Gene Frenette: Anthony Richardson tutor believes risks of taking Gators' QB in 1st round are overblown

In the history of the NFL Draft, there have been fewer more intriguing/mysterious prospects, or one harder to properly judge, than Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson.

Seriously, how many players at the most important position in sports could post these numbers for one season as a full-time starter — 54.7 completion percentage, 23 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, one pick every 28 attempts — and still be viewed as a potential top-10 overall NFL Draft pick?

But the closer it gets to the draft, the more the stock of the ex-Florida quarterback appears to keep rising. And for no other reason than Richardson (6-foot-4, 232 pounds) being such a physical specimen, scouts and talent evaluators are willing to overlook his accuracy shortcomings.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) has the physical tools to be a quality NFL quarterback, but his accuracy issues and propensity to throw interceptions also makes him a big risk as a high first-round draft pick.
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) has the physical tools to be a quality NFL quarterback, but his accuracy issues and propensity to throw interceptions also makes him a big risk as a high first-round draft pick.

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In one mock draft, Richardson, who is training at Six Points in Jacksonville Beach and Davis Park in Ponte Vedra Beach under local QB guru Denny Thompson, actually went No. 1 to the Indianapolis Colts in a trade-up scenario with the Chicago Bears.

The Gainesville native is a classic boon-or-bust pick. He’s either going to make his next employer look like a genius, as the Buffalo Bills were for taking Wyoming’s Josh Allen when his 56 percent completion percentage in his last two seasons raised a lot of eyebrows.

Or if he becomes another JaMarcus Russell, the 2007 No. 1 draft pick whose robust physical frame (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) wasn’t enough to keep him in the NFL beyond three seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders, the second-guessing will be loud and unforgiving. More likely, something in-between.

Richardson’s workout Saturday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis may well cause teams to give him a more favorable review, and there’s not much question about his consensus high character, so he gives scouts a lot to like.

While other projected first-round quarterbacks Bryce Young (Alabama), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) and Will Levis (Kentucky) were enjoying the Super Bowl hoopla, Richardson stayed to his workout routine in the Jacksonville area while living in an apartment near the Town Center.

Thompson arranged for NFL quarterbacks, including another of his pupils, former Jaguar Gardner Minshew, to talk with Richardson about going through all the draft preparations. He’s convinced any reservations about Richardson from NFL personnel will diminish significantly after the combine.

“You can only go by what you see,” said Thompson. “He could have gone to the Super Bowl like the other kids did, but he’s been taking a championship outlook to this process. Anthony is obsessed with what he doesn’t know.

“There’s a reason they have this combine. The buzz is out about him. Nobody in the NFL is questioning anything about him. We don’t hear the same questions from NFL people that we get from the media. We know the kid is an elite processor [of information].”

Still, the downside is Richardson has played only 19 meaningful college games the past two years, mixing in some wow highlights with questionable throws and poor decisions.

He would have been probably better off polishing up his game by staying at Florida one more season. But with four teams slotted to pick in the top 10 needing quarterbacks — Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders and Carolina Panthers — it’s possible Richardson would do no better financially by waiting.

Clearly, Thompson may never have a quarterback pupil who will be a more fascinating draft study than Richardson.

“Anthony has an extremely high football IQ,” said Thompson. “What he’s going to do at the Combine on Saturday has never been done before. We anticipate him breaking several records. He’s going to weigh more than everybody thinks, throw better than everybody thinks.

“When he gets in the interview room, that’s when his stock will shoot up. There’s a reason he’s climbing up these [draft] boards and it’s not anything to do with physical gifts.”

As for his game tape at Florida being a mixed bag, the belief from the Richardson camp is the NFL will be plenty impressed by what it sees in Indianapolis.

“I don’t share the same concern about his college numbers because I’ve been through every play with the staff,” Thompson said. “One scout said to us a while back, ‘Why come out?’ My answer is, ‘Because he’s the best quarterback in this class.’ Nothing against anybody else, but I believe he’s as close to can’t-miss as anybody in this draft.

“He’s not Trevor [Lawrence], who played a lot of football in college [at Clemson]. In a perfect world, Anthony would have gotten more [playing] time. I get the uncertainty from that aspect. There’s not that with Bryce [Young] or C.J. [Stroud], but I think his physical tools make up for that.”

