Anthony Richardson and his fantasy value
Anthony Richardson is a football player who is generating a lot of buzz in the fantasy football community. Many people are discussing his potential and evaluating his value for fantasy purposes. Some fans of college football programs, particularly in the SEC, may be familiar with Richardson's skills and believe in his potential based on what they have seen from him in action. Others may still have lingering excitement from Trey Lance's performances in 2022. There could also be fantasy podcast hosts who favor players with unique names, like Sky Moore and Laviska Shenault, but fail to recognize the talent of Richardson and his generation.
As someone who was an early supporter of Josh Allen and wrote about him without irony, it pains me to see Richardson's potential being overlooked. In 2018, Allen faced challenges while adapting to the NFL after playing at Wyoming, which didn't provide a high level of competition. He also dealt with immense pressure and skepticism from the public. However, in four out of the last six games of that season, Allen rushed for at least 99 yards. The streak ended in Week 17 when he recorded 95 rushing yards with two rushing touchdowns, along with three passing touchdowns and one interception against the Miami Dolphins. In DraftKings, this performance earned him 41.5 fantasy points. Allen's ability to rush and throw deep passes has been a defining characteristic throughout his career, and I identified these traits as key factors I wanted in my fantasy team several years ago.
Historically, there have been two prominent archetypes of productive quarterbacks in fantasy football. One is the statuesque pocket passer who rarely runs but can throw for 300 yards and generate stats for his receivers. The other is the elite runner who maintains a good baseline in rushing and adds touchdowns, with the freedom to keep the ball anywhere on the field. Few players excel in both aspects. When someone does, they enter the realm of Allen, Jalen Hurts, and Lamar Jackson. There were moments of hope for Kyler Murray, and there are ongoing hopes for Justin Fields, who had a 0.34 EPA (Estimated Points Added, one of Sports Info Solution's metrics) and a discouraging -34.5% DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) in the passing game last year.
The fact that we are comparing Richardson to these players should grab your attention. He is a football player who can deliver results both with his legs and through the air. There is much more to say in favor of Richardson, who personally ranks as my number one player for the 2023 fantasy football season. But first, let's talk about his shortcomings.
I fully acknowledge that there are concerning aspects regarding Anthony Richardson's performance as Florida's starting quarterback in 2022. His 0.007 EPA (Estimated Points Added) per pass attempt is perhaps only slightly better than what one of the former James Bond actors could achieve and significantly worse than the 0.309 EPA of CJ Stroud or the 0.238 EPA of Bryce Young. It's also the same as what Aidan O'Connell achieved, who may spend his entire career as a backup. Richardson does, however, outperform Will Levis and his -0.005 EPA per pass attempt, but he clearly wasn't given credit for excess mayonnaise and banana peels in his system.
What about historical comparisons? I dug into the SIS (Sports Info Solution) database to find a few more quarterbacks who matched Richardson's profile: productive scramblers who entered the league without a prototype passing game. So, we're talking about heavyweights like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Jalen Hurts—the holy trinity of fantasy football players of our time who can both run and throw. All three faced different levels of competition, with Hurts likely better matching the caliber of teams Richardson played against in the SEC, which is important to consider.
In terms of EPA, Hurts clearly leads the pack thanks to his 2019 season at Oklahoma, where he achieved an EPA of 0.388 per pass attempt, significantly surpassing Richardson's performance. It's debatable how much credit goes to Hurts and how much goes to Lincoln Riley's schemes, which led to multiple quarterbacks being drafted highly. However, Richardson still falls behind Jackson, who achieved a 0.101 EPA in his final season at Louisville, and he surpasses Allen's -0.045 EPA.
Richardson is the worst of the four when it comes to interception rate per pass attempt, with a rate of 2.8% (which is also the NFL average). Hurts excels with a rate of 0.4%, while Allen and Jackson slightly outperform Richardson with rates of 2.2% and 2.3%, respectively.
Much has been said about Richardson's accuracy in the past season—57.3%. It's the lowest among drafted quarterbacks this year, worse than later-selected players like Jaren Hall or even undrafted Malik Cunningham. However, it's not significantly lower than Allen's 56.3%, Jackson's 59.1%, or Hurts' 60.4%—none of these percentages can be considered elite.
