This series will feature the top NFL Draft prospects with insight from the beat reporters that covered them in college. This article is just a preview of the full interview which can be heard on the Deep Slant podcast.
Name: Anthony Richardson
Height/Weight: 6-4, 232
Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
Sidhu: Anthony Richardson is just so interesting because there's not a lot known about him. He doesn't really have a lot of games under his belt and the ceiling is so high. So with that being said, how important is this entire offseason going to be for Anthony Richardson really solidifying his draft stock?
Goodall: That's the thing. You're right, there's just not that much out there about him, but the Combine, Pro Day and ultimately teams getting him in meetings is going to unlock quite a bit more. He's a player that, going back to his high school career, has dealt with plenty of injuries, some of them that really weren't attended to the way that maybe they should have been, especially in his knee. We saw this past year he ended up needing to have a full surgery on his meniscus because it never healed properly from his time in high school. And yet, even with that in mind and while he dealt with a hamstring in 2021 in a backup role, he was clocked rushing 21 mph on an 80-yard touchdown run. We've seen him throw the ball at the Manning Passing Academy, a good 70 to 80 yards with velocity like it's nothing.
So when you think about the quarterbacks that are taking over the NFL right now - and I don't mean to compare him directly to these guys, obviously there's a lot of work ahead - everyone's looking for that Patrick Mahomes, the Josh Allens, the Lamar Jacksons, whether it's mobility, whether it's throwing power, whether it's just something special they can do that your average quarterback can't do that unlocks a defense. I believe that's what Demeco Ryans actually said at one point in an interview, that's what the league is looking for. While Richardson has a lot of work to do, he's got maybe 13 career starts under his belt at this point, he's got a lot he can improve on. He brings that skill set to the table that you just don't come across often. That's where the intrigue is.
Sidhu: What is there to be gained for him declaring this year as opposed to staying at Florida for another year? He obviously is going to be in the NFL so where does he need to immediately improve the most?
Goodall: The understanding of his injury history, of where Florida is as a program, they're not exactly winning the national championships they did in the 2000s at this point. He saw what was in front of him. It was too much to pass up at this point and I don't necessarily blame him for doing that. But in getting to the league, I think I've seen a lot of people discuss the idea that he might need to sit and learn, kind of like how Mahomes did in Kansas City. I don't necessarily see that as the case. I think he's a quarterback that's really not that seasoned, but he's got these physical skills that if something breaks down, he can still do miraculous things. The only way he's going to fix whether it's making full-field reads or maybe putting a little less zip on a ball and throwing with more touch because it's misconstrued with his accuracy at times. But I think it's more about the actual type of throw he's trying to make that can adjust that, because he's got uncanny accuracy on deep throws and different ones we've seen before. All of these things really, at the end of the day, can't be solved by sitting, by watching another quarterback play. I think he's going to have to get into a situation where he's got some talent around him that can elevate him a bit and in return he just gets to work. He gets to work with a good coach on the things that he needs to improve on.
Sidhu: We've heard so much about his physical attributes and what he brings to the table. In your time covering him, is there a particular game or moment or play that really stands out to you?
Goodall: There are those highlight plays. There's that Utah spin, get-out-of-a-sack and the whole hoopla that amazes everyone, but he did something like that every game. I mean, against LSU, he broke off on another 80-yard touchdown run where he crossed the field, broke a bunch of tackles, fastest player on the field as a 6-4, 235-pound quarterback. You just don't hear about that. LSU in 2021, he ended up stepping in from his backup role because the starter was struggling. Florida was down a couple scores and he turned it into a shootout. It was a 49-42 game, in the end LSU won, but he was the only reason why Florida contended in that game from the second half on. There are a lot of moments like that. You pair them with the flaws. You know, there are games where his completion percentage was sub-50 and, again, I think a lot can go into that. It's not necessarily all on Richardson, but at the end of the day, he's just got room to grow because of the lack of experience, because of the hampering to his development along the way that no matter where he goes, he's just going to need to to get as many reps as possible to continue to grow.
Sidhu: We've heard the story about Anthony Richardson spraining his knee while dancing in the hotel and had to miss a few games. I know he's had the injury history with the knee, but how much should teams worry about his maturity or did he do enough to really dispel that criticism last year?
Goodall: I mean, I think it's worthwhile, especially because of how young he is again and how inexperienced he is and not to mention the ever-growing platform for college athletes. They are superstars now more than ever and that's a lot of stress on a guy. He's 21, he's going to be 22, I believe, in May. So he's certainly been in the spotlight for quite some time. But that was a perfect example, he was doing cartwheels and backflips, and this was the knee that he had previously hurt before that was not treated right. But regardless, he knew the pain was there. It was nagging him throughout the season and he took that risk and it came back to bite him. I think that that was a huge lesson for him. I saw him personally mature just within the true spotlight starting quarterback role he was in. There's so much that I can't answer there either because I don't know him too well personally, but I saw he wasn't doing cartwheels anymore for sure after that injury and he represented himself very well. He was very accountable on a microphone. From start to finish, I think he understood his role and how much it meant to the University of Florida, especially to be a quarterback wearing 15, you know? And all things considered, he conducted himself very well once he had that spotlight on him.