Historical draft trends are that whatever number of quarterbacks go in the first round, half will never live up to the spot in which they were selected.

One thing is certain: the enigmatic Richardson is making draft evaluators earn their money.

Keeping Roy Robertson-Harris was no slam dunk

By signing Roy Robertson-Harris to a three-year extension, the Jaguars are banking on the 29-year-old defensive lineman performing like he did in the 2022 homestretch. RRH had three sacks in a four-game span, none bigger than his seven tackles, two pass defenses and a sack in the 31-30 comeback AFC wild-card victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (95) makes the stop on Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) for no gain late in the third quarter. The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Los Angeles Chargers in their first round playoff game Saturday, January 14, 2023 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. The Jaguars trailed 27 to 7 at the half but came back to win the game 31 to 30. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

The undrafted free agent has certainly upgraded his value, but it’ll be interesting to see if Robertson-Harris can justify a three-year, $30 million investment. The extension is a clear sign that GM Trent Baalke remains serious about bringing back players he viewed as stabilizing forces on what was an average defense in 2022, except for an impressive 27 takeaways.

Keeping Robertson-Harris seemed less of a priority than retaining Evan Engram (ESPN reported the Jaguars would franchise tag him at $11.345 million), Arden Key or Jawaan Taylor, who is looking more like a coin-flip decision unless the Jaguars trade left tackle Cam Robinson.

JU attrition proved fatal 

After Jacksonville University nearly won the ASUN basketball tournament last season under then first-year coach Jordan Mincy and tied for the league’s third-best record, expectations soared for this season with a strong core of returning players, including top scorer Kevion Nolan.

But after a mediocre 5-5 start in league play, things got progressively worse. JU got swept in a 48-hour span by crosstown rival North Florida and proceeded to lose seven of its last eight games, playing themselves out of the ASUN tournament with an 11th-place finish.

The Dolphins’ attrition, which saw four players miss multiple games at various points and Nolan often unable to practice late in the season due to ongoing knee problems, simply caught up with them.

In several instances, Mincy was forced to use assistant coaches and others involved with the program just to have 5-on-5 practices.

“All those late-game situations where we had success last year, we couldn’t have that because our practices were so limited by injuries,” said Mincy. “Our practice plans changed because we didn’t have the bodies.”

Nolan, a first-team ASUN player last season, saw his performance deteriorate in the homestretch. He struggled mightily to produce instant offense, shooting just .253 from three-point range (16 of 63) in the last 10 games.

Caitlin is must-see entertainment

If there’s a more exciting player to watch in all of college basketball this season than Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, the floor is open for nominations.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 86-85. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 86-85. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

She’s a modern-day Pete Maravich for the women’s game, a hoops magician who puts up phenomenal averages across the board — 27.0 ppg, 7.4 rebounds, 8.1 assists for the Hawkeyes, the nation’s highest-scoring team at 87.5 points.

For people who dismiss women’s basketball as a less entertaining product, Clark plays a game worth watching. It goes well beyond her off-balance, buzzer-beating, three-pointer she hit last week to upend No. 2-ranked Indiana.

Seeing Clark matched up against top-ranked South Carolina in an NCAA regional final or at the Final Four would be appointment television.

It’s still Miller time 

A lot of unwanted attention is being focused on Alabama’s basketball program, particularly star Brandon Miller, for bringing a handgun to teammate Darius Miles to the scene of a killing. Miles was charged with capital murder after he and Michael Davis allegedly exchanged gunfire with Cedric Johnson, the boyfriend of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris, who was killed on The Strip in Tuscaloosa.

Crimson Tide coach Nate Oates has caught a lot of criticism for allowing Miller, who was charged with no crime, to continue playing without any repercussions and regrettably saying the situation was “wrong place, wrong time.”

Undeniably, it’s a bad look for Oates’ program. But Miller, who continues to keep on playing without suffering any penalty, probably should have at least questioned why a teammate felt the need to carry or possess a handgun.

If that had happened, it might have saved two lives. (904) 359-4540 

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Is it risky business for QB Anthony Richardson as high first-rounder?