Richardson's catchable pass rate also falls within a similar range. His rate stands at 71.5%, slightly below Allen's 73.7%, Jackson's 76.5%, and Hurts' 76.9%.
Despite being drafted higher, it can confidently be said that Richardson's basic passing metrics appear worse than those of similar-style quarterbacks. One aspect in which he stands out is his average of 14.5 yards per completion. Lamar Jackson averages 14.4 yards, Allen averages 11.9, and Hurts averages 13.5. But is that enough?
Richardson's main weakness
This "Curious Case of Anthony Richardson," as Encyclopedia Brown would call it, must become even more hopeless before we can move towards the light. And it's not far off from his shorter throws, where the ball travels fewer than 10 yards. One can point to things like footwork or the weak supporting cast at Florida, where perhaps no one could handle Richardson's 100-mile-per-hour throws that can knock off a few fingers up close.
Regardless, Richardson's -0.44 EPA on throws under 10 yards is alarming, even considering the difficulty of generating high EPA when throwing into tight coverage. He ranks worst in this area among quarterbacks drafted in 2023, but interestingly, he is in the same company as the other three—each of them had negative EPA on short passes. Allen had -0.23, Hurts had -0.18, and Jackson had -0.02. For comparison, the best in class was the unburdened desire for higher education of Stetson Bennett (0.18), and CJ Stroud achieved an EPA of 0.08.
Accuracy on these throws is even worse. Richardson completed 56.0% of his short-distance passes, noticeably lower than Allen (65.2%), Jackson (68.8%), or the closer-to-average Hurts (75.0%). It's an unappealing statistic, and criticism of Richardson is warranted, although the poor metrics can be attributed to him having to throw under pressure on nearly 50% of dropbacks.
Good news? Richardson's future looks promising.
Anthony Richardson under pressure
Richardson thrives under pressure, and one area where he stands out is his ability to handle pressure.
He is an elite scrambler of the highest level, which we'll discuss shortly. But his low sack rate truly sets him apart. And again, he's not Stetson Bennett from the 33rd NFL team, where the pressure on him was minimal — only 20.5% and 2.1% sacks. Richardson faced pressure on 37.2% of plays, taking only 3.8% sacks, which is the lowest rate in the draft class, excluding well-protected passing specialists like Bennett and Stroud. This is significantly better than Allen (7.3% pressure rate with a sack rate of 42.3%), Hurts (7.3% pressure rate and 37.3% sack rate), and Jackson (5.7% pressure rate and 39.5% sack rate).
Richardson still trails his future competitors in EPA under pressure. His rating stands at -0.51, worse than Allen's 0.52, Jackson's -0.46, and Hurts' -0.15. However, Hurts would have been the best in this year's draft class with his result.
I would choose Richardson for his ability to extend plays, especially considering the level of resistance and his teammates' support.
Throws beyond 10 yards
This is where things get interesting. We've discussed Richardson's abilities, overall statistics, and some additional metrics that demonstrate his value despite the drawbacks. But that wasn't enough to elevate him to the level of our terrific trio. Those skeptical of Richardson had valid concerns.
But what yields the greatest impact from a quarterback in fantasy? The player's ability to create moments on the field and generate value through opportunities.
The picture starts to look better when we isolate throws in the range of 10 to 20 yards. Richardson completed them at a rate of 27.0% with an accuracy of 56.0%, surpassing Allen's 55.0% completion rate (on 25.2% of throws) and Jackson's 55.7% completion rate (on 20.8% of throws), but falling short of Hurts' 71.3% completion rate (on 28.5% of throws).
Richardson also trails Hurts in EPA (Expected Points Added) in this range. In his final year of college, Hurts earned an EPA of 0.83 per throw, while Richardson's EPA stands at 0.49. Allen follows with 0.45 EPA and Jackson with 0.40 EPA. Just as with Richardson's poor metrics, I won't praise him for slightly outperforming these guys in other areas. But I reiterate that he remains within the same statistical range, where you can say "just as good, if not slightly better." By the same EPA per throw metric, he surpasses Stroud's 0.44 but falls short of Young's 0.57.
