(CNN) As the NFL Draft approaches, there’s always a prospect coming out of college that everyone gets excited about, although it’s not the finished article.
Sometimes it’s due to the physical traits shown at the Combine; sometimes it’s because of their personality; or sometimes it’s due to their showing on their particular professional day in front of scouts.
This year’s golden boy is Anthony Richardson, and in his unique case, he’s impressed every step of the way.
Richardson had the fastest 40-yard rush time of any quarterback, as well as the highest and farthest jump at the Combine.
But it was on his pro day at the University of Florida where his big arm and versatile skills lit up social media and had teams drooling over his potential.
He literally almost threw the ball out of the building when one of his resounding throws hit the ceiling of the indoor facility.
Richardson has emerged as the most enticing prospect in the draft; reports have indicated that some see him as the next Josh Allen – a diamond in the rough who will take years to perfect but has elite potential – with teams up to No. 1 Carolina Panthers considering him. take.
It is these rough edges that could see it fall into the draft decree. But the “what if” perspective that comes with Richardson – and at just 20 years old – is a general manager and league coaches have been unable to turn a blind eye for years.
NFL analyst Lance Zierlein described him as having “the size, strength and elite athletic ability for the quarterback position…the potential to perform in a variety of offensive schemes. .. the strength of the arm to throw in the field and in narrow windows” in his draft official profile, but also points out his passing inaccuracy.
With potentially nine picks in the first 12 held by quarterback-needy teams, Richardson could find a new home anywhere in the league.
Richardson first burst onto the football scene not for his skills in throwing the ball, but for catching it instead.
In his first game for Eastside High School in Florida, Richardson was deployed as a wide receiver and was caught doing an extraordinary one-handed jumping catch, similar to that performed by Odell Beckham Jr. for the Giants of New York.
This video, posted more than four years ago, has become a harbinger for the athletics Richardson is now known for.
Richardson says he has a new tattoo that reads “1 on 1” to describe his unique skills.
“A lot of people say I’m from a different race. I always tell people I’m not from Earth,” Richardson told ESPN. “I’m gifted, I have talent. I feel like God made me different, and I just try to use that in my daily life.”
He quickly earned the starting quarterback spot, before deciding to attend the University of Florida; the middle school was only 15 minutes from her high school.
Richardson’s start to life with the Gators was disappointing; he spent his first year in a redshirt and only attempted 64 passes in his second.
It wasn’t until his third year in college that he put down a scorer, starting 12 games and throwing for 2,549 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions as the team finished with a 6- 6 with him at the helm. He also rushed for 654 yards and nine more touchdowns.
That means Richardson has just 13 career college starts to his name to enter the draft. According to ESPN, that would be tied for the fewest college starts for a first-round quarterback pick if selected in the first round, level with Mitch Trubisky, since 2002.
Despite the lack of experience, the tape evidence shows that Richardson has ability.
Richardson’s electricity with the ball in his hands is not limited to throwing; the young quarterback had touchdown passes for 45, 60, 73, 80 and 81 yards over the past two seasons.
But despite those stunning plays, both throwing and running the ball, Richardson will need “a lot of work to do to reach a potentially high ceiling”, in Zierlein’s assessment.
“His accuracy on short, single throws left a lot to be desired due, in part, to poor quality footwork and inconsistent pacing. Footwork issues can be fixed, but the challenge will be to determine if he can be at least an accurate functional passer to the next level.”
But it is this hope that Richardson can make the most of his potential that intrigues the teams.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Richardson’s draft stock went from a mid-first-round pick at the end of a college season to a top-five pick in a matter of months.
The comparison Richardson drew from analysts is with Cam Newton — a physically dominant quarterback with some accuracy issues.
In 2011, Newton was coming off a thrilling final season with Auburn, winning the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA championship, and ending up having a hugely successful NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, including winning the 2015 NFL MVP award.
Matching the production of an MVP is a high bar, but Richardson’s ceiling is such that Newton’s career path is what a team would hope for selecting him in the top five of the draft.
Richardson would also continue the trend of teams prioritizing quarterbacks in the draft who can excel in both throwing and running the ball – Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance and Justin Fields in 2021 and Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts in 2020 can all count mobility in their arsenal of weapons.
And no one wants to miss picking a franchise quarterback; nobody wants to be the Chicago Bears choosing Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes. While Mahomes has won two Super Bowl rings and two league MVPs, Trubisky is on his third team and has settled into a backup role.
On Thursday, Richardson could be drafted first overall or he could drop out of the top 10.
His rare combination of athleticism and a big arm is an intriguing prospect and could have GMs tearing their hair out if they decide to overtake him or could totally transform their prospects if he reaches his potential.