Anthony Richardson Comps Include Josh Allen, and That Is the Only One That Matters

Anthony Richardson comps to several quarterbacks, but none makes more sense than Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen.

It’s already happening. The “bust” label has been bestowed upon Anthony Richardson before ever taking an NFL snap. Fans and analysts far and wide are speaking in absolutes, doing their absolute best to eventually land in Freezing Cold Takes’ second book. In reality, nobody knows what will happen in the NFL Draft.

Anthony Richardson NFL Comps

Maybe Bryce Young flops in (assuming) Carolina. Maybe Dorian Thompson-Robinson or Clayton Tune become the best QB from the class. While that’s a very unlikely scenario, the entire draft process is a wild card. And prospect evaluation for the NFL Draft has surprisingly little to do with how good or bad a quarterback was in college.

Comps usually stink. There is always some sort of fatal flaw with each style, floor, or ceiling comp that makes the comparison miss badly. Although Will Levis comps favorably to Ryan Tannehill, he has a much bigger arm than Tannehill. Any Young comp is wrong, simply because we’ve never seen someone like him before.

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But Richardson’s comp is only imperfect in that unlike Josh Allen, who is a great athlete, Richardson is a one-of-one athlete. We’ve never seen someone like Richardson before, including the likes of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, or even Lamar Jackson.

And no, that athleticism and high-velocity rifle that’s attached to his shoulder are not enough on their own to ensure Richardson has a successful NFL career. The game is as mental as it is physical, a tale told by many who came and failed before him. But the way Allen found growth and the way NFL offenses have embraced the mobile QB offers Richardson a clear pathway, and a decently high floor even without growth in his accuracy.

Josh Allen and Anthony Richardson Similarities Are Wild

Let’s begin with the low-hanging fruit. I’ve consistently described Allen as being the 12-year-old on the playground who hit puberty before everyone else. Even on an NFL field, he looks like a grown man amongst teenagers, even with his baby face.

It’s hard to imagine, but Richardson is even more impressive on paper. While he’s about a half-inch shorter, Richardson weighed in at 244 pounds to Allen’s 237 at the NFL Combine.

But the on-paper numbers are less important than the visuals. Justin Herbert weighed in just one pound lighter than Allen, but the way each player presents aesthetically is very different. Herbert is lankier, and he’s a far less physical presence on the pitch.

Allen could have been a tight end. There’s no doubt that as I watched him throw a pass through the uprights of Ladd-Peebles Stadium during a red-zone 7-on-7 drill I said out loud that he probably should consider the move.

Accuracy is not a black-and-white thing. While some players never become any more accurate than they were in college, there are a few things we need to look at first.

Chiefly, how do the passers function mechanically, and more importantly, what does their accuracy look like in different situations? Additionally, are we looking at overhauling upper body or lower body mechanics because it’s a whole lot easier to fix footwork than rebuild a throwing motion?

With Richardson, the upper body mechanics are there. You don’t have to believe me, but you should believe Frank Reich.

“There are plays and throws all over the tape that scream top pick, top of the draft pick,” Reich said during the NFL Combine. “That’s a credit to him. I think he has upper body mechanics that are really solid. Obviously, his completion percentage is lower than you want at this level, but I don’t get too discouraged [about] things like that. I see a lot of upside.

“Talking to him a little bit at the Combine, you could tell how smart of a guy he is. A guy like that, without totally getting into it, the more experience he gets, he’s a guy that you feel like he’s going to get better fast.”

That takes us to the next likeness, college completion rate.

Allen completed 56.2% of his 649 college attempts. Richardson completed 54.7% of his 393 attempts. Allen famously never completed 60% of his passes in any season from high school until his third season as a pro, when he sprung from 58.8% to 69.2%. In 2021 and 2022, he completed 63.3% of his passes.

Even at the NFL level, it took time for Allen’s mechanical improvements to manifest. It took time to click for him. It’ll likely take time for Richardson as well. People don’t become experts in things overnight, and Richardson is already entering as an inexperienced player.

It will take bringing his training onto the field under live pressure and against real coverage. But unlike Allen, Richardson is entering the league in 2023, and the NFL is no longer ignoring the importance of the QB run or a passer’s ability to get on the hoof and use their legs after dropping back to pass.

Richardson had nine touchdowns on the ground in his one season as a starter in college and averaged over six yards per carry. It’s important to remember that in college, sacks are counted against a quarterback’s rushing yards, making the mark all the more impressive.

Anthony Richardson Comps Include Josh Allen, and That Is the Only One That Matters
Nov 6, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) scores a first quarter touchdown on a keeper as the New York Jets are unable to stop him at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

While Allen and Richardson have similarities as runners, Allen is more of a brute-force, straightforward runner. Meanwhile, Richardson can also show that physicality but possesses far more grace as a runner, similar to Justin Fields.

Once there was a shift in Chicago’s deployment of Fields in 2022, allowing him to simply be the freaky athlete he is, there appeared a hard floor on him. Think about how untenable the situation in Chicago was a season ago. They had one of the league’s worst offensive lines and only Darnell Mooney to consistently catch passes. Still, Fields was able to be just slightly below average in adjusted EPA/play (18th) over the back half of the season.

Richardson has game-breaking ability, just as Allen does. In fact, the Buffalo QB is so physically dominant that nobody holds it against him that he led the league in turnovers (19) and was third in fumbles (13).

But where Richardson and Allen differ most as prospects is above the shoulders. There are certainly decisions that make you scratch your head with Richardson, but there are way more positives than negatives.

His process is there, it just needs sharpening by experience. While watching his tape, you can see Richardson going through it post-snap. There are flashes of anticipatory passing and the ability to work through progressions. But it hasn’t arrived on a consistent basis.

Allen was far more inconsistent in his post-snap processing while at Wyoming, even with an extra year of experience under his belt. This is an area I’d expect Richardson to improve in quickly, while things like lower body mechanics and accuracy might take time before clicking all at once.

And we haven’t even mentioned the arm talent the two share yet, including the “talent” of throwing 99 MPH fastballs when a changeup was the right pitch. Richardson isn’t completely one-speed, but he’ll need to become better at understanding situational trajectory and pace, just like Allen had to.

Scoring high on the S2 Cognitive Test doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be Drew Brees when it comes to picking apart opposing defenses with his mind. However, scoring well on it at least shows that Richardson has the physical ability to process things within the time it takes for a human to blink.

“They want to see how fast you can recall things and notice certain things,” Richardson said. “On one of the [questions], you had to look at six balls that they highlighted, and they move all over the screen. You had to pick out the balls and highlight them. I’m like, ‘How can I focus on six balls at once?’”

Shane Steichen said something about quarterbacks that makes me think Richardson could be the man for Indianapolis if he’s still available when they pick.

“Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, and Philip Rivers, they all have one thing in common,” Steichen told reporters. “They’re obsessed with their craft. If you can find that in a quarterback, you’ll probably have some success.”

This is another area in which it seems Allen and Richardson are similar. If Allen didn’t eat, sleep, and breathe football, he wouldn’t have made the mechanical strides we’ve seen him make with the help of Jordan Palmer.

If Richardson’s Players’ Tribune entry is any indication, the Florida product will continue working tirelessly to become the best in the game.

The final piece of the puzzle connecting Allen and Richardson is creation. For the same reason Allen is not a favorable comp to Levis, he is for Richardson. While Richardson would rather win from the pocket as a QB, he continuously flashed the creativity to extend plays and deliver passes on the move.

Like Allen, there were times he struggled with decision-making and accuracy when things broke down. But his physical ability makes him a touchdown threat every time he leaves the pocket.

There’s no guarantee that Richardson sees the same trajectory as Allen. In the end, that’ll be up to him as the individual and whichever organization selects him high in the first round. But given everything we know about Richardson and everything we’ve seen Allen do, there’s no reason not to take the swing on what looks to be generational upside.

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