As we move beyond the 20-yard mark, the picture becomes even more intriguing. You may have seen Richardson's cannon throws at the combine, but the statistics further illustrate his strength. He completed throws of 20 yards or more at a rate of 15.4%, more often than Allen (15.1%) and Jackson (14.9%), but less frequently than Hurts (18.8% in brilliantly designed schemes). However, Richardson leads the pack in EPA per throw with a rating of 0.78. Hurts has an EPA of 0.76, Allen's is 0.02, and Lamar Jackson's is 0.07.
Richardson's passing accuracy in these cases is also impressive at 42.1%. It's comparable to Allen's 31.3% and Jackson's 28.9%, but falls short of Hurts' 50.0% accuracy.
Richardson in the Scrambling Game
After considering everything mentioned above, we should have a better understanding of Richardson as a passer with many nuances, moving away from the debate of "he can't pass" versus "he can throw." Now let's focus on his main quality as a player — his ability to scramble.
Scrambling provides a certain baseline for fantasy quarterback scoring and creates enormous opportunities for the passing game in the right scheme (in contrast to the one that "Chicago" employs with Justin Fields).
In the 2023 draft class, there isn't a scrambler on the same level as Richardson. All quarterbacks, except Dorian Thompson-Robinson, have a negative EPA per rush attempt, while DTR's EPA stands at a mere 0.088.
Jackson and Hurts ran a lot in their final college seasons. Jackson averaged 17.9 rushing attempts per game, while Hurts averaged 16.6. Allen also ran more frequently than Richardson, with 9.1 attempts compared to Richardson's 8.3.
As a scrambler, Allen was the weakest of the four. He averaged just 2.2 yards per rushing attempt (considering the sack rate of 7.3% he faced). He avoided tackles in 14.3% of cases and scored touchdowns on 5.5% of attempts, with a lackluster -0.162 EPA per rush attempt. While he was physically ready for such play, his productivity left much to be desired.
Hurts performed significantly better. On average, he gained 5.6 yards per rush attempt and evaded tackles in 21.9% of cases (the same rate as Bryce Young). He scored touchdowns on 8.6% of attempts, and his EPA per rush attempt was a respectable 0.058.
Jackson's success at Louisville comes as no surprise, especially considering how some people predicted his career as a receiver or running back. He gained an average of 6.9 yards per attempt, avoided tackles with a fantastic rate of 31.9% (given that everyone knew how he would play), and scored touchdowns at a rate of 7.8%. All of this adds up to 0.159 EPA per rush attempt.
Last season, Richardson averaged 6.4 yards per rushing attempt. He evaded tackles at a rate of 38.0%, higher than any running back in the draft class. Only a pair of Texas backs, Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, came close with a rate of 33.3%. Richardson scored touchdowns on 9.0% of attempts, and his EPA per rush attempt of 0.178 is the highest among all quarterbacks you can remember (we're not discussing Fields in detail, but in his last year at Ohio State, his EPA per rush attempt was -0.008).
In short, Richardson stands out as an outstanding runner in this highly worthy company. Considering that the rate of avoided tackles is a statistic that hardly changes when transitioning to the NFL, as well as his impressive athleticism and size, it's hard to imagine him being anything but excellent in the role of a scrambler.
The reason for writing this article is simple: I have seen too much hate towards Richardson in football and fantasy communities. There are his fans as well, but I'm truly surprised at how people can have a negative perception of this guy, considering how remarkable he appears off the field.
And I genuinely believe that much of it stems from a lack of understanding. If you look at the basic stats or simply see a rough error on video, I can understand someone concluding, "He's bad." He skyrockets in the draft, people extol his virtues, and he becomes something like a meme cryptocurrency experiencing its moment in the spotlight. Before believing, you want to see it with your own eyes.
From my perspective, there isn't a player more suited to the modern NFL or fantasy football. There isn't a single drafted quarterback who found himself in a better situation with a coach like Shane Steichen, who as an offensive coordinator mentored Justin Herbert in the Chargers and Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. Anthony Richardson turned 21 in May, and he could become the premier transformative NFL talent for the next decade.
Do you want to be on the right side? Or do you prefer to go on Twitter and write that Richardson will fail, even though the season is still months away?
I have done everything possible to present the essence of the matter. The choice is yours.