As Colts hint at Anthony Richardson departure, here are 4 major QB storylines heading to mandatory NFL minicamps

As the NFL Draft approached in April and a group of evaluators fell in love with the prodigious talent of University of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, a small undercurrent of reluctance continued to tug under a rising tide of praise.

For a segment of front-office executives who dwell each year on the preliminary intersection of tangible results, sustained growth, and a solid track record of quality game movies, Richardson’s meteoric rise , who went from offering a late advantage in the first round, to establishing herself as one of the five “cornerstones” of the top 5 “The choice created unease. For some, the heat around Richardson represented a case of opposing evaluators placing him in a “next Josh Allen” category – looking for parallels between an undeniable combination of immense athletic talent and stratospheric ceilings. But for a dwindling few, he also carried the same mistrust that seemed to be more prevalent when Allen was drafted in 2018: Like Allen before him, Richardson is a project rather than a product. And that meant that whatever franchise recruited him was going to be faced with a significant dilemma.

Patience versus possibility.

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Richardson could being able to replicate Allen’s trajectory, starting from the gate and taking massive action in each successive NFL season. He could be an MVP candidate in his third year in the league. And he could to be another outlier that succeeds against developmental odds and immediately presents its ceiling. Where he could being pushed into action too quickly, hesitating with poor surrounding conditions or one’s own freshman limitations. For every Josh Allen, there’s a Zach Wilson — drafted high and pushed too far, too fast, with unfortunate results. That’s what fueled those who went to the NFL Draft with concern over Richardson’s rise.

As one NFC reviewer put it, “The hype definitely seems a bit rich.”

Followed by an AFC evaluator who blasted him: “The worst thing that can happen is [Richardson] is caught in the top five. There’s no way he won’t be a starter as a rookie at some point if he’s in the top five. As a staff member, you know there’s not much chance of taking your time when drafting a player there, especially at quarterback. He needs time without those expectations, and he won’t get it if he gets caught in the lead in the draft.

Anthony Richardson is going to be a fascinating watch with the Indianapolis Colts.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Anthony Richardson is going to be a fascinating watch with the Indianapolis Colts. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Well, we know the story. Richardson was selected fourth overall by the Indianapolis Colts in April. And since then, it’s been the kind of reception that hasn’t exactly tempered freshman expectations. Owner Jim Irsay has since barked at Richardson, saying the franchise likely would have taken him to No. 1 in the draft and he would start games in 2023.

Outside of his lofty draft window, that’s what makes Richardson so intriguing this month as the Colts — and a handful of other NFL teams — head to their minicamps with a full squad with an assessment. important quarterback on the agenda. As much as boot camp sorts out quarterback battles, full team minicamps set the stage for the starting line in those battles. And make no mistake, the Colts will leave their mandatory minicamp (scheduled for June 13-15) with a good idea of ​​who their starter will be.

Right now it’s looking more and more like that player will be Richardson – which sets up a fascinating scene in the months to come. Unlike Bryce Young of the Carolina Panthers, CJ Stroud of the Houston Texans or even Will Levis of the Tennessee Titans, Richardson is the total wildcard in this draft class. The first criticisms of his talent? They were predictable. He has a mix of otherworldly attributes that keeps him in historic company with players like Allen and Cam Newton. But he, like the others, is also completely untested at the NFL level, which continues to tie him to the potential downside that is rarely mentioned.

Indeed, you could argue that the last top-five quarterback with similar boom or bust potential as Richardson entering the NFL Draft was JaMarcus Russell in 2007 – a prospect with one of the best professional days in the history of the league selection process. . Although largely lost to history, those who witnessed Russell’s athletic package more than 15 years ago remember it as an unfortunate footnote of failure in history. history of the league. There are a lot of details to go over, but the short story is that Russell was ultimately undone by a mixture of his own mental and emotional obstacles, alongside the then-Oakland Raiders’ inability to properly build a path that would lead him down. would patiently feed. He needed years working behind the scenes. What he got was basically one, largely because Oakland drafted him No. 1 overall and the pressure to get him into the starting lineup was commensurate with that spot.

Richardson’s situation with the Colts is certainly not perfect with Russell or anyone else, but given his extremely meager one-year resume with the Gators, there’s no denying the risk of this. who awaits us. Even if your assessment considered the glass half full, there were plenty of reasons to question his decision-making and his less than 54% single-season completion rate as a starter. None of this takes into account the failure rate of the much more developed top five quarterback picks, which has been remarkably high over the past decade. (See: Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Mitchell Trubisky, Carson Wentz, James Winston, Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles).

When you go through this list and absorb what has been said about all these players before their drafts, it shows how completely unpredictable success is at the NFL level. In this regard, Richardson is on schedule. He could be the next massively disappointing draft pick, or the remarkably rare top-five quarterback pick (à la Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence) who takes his potential to the next level.

A longer timeline will reveal this answer. But part of it starts this month, making the Indianapolis Colts minicamp an event to watch in the coming weeks.

With that in mind, here are three more franchises to watch when it comes to their quarterbacking puzzles…

Franchise execs won’t like to see this in writing, but let’s call this month’s mandatory minicamp the Trey Lance “pumping” session. We’ll hear stories of improved accuracy, mechanics, and footwork. But the skinny on the quarters room in June is this: Head coach Kyle Shanahan has the most confidence in (assumed) sophomore starter Brock Purdy, who is recovering from elbow surgery but has also shown his ability to meet the wavering expectations that are placed upon him.

As for Lance? Right now, the 49ers would be happy with some sort of improved trade lane that offers a solid return on the eye-popping investment it took to draft him in 2021. That’s unlikely to happen, but it remains hope at this stage. If Lance turns a corner this month and again in training camp, it will be an icing we no longer expect. By the 2024 season, the most likely scenario is that Purdy is the starter in San Francisco, with Sam Darnold locked in as a financially viable long-term replacement. Everything Lance does from now on is a bonus. It won’t be a popular assessment… but it’s the reality. He rots commercial bait until he proves otherwise. And this month’s mandatory camp will be the first opportunity.

With all due respect to the assessment of Packers widening Romeo Doubs in recent days, the Green Bay brass aren’t quite sure what they have in the fold with new starting quarterback Jordan Love. As the season drew to a close in 2022, elements of the front office clearly believed that Love was showing growth and a willingness to turn the corner when given the opportunity to start. The coaching staff? Throughout the 2022 season, he was less convinced – at least when it came to the measure against then-starter Aaron Rodgers. On the contrary, the coaching staff saw (and sees) Love as a significant departure from Rodgers’ skills and experience. This put head coach Matt LaFleur in the difficult position of overseeing the transition from Rodgers to Love. On the one hand, he’s spent the past few months tiptoeing around a simple fact: There will be a huge chasm between Love’s play and Rodgers’ play. One that Love might be able to get through with practice and experience, but also one that will take time and hardship. LaFleur tried to relay this, hoping to give Love some initial cushion in her growth. Time will tell if this actually materializes. But the first step will be this month’s mandatory camp. Love’s progression as a player will no longer be shielded from the media or focused through the prism of being a substitute. The franchise is now in his hands, and he will be judged accordingly. That alone makes him a massive storyline in June.

The front office is at stake here. General manager George Paton – who has had a great working relationship with new head coach Sean Payton – remains on the hook for the massive extension signed by Wilson, 34. In this era of protecting and extending the careers of the league’s best quarterbacks, it’s conceivable that Wilson might be able to pull off his overtime to the point of skipping the 2025 season (which would be the next most ideal exit point of his contract). But much of that hope rests with Payton, who will now be tasked with dialing Wilson out with the player Denver believed they would get before the 2022 season. If he can’t do that — if Wilson is a declining player who can’t be headed in the right direction – this will have serious implications for the Broncos franchise. A failure by Wilson to get locked into his previous Hall of Fame track would jeopardize the future of the chief executive and much of the personnel department. That’s how important 2023 is for the quarterback and the rest of the decision makers inside the building. And it starts with a mandatory camp which is the first opportunity to show that there is improvement on the table. Training camp will be vital for Wilson. But what happens in June sets the stage for the rest of 2023. And maybe beyond.

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