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Colts' Future Unveiled: The Rise Of Anthony Richardson

The Indianapolis Colts placed the future of their franchise in Anthony Richardson’s hands when they selected him with the fourth overall pick of the 2023 draft. Here’s why they made the right decision.


Set For Success

Anthony Richardson's athleticism has garnered much attention, but the 21-year-old Quarterback's potential extends far beyond his rushing ability. Richardson has unquestionably fallen into the best situation among the top three Quarterbacks drafted this year.


The Colt's receiving corps boasts three talented Wide Receivers in Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, and fellow incoming rookie Josh Downs. Towering Tight Ends Jelani Woods (6'7") and Mo Alie-Cox (6'5") are also in the mix and promise to be matchup nightmares in the red zone. Notably, all of these players mentioned besides Josh Downs are at least 6’3” and possess above-average athleticism.


Michael Pittman Jr. should be Richardson’s favorite target in the upcoming season. Pittman Jr. was in the 79th percentile in terms of his success rate against man coverage, in the 82nd percentile against zone coverage, and in the 95th percentile against press coverage last season. This guy knows how to get open and with his 6’4”, 220-pound frame, offers a big target for Richardson.


Josh Downs had a very high success rate against man and press coverage. He was in the 86th percentile or above in both categories. He does this through his sound route running technique and great short area burst. At the combine, he ran a 1.49-second 10-yard split (93rd percentile), a vertical jump in the 83rd percentile, and a broad jump in the 92nd percentile. All of these drills display the explosiveness he can generate and will help create space when running routes.


With Pittman Jr. and Pierce operating on the perimeter, Downs will likely fill in as the slot receiver for the Colts. Slot receivers tend to see less man coverage so he will need to work on his success rate vs zone coverage. He still had a respectable success rate of 80.7% which ranked in the 59th percentile but he will look to improve on those numbers in his rookie season with Indianapolis.


Alec Pierce will continue serving as a field-stretching Wide Receiver this season. He is exceptionally fast for a Wide Receiver that is 6’3” and 211 pounds. He showed that last year at the combine when he ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash and you could see it on the field during his rookie season.


Pierce had a success rate vs man coverage in the 57th percentile and a success rate vs press in the 69th percentile. He beat coverage on 68.6% of his nine routes and 77.8% of his post routes. These are the types of routes he’ll need to win as their primary downfield target.


That field stretching role should be very valuable in the Colt's offense. Especially if their new Head Coach and play-caller, Shane Steichen, runs a similar play-action and RPO-heavy scheme that he had with the Eagles. The threat of Jonathan Taylor and Anthony Richardson running the ball will force more defenders into the box and allow more one-on-one coverage for Wide Receivers to win on the outside and create big-play opportunities.


These three Wide Receivers have the skill sets they need to succeed in their role and offer Richardson an easy path to success in his rookie season.


Accuracy Issues

Richardson’s primary concern is his passing accuracy. He had a poor completion percentage in his lone year as a starter in college for the Florida Gators of 53.8%. However, there are a few factors that played into this low completion percentage. Richardson was 10th in the nation in terms of his average depth of target (aDOT) at 10.7 yards. A higher aDOT increases the difficulty of completing a pass. Richardson’s college receivers also did not help him. Of the 65 Power 5 schools, his receivers ranked 52nd in on-target catch rate and 58th in dop rate.


This should not be the case on his new team. Last season on 139 targets, Michael Pittman Jr. dropped 4.8% of his targets and Josh Downs dropped just 2% of his targets in his final season with North Carolina. Alec Pierce did show room for improvement with a drop rate of 8.9% but I will cut him a little slack with it being his rookie season and primarily running deeper routes.


As I mentioned earlier, most of the Colt's top receiving options provide a big frame and large catch radius for Richardson which will help with pass attempts that are slightly off-target.


Looking back, there were similar worries about Jalen Hurts having issues with his accuracy when he first entered the league. Hurts had a better completion percentage in college while playing against a higher level of competition than Richardson so there may not have been quite as big of a learning curve but he still needed to improve his mechanics before becoming one of the most promising young Quarterbacks in the NFL. Richardson possesses the potential to follow a similar trajectory, especially under the guidance of head coach Shane Steichen.


Refining Richardson's Mechanics

Richardson has also been working with Will Hewlett during the off-season, one of the best private Quarterback coaches in the league. Ted Nguyen, writer for The Athletic, spent some time with Hewlett where they broke down film from Richardson’s past season with the Gators. Together they highlighted some of the mechanics Hewlett is working on this off-season with the fourth overall pick.


Over-Rotating His Lead Foot

The first correction they brought up is how Richardson has a habit of over-rotating his lead foot. Over-rotating prevents Richardson from squaring up his hips with his target. If a Quarterback's hips aren’t facing the target then they are forced to try and correct the direction the ball is heading with their arm. Now plenty of QBs make off-platform throws but ideally, you want your bottom half to lead your top half towards your target.


Prematurely Opens His Shoulders

The second correction Nguyen and Hewlett mention is Richardson’s tendency to prematurely open his shoulders when rolling out to the right. When you start you’re throwing motion on the run, you need to create torque which generates from your hips and core. If you open up your shoulders early you lose the torque necessary to drive the ball towards your target. Hewlett wants Richardson to keep his shoulders perpendicular to the target until the moment he decides where he’s going with the ball. If Richardson can do that, he will be able to create torque with his hips during his throwing motion and have far more power behind his throws while on the run.


Let It Rip

The last correction that was brought up was Richardson’s tendency to hold back on a throw. Dr. Tom Gormerly is another mechanics coach that works with Richardson. He says, “Ant had been coached a few times at Florida to not throw the ball so hard because (his receivers) couldn’t catch it, which is a terrible cue to give a QB with a big arm.”


In the NFL, Richardson will not have to worry about his receivers dropping passes because he threw the ball too hard. Dialing back on passes can cause Quarterbacks to lose proper sequencing in their mechanics so they are encouraging Richardson to let loose. Throwing hard can reinforce good mechanics as you need to develop power from the ground up to throw the ball with force.


The common theme between these mechanical issues is that they are caused by poor footwork. Hewlett said that these issues are far easier to fix than mechanical issues that stem from the upper body. Pre-draft reports stated that Richardson is a quick study and has a great work ethic. I am confident that he will fix these mechanical flaws quickly and vastly improve his accuracy within the first two seasons of his NFL career.


Unleashing Richardson's Athleticism

Anthony Richardson's athleticism stands as his most significant asset, contributing to his dynamic playing style. Despite his imposing 6'4", 244-pound frame, Richardson possesses remarkable speed, clocking in at an impressive 4.43-second 40-yard dash, placing him in the 98th percentile. This combination of size, speed, and agility allows him to outpace defenders, evade tackles with agility, and overpower smaller players in the secondary. Notably, Richardson forced an impressive 39 missed tackles in his final year with the Gators.


Richardson had 103 rushing attempts for 654 yards and nine rushing touchdowns in 2022. Earlier I mentioned Shane Steichen’s affinity for running Play Action and Run-Pass Option plays. Below I charted how often Jalen Hurts was running these plays that Steichen dialed up and the production that came from it. Let me remind you that Jalen Hurts missed two games last season as well.

RPO Passing Attempts

121

1st

RPO Passing Yards

1068

1st

RPO Rushing Attempts

21

4th

RPO Rushing Yards

88

4th

Play Action Pass Attempts

132

9th

Play Action Passing Yards

1094

9th

With Richardson having a similar skill set to Jalen Hurts, and Jonathan Taylor being the threat that he is in the backfield, it would make sense for these trends to continue in Indianapolis.


Reviving Your Dynasty Team

If you find yourself holding the dreaded worst record in your Dynasty Superflex league, I believe Anthony Richardson should be your first pick in rookie drafts. Yes, even above the almighty Bijan Robinson. While it may initially seem risky, considering Richardson’s accuracy issues and Robinson seeming like a can’t-miss prospect, your running back room is probably not the main reason why you ended up with the 1.01.


If your Quarterbacks are lacking depth or upside in your QB room, investing in Richardson offers the potential for significant help. Richardson’s exceptional athleticism and promising skill set make him a prime candidate to develop into a top-tier Quarterback. If he manages to improve his accuracy as projected, we could easily see him climb the ranks into the top-five quarterback conversation in Dynasty.


Assessing positional opportunity cost is essential. Running backs tend to be more readily available in later rounds. No, you will not find another Bijan Robinson but I’d rather have Anthony Richardson and hope that Zach Charbonnet, Kendre Miller, or De’Von Achane fall to me at the 2.01 than take Bijan and roll the dice with Will Levis as my Quarterback. Plus trading for a potential franchise Quarterback in Dynasty is far more pricey than trading for a formidable running back.


While Richardson’s accuracy improvement remains a vital piece of the puzzle, the potential payoff outweighs the perceived risk. Embrace building your team's foundation with Richardson at the helm, setting the stage for future dominance and a competitive edge in your Dynasty Superflex league.

 

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