MIKE LEFKO

Lefko: Too much at stake for the Seahawks to risk it on Anthony Richardson

Mar 8, 2023, 10:31 AM

Seahawks Draft Anthony Richardson...

Anthony Richardson of the Florida Gators before facing Florida State on Nov. 25 2022. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)

(James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Geno Smith just signed a multi-year contract extension, so it seems a bit strange to be writing about the Seahawks drafting a quarterback.

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But as more details trickled out about Geno’s contract, it became clear that the Seahawks left themselves plenty of room to draft a quarterback this season and have him installed as the starter by the first snap of 2024.

This is the wonderful time of year in the NFL known as “lying season” where combine excitement coupled with draft paranoia and hysteria lead to everything being overblown and overhyped all the way up until draft night. It’s our own fault, really. The insatiable demand for constant NFL news, even when nothing substantive is happening, fed by agents/coaches/GMs/anyone with a hidden agenda, boils down and churns out a player who becomes the talk of the offseason.

This year, that player is Florida QB Anthony Richardson.

Richardson’s dazzling numbers at the combine (4.43-second 40-yard dash, 40.5-inch vertical) and size (6 foot 4, 244 pounds) have fueled speculation about a possible rise up draft boards. The buzz words when talking about Richardson are “raw,” “upside,” “high-ceiling,” “electric factory” (OK, I made that last one up), but you might be able to sense a theme here: there are a lot of unknowns about how well Richardson can actually play the throwing part of the quarterback position…a somewhat important aspect of the job, last time I checked.

Untapped potential becomes the blinding factor that threatens to push away logic and reason when it comes to finding a potentially game-changing player at the most important position in football. The hunt for that rare breed, La Franchisima Quarterbacka, the franchise quarterback, leads to a frenzy among fans and faux GMs who desperately talk themselves into why such a player will be the one to elevate a team to perennial Super Bowl status.

Such was this case last year with Malik Willis. In fact, some insufferable blowhard and big know-it-all wrote such a column last year about why the Seahawks needed to take Willis at No. 9. Many of the same superlatives about Richardson were foisted upon Willis before the 2022 draft, including his likely top-10 draft status. Instead, Willis was drafted in the third round by the Tennessee Titans and was clearly ill-prepared for the speed and skill of NFL defenses after he turned in a thoroughly miserable season trying to throw the ball. If you don’t reflexively gag upon seeing that 5-16, 80 yards, and three-sack game versus the Chiefs, then congrats to you on being able to rid yourself of that awful memory.

My complaining aside, the point is that there were major concerns and questions about Willis that were ignored last year because of the raw potential. The same shouldn’t occur with Richardson in this draft, notably when it comes to his erratic accuracy. Playing in seven games as a freshman at Florida (one start), Richardson completed just 59.4 percent of his passes. That number dropped even further this past season (53.8%), when he started all 12 games as a sophomore. Florida play-by-play broadcaster Sean Kelley told Wyman & Bob on Monday that the low completion percentage is a concern when it comes to Richardson.

“That number should bother you a little bit, I know it bothered Anthony. Obviously, it bothered (head coach) Billy Napier and played into whether Florida was successful or not,” Kelley said. “His accuracy needs to improve…and then his ability to read defenses, too. That’s something also that Anthony still I think has a long way to go in learning.”

There is one school of thought that this is precisely why sitting behind a starter for a year or two is the right way to bring along a raw quarterback prospect. Sure, that might help in reading defenses and recognizing coverages but there is no way a lack of game reps helps in improving accuracy. If a quarterback struggles to complete passes in college how will he be able to do it in the NFL where they are required to throw into tight windows or “throw guys open” as we so often hear.

Richardson is also so young in terms of game experience, just 13 starts at the college level. The 49ers took a chance on a guy with a similar lack of playing time in college, giving up multitude of picks to draft Trey Lance, only to see that gamble fail to get off the ground so far through two seasons.

Brock Huard, host of Brock & Salk, joined Wyman & Bob on Tuesday to share some key observations he had after watching Richardson’s game tape.

“He’s got people in his face and he throws and he’s 45 yards, flick of the wrist like a dime, like a whole shot down the sidelines. (Patrick) Mahomes can do that, Josh Allen can do that…that’s about it,” Huard said. “And then the very next throw, very next play, trips to the boundary, covered up downfield just throw it to the flat, and he just airmails it, like just right over the 6-5 tight end.”

The Seahawks found a formula that worked with Geno Smith, they’re building around him and that league-leading 70% completion percentage. Anthony Richardson is a physical specimen, he might possess similar skills to what have Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen superstar quarterbacks, but the risk is too high for the Seahawks to use the rare gift of a top-five pick (or even top ten if they trade down) on a quarterback that has questions about whether he can deliver the ball accurately to his receivers.

You’re probably going to hear Anthony Richardson’s name a lot over the next two months, that’s the nature of the beast when it comes to quarterback prospects. However, the Seahawks can and should be able to bypass him without a second thought when it comes time to make that first pick.

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