable ball of clay as a passer, who just needs some fine tune molding in further technique (namely footwork) refinement.
4. Colts Actions Speak Louder Than Words
The Colts may as well be Gringott’s Wizarding Bank regarding potential leaks, as rarely—if ever does anything significant get out that Indianapolis’s front office wanted to keep quiet.
There’s a lot of recent smoke out there right now connecting Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and the Colts—but it begs the question of how much of it is actually true?
Such smoke could’ve been planted by Levis’s agent to raise his draft stock, or who knows, maybe even by the Colts to throw other quarterback needy teams off their intended trail.
Collectively, under Colts general manager Chris Ballard, the Colts have been a team whose actions have always spoken much louder than their words out there. It’s a franchise who the best chance you may have of predicting their next move is by following things like their pre-draft visits, Senior Bowl experience of prospects, collegiate team captaincy, and respective physical measurables at each position—and whether they fall within a certain threshold.
The Colts haven’t been often easy to predict regarding their first draft moves, but recent picks such as wideouts Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce, as well as defensive end Kwity Paye were relatively somewhat easy to predict given some of those aforementioned factors.
That being said, regarding Richardson, we do know that the Colts actions this offseason are:
- The Colts privately visited Richardson at least twice by chartered plane at or near Gainesville, Florida, in addition to his pre-draft visit, as well as recently hosted him in Indianapolis for a two-day Top 30 visit, and a reported final virtual visit ahead of the draft. Don’t forget the Colts took a short drive across I-74E to visit rookie wideout Alec Pierce in Cincinnati just before last year’s NFL Draft. Such private visits aren’t insignificant.
- Colts chief personnel executive Morocco Brown attended his pro day in Gainesville, Florida, who is one of the ‘big guns’ of Indianapolis’ scouting department and is worth noting—and did not reportedly attend each other top quarterback prospect’s pro day.
- The Colts hired former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen as their head coach, who just coached dynamic dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts. As noted, Richardson is the best rushing quarterback in this year’s class. Not only this, but then the Colts proceeded to hire Cam Turner as their quarterbacks coach, who previously worked with Arizona Cardinals mobile quarterback Kyler Murray, as well as one of the star pro quarterbacks Richardson is most compared to physically, Cam Newton. Yes, Steichen could have success with any of these top quarterback prospects—by tailoring his offense towards each’s respective skill-set. That being said, it may not be coincidental that the quarterback he most recently coached is Hurts, a player who Colts team owner Jim Irsay said was like having to defend a 12th player on the field when facing him last year—with his ability to both run and throw at such a high level. Richardson should also be a natural in Steichen’s offense that features a vertical passing attack, RPOs, and play-action—and Jonathan Taylor.
- Richardson also trained with new Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, earlier this offseason. Not as meaningful as some of these others, as NFL players train with non-teammates all the time in the early offseason, but maybe not a complete coincidence either—given the recent chain of events. These two could potentially share the same quarterback room together in Indianapolis next season.
5. That ‘Dawg in Him’ . . . the ‘IT Factor’
Like Hurts previously collegiately at Oklahoma, when watching Richardson, it doesn’t take long to see that he has the ability to make potential game-breaking plays that very few others can athletically, and often in big moments—flashing the ‘IT factor.’
Whatever ‘it’ is, the young man clearly has it.
With the game on the line, like #12 in Horseshoe Blue before him, Richardson has the potential special ability of putting on the Superman cape and carrying the team on his back for some select special plays—and often when his team needs them the most:
This pinpoint intermediate throw by Anthony Richardson is . As he’s getting drilled, still puts it just over the LB with touch/layering, velocity and anticipation. Right on the screws. LOL. GTFOH— Matt Fitzgerald (@MattFitz_gerald) April 23, 2023
…Are you not entertained?!?!? Freeze me in carbonite till the #EnEffElDraft Show pic.twitter.com/LMtcGD8Ltv
“Anthony Richardson can’t throw” pic.twitter.com/fy5tAWe7Io— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) March 5, 2023
On this play, Richardson has no time, avoids a sure sack and launches a 50-50 ball (I think should have been caught) about 60 yards in the air. That type of throw with that type of ease isn’t common. Neither is the ability to avoid the sack. pic.twitter.com/aOvdu2oqIt— Jared Stillman (@JaredStillman) April 15, 2023
Throwback to this insane touchdown run by Anthony Richardson— The Players' Lounge (@ThPlayersLounge) March 31, 2023
In a Colts locker room that already has some ‘dawgs’ in it, namely Shaquille Leonard, Quenton Nelson, Kenny Moore II, Michael Pittman Jr., Zaire Franklin, and Jonathan Taylor to name a few (at least if you can erase the last season and a quarter from our collective memories), Richardson can be a dawg in time who can command and lead the room at the team’s most important position.
This is a guy that’s going to put in the extra work and time, play through minor injuries, and lay it all out on the line to win football games—even calling out teammates who aren’t fully committed and giving it their all:
“I know I have to get better,” Richardson told NFL.com. “But I promise, I will work relentlessly to improve. And I will improve. All you need to do is watch the tape to know my best is still yet to come.”
He’s a guy the Colts can feel confident that’s leading them ‘in battle’ on the football gridiron every week, and that’s why he’ll be their pick at #4—and ultimately be ecstatic he slid enough to their pick for the selection.
Yes, there’s a lot of smoke to sift through right now regarding the Colts’ actual plans at starting quarterback, but despite what Ballard has said regarding the “lack of being one guy” Indy’s targeting atop their NFL Draft Board, it’s Richardson.
Always has been.