The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could “shoot for the moon” after the Tom Brady era as NFL Media Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein sees it.
Brady retired February 1, which leaves the Bucs with a gaping hole at quarterback amid $55.7 million over the salary cap, per Spotrac. Zierlein suggested in his first mock draft that the Bucs use the No. 19 pick on Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson.
“The Bucs are headed into rebuild mode whether they like it or not,” Zierlein wrote. “They shoot for the moon with the big, dual-threat QB from Florida who has boom-or-bust potential.”
Richardson leaves Florida after his sophomore season for the draft amid hype and unanswered questions. The 6-foot-4, 236-pound quarterback is fleet of foot and possesses a cannon for an arm. He threw for 3,105 yards and 24 touchdowns plus ran for 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 22 college games.
“Richardson oozes ability,” Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner wrote about Richardson, ranked the No. 11 overall prospect by the website. “His highlight reel from his lone season as a starter rivals any you’ll see from a college prospect.”
On the downside, Richardson threw 15 interceptions and six fumbles in those games. He also didn’t lead the Gators to victory at a high rate as the team 6-7 in 2022 and 2021 when he played most of his collegiate career snaps.
Bucs insider Jenna Laine of ESPN previously predicted that Tampa Bay will draft Richardson. In addition, Laine and ESPN’s Dan Graziano tabbed Richardson and Bucs backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert as the 2023 options for starter options amid the network’s simulation of all 32 teams’ offseason quarterback moves.
“Richardson is still a raw prospect but won’t be asked to start right away,” Laine wrote. “The interceptions are concerning [nine], but he has a big arm and plenty of mobility, and his ability to improvise when plays break down brings another dimension to the offense.”
Richardson Didn’t Finish Strong
Despite Richardson’s potential, JoeBucsFan.com raised a notable concern on how Richardson’s collegiate career concluded — his 9-27 passing performance in the season finale. That wasn’t an anomaly, either. Richardson completed fewer than 50% of his passes in three of his final five games, and he got limited to 3.6 yards per carry or fewer in all but one of his games against top-25 teams.
The one time Richardson rushed for better than 3.6 yards per carry came in a season-opening upset of a ranked Utah team. He rushed to 106 yards and three touchdowns, and he threw for 168 yards, completing 70.8% of his passes. After that, he never led the Gators to a win over a ranked team.
Richardson’s Accuracy ‘Scares’ Teams
Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds shared similar concerns about Richardson and noted the former Gators quarterback only had one season as a full-time starter. Reynolds noted that Richardson’s completion percentage dipped from 59.4% in 2021 to 53.8% in 2022 amid a bigger role.
“What scares NFL team’s about Richardson is his awful completion percentage,” Reynolds wrote.
Richardson’s scrambling ability doesn’t make up for it because he “is not even an elite scrambling quarterback like Lamar Jackson was at Louisville”, Reynolds noted. Overall, Richardson “will need plenty of work with his mechanics and learning how to read complex coverages” before he can be an effective NFL starter, Reynolds wrote.