Anthony Richardson should be off the board in a blur whether he goes number one to the Carolina Panthers, third to whoever trades up with Arizona, or fourth to the Colts. However, the Seahawks drafting Richardson as the anchor of their budding offensive track team is the best fit.
Why Anthony Richardson?
Richardson is far from a sure thing. During his sophomore year at Florida, Richardson bounced from Superman to offensive kryptonite to Clark Kent and into the Gators’ Superboy (Caleb Williams’ Heisman already earned him full rights to college football’s Superman moniker).
Various mock drafts have Seattle selecting Will Anderson or Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson with their fifth pick. Fundamentally that makes sense, but quarterbacks are the foundation of contenders and the Seahawks are a bit wobbly at the NFL’s most important position. Locking Geno Smith into a reasonable contract for the next three years removed the need to draft a quarterback, but there’s always the potential that Smith could turn back into a pumpkin. Like Kyle Shanahan in San Fran, Carroll is one of the few proven coaches who have the clout to drag two quarterbacks along on a twin track.
Pete Carroll typically drafts and constructs rosters with a theme. A decade ago, he was obsessed with tall, rangy defensive backs for his single-high coverages. That philosophy produced the Legion of Boom. In the mid-2010s, he developed a penchant for pinching mobile athletes whom former offensive line coach Tom Cable could nurture into effective blockers. The results were mixed, but that hasn’t been the case with Carroll’s Legion of Sonic Boom athletes, who are rivaled in pure gridiron speed by only Philadelphia or Miami.
The Legion of Sonic Boom
Remarkably, the Seahawks have accumulated speed without compromising their size. Two seasons ago, ESPN studied all 32 rosters and identified Seattle as the third fastest team in the NFL. That was before they plucked 6-foot-4 cornerback Tariq Woolen out of the fifth round. The 23-year-old addition to the Speedhawks showcased breakneck recovery speed in coverage, en route to establishing himself as a potential shutdown corner in the making, finishing third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
The speed theme has been even more conspicuous on the offensive end. Tight end Noah Fant’s field-stretching quickness is enough of a threat to puncture defense after the catch. Kenneth Walker’s 4.38 40 time was the third-fastest among 35 running backs in 2022, while his Relative Athletic Score ranked sixth.
D.K. Metcalf’s RAS ranked second among all receivers in the 2019 class, but he fell due to the perception of him as as an unrefined route runner. Carroll took a chance on his runaway train speed in a defensive end’s frame. Even diminutive receiver Tyler Lockett retains his sprinter’s speed nearly a decade into his Seahawks career. Philadelphia’s NFC Championship laid out the blueprint for Seattle to follow as long as they secure one missing puzzle piece.
A chiseled 6-foot-4, 244-pound quarterback — whose physical tools are a composite of Woolen and Metcalf — oozes the type of splash play ability Philly nearly rode to a Super Bowl. At February’s NFL combine, Richardson set new records in the combine broad jump, the vertical leap, and ran the fourth fastest electronically-timed 40 for a quarterback since 2000. Richardson’s perfect RAS score of 10.00 out of 10.00 ranked first out of 890 quarterbacks measured since 1987.
Where Richardson fits in
He looks like Derrick Henry, cruises at the pace of Bo Jackson, and throws like Jamarcus Russell. The last comp is a concern. Richardson’s speed could be wasted on him chasing down defensive backs after another misfire. If he can harness those skills, Richardson could be the flagship player for the NFL’s most explosive offense. Therein lies the Richardson conundrum. Richardson is a Rorschach Test quarterback. Carroll and general manager John Schneider’s true evaluations of Richardson are kept close to the vest, but there is reportedly a bevy of interest on the Seahawks’ end.
Seattle’s need for a pass rusher is obvious. After all, the aforementioned Eagles wouldn’t be where they are without Haason Reddick’s outside pressure, but pass rushers are in abundance compared to the dearth of viable Super Bowl-caliber quarterbacks. Besides, how much good has Chase Young been for Washington without a franchise quarterback after they passed on Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert three years ago?
Nobody expects Richardson to develop the canny awareness of Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow in the pocket, but Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, and even Justin Fields have demonstrated the heights raw passers can reach through modern NFL tutelage. Carroll’s revitalization of Smith’s career galvanized the Seahawks for a surprising playoff berth, but there’s a ceiling with him under center. Richardson’s bad habits can be tamed, but his athletic gifts can’t be taught. His floor is 10,000 leagues below the sea, but in Seattle’s case, Anthony Richardson is worth the gamble.
Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex