American Football

Should the Rams trade up to draft Anthony Richardson?

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LSU v Florida
Anthony Richardson searches for a receiver | Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

It’s a big step, this Uber-athletic quarterback is flying up draft boards

Last week a three-part series of articles were posted in the Turf Show Times Fanpost section and offered some scenarios for the Los Angeles Rams to trade up in the looming NFL Draft, along with a compilation of players that could be available.

It’s always an interesting read when a good case is made for a proposition. As a general rule, my conservative nature precludes me from the risk of putting all eggs into one basket, but never, say never. Particularly when it comes to affairs of the heart.

Blame it on the NFL Combine. Any Rams fan worth his salt should have enthusiastic loyalty for star quarterback Matthew Stafford, he resurrected the deep passing game and delivered that elusive Lombardi Trophy, right? After watching reels of draft prospect film, I strayed. There are always flirtations and maybe even a couple crushes, but in the end you always go back to the one who brung you. Not this time. Matters only got worse when the yearly testing track meet had been adjudicated in America’s Heartland — it was near impossible to keep one’s composure.

It was the culmination of a life-long infatuation with mobile quarterbacks and I feared to write it or even intimate it out loud for fear of the scorn and wrath. But in the words of American poet Jim Steinman and brought to life by the stylings of Marvin Lee Adair,

“I couldn’t take it any longer. Lord, I was crazed. And then the feeling came upon me, like a tidal wave. I started swearing to my god and on my mother’s grave, that I would love you to the end of time. I swore I’d love you to the end of time.”

Introducing Anthony Richardson, dreamboat

For Rams fans, Richardson’s Combine performance cut two ways. First, when he put up those stellar testing numbers, he became everybody’s draft sweetheart and leapt in to the NFL Draft’s top ten picks. Good for him. Second, his ascension puts him way out of reach for L.A., leaving us drooling and arguing over who to select at #36.

There is now talk of him being the first pick of the draft. But that hasn’t always been the case. As the 2022 college season ended and the draft process began, Richardson’s draft projection was all over the board, anywhere from the first round to the fourth. As recently as late January, the over/under on his his draft slot was 16.5 and you could get +3000 for his chances to be drafted #1, now it’s +350. For the devices of this article, we are going to blissfully believe that he’s still a mid/late Round 1 player and the Rams could trade up for him.

His star shone brightly at the 2023 NFL Combine. Richardson measured in at 6’ 4” 244 lbs., with 10 1/2” hands and 32 3/4” arms. He blazed a 4.43 forty with a stellar splits at 10 yards (1.53) and 20 yards (2.58). In the explosion drills, he leapt a 10’ 9” broad and 40.5” in the vertical. He’ll turn 22 before rookie camp begins. His RAS score is an amazing 10.0.

On the field: physical attraction or true love

Where do you stand on Production vs. Projection? Could Richardson mirror the learning curve of Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, or Justin Fields, fine young QB’s that are showing the potential to be the next generation of stars? Or will he follow in the footsteps of Jordan Love, Trey Lance, and Zach Wilson, struggling to consistently move an NFL offense.

Richardson’s on field production leaves you still wanting. He certainly does not have a plethora of game experience, he only has 13 college starts and his career stats are modest. 215 completions of 393 attempts (54.7%) for 3105 yards, with 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. On the ground, he added 1116 yards on 161 carries, a 6.9 per carry clip and 12 touchdowns.

When projecting, what are the traits to look for? Everyone may have their own ideas, but I’m using Ron Jaworski’s 10 characteristics of a successful NFL quarterback: leadership, arm strength, accuracy, toughness, touch, mechanics, pocket awareness, size, mobility, and character. Right off, you can check the arm strength, toughness, size and mobility boxes. Richardson has a quick release and throw it 55 yards with a flick of the wrist, is put together very solidly, and has plus move skills maneuvering in the pocket and careening down field. His toughness explicitly shows in his ability to break tackles, drive for the goal line, and take hits in the backfield.

Leadership and character are tough to quantify unless you can get really close to the situation. Something that should count is his competitiveness. The Gators had a tough year and Richardson never came out of losing games, he kept the offense playing hard for 60 minutes, even when outclassed. The offensive line was quite leaky he was regularly chased quickly from the pockets and suffered 14 sacks. He did not stomp his feet, wave his arms, or point fingers, he got the ready for the next play.

Zeroing in on his biggest weaknesses, accuracy and mechanics, because they often go hand-in-hand. Ofttimes, young slingers rely way too much on their arm talent. Footwork, rhythm and follow-through extension can all be corrected with work. His inexperience shows in these areas, Some of his accuracy problems, particularly in the short/mid ranges are due to impatience, the vagaries of youth. On film, it looks like he was doing a lot of half-field reads and that will have to be expanded in the NFL.

Really good touch on his long throws, he would fit very nicely into the Rams vertical attack. Pocket awareness needs some work, but he runs like an elk, and running QB’s are the future of NFL offense. Yes, as a pro it’s imperative to make your reads and pass from the pocket, but that will boil down to more patience, technique work and experience. He has a pretty quick release and throws a nice, tight spiral from the pocket and on rollouts.

Long term relationship or broken heart?

If it’s a rebuild year, why not take a shot at a potential Lamar Jackson? Next year there is plenty of scratch in the kitty and a full compliment of draft picks, including the Rams first Round 1 selection since 2016. Richardson has explosive big-play potential and in L.A., he doesn’t have to start right away, he can develop under another gunslinger, maybe Sean McVay can draw him up a package of plays for the red zone. And when I say develop. I’m talking about 10+ years of top end quarterback play.

Yes, it’s a gamble, but a lot of his problems are inexperience and playing behind a leaky offensive line. I don’t believe he’s 2-3 year project, if injuries forced him into the lineup he is athletic and competitive enough to carry the team. Think upper-tier Bryce Perkins. 247 Sports covered the 2022 Manning Passing Academy and said two quarterbacks truly wowed at the event, Richardson and Will Levis.

It’s certainly a case of true love, but could the Rams put together a big enough dowry get him to the altar? Or will they end up a draft bridesmaid?

Hmm, did I say there was a #1 in 2024? F*%k them picks, right?

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