Ex-Florida QB Anthony Richardson is NFL Draft’s biggest wild card

INDIANAPOLIS — Anthony Richardson could have played a Sidd Finch joke on the NFL Scouting Combine. 

Richardson revealed Friday that he nicknamed himself “Cam Jackson” during his junior year of high school because of the two quarterbacks he most tried to emulate: Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson.

Seeing the 6-foot-4, 232-pound specimen hulking over a podium and anticipating a dazzling athletic display Saturday during on-field testing, it was easy to draw a comparison. 

“Growing up, it was always Cam Newton for me,” Richardson said. “But then when I got to high school, just seeing how dynamic Lamar was, I tried to implement both of those guys in my life. Just trying to make big plays.” 

As much as “Cam Jackson” showing up unannounced for drills could have set a draft on fire like the fictional Finch’s 168-mile-per-hour fastball had MLB talking after Sports Illustrated’s April Fool’s Day joke story in 1985, Richardson might do that all on his own.

Anthony Richardson
Anthony Richardson is the NFL Draft’s biggest wild card.
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Anthony Richardson
Anthony Richardson started just one season at Florida.

There is no bigger wild card in the first round than the one-year starter at Florida who oozes raw talent and fits into the tantalizingly dangerous “boom-or-bust” category for developmental projects. 

“I don’t even know what that means, ‘project label,’ ” Richardson said. “But I’m willing to bring anything and everything that they need from me. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to be dedicated to my craft. And I’m just going to be a leader in that organization. So just grow, and continue to grow.” 

The consensus ideal situation is for Richardson, 20, to land behind a veteran quarterback under whom he can learn from the bench without calls for him to start, similar to the way the Chiefs introduced Patrick Mahomes and the Packers groomed Jordan Love. 

The Seahawks (picks No. 5 and No. 20), Panthers (No. 9) and Lions (No. 18) make sense, and the possibility of the Ravens (No. 23) exists if Jackson’s long-term future remains unresolved.

He also reportedly met with the Giants (No. 25). 

“I’m able to do everything on the field — run over people, jump over people, run past people, throw the ball pretty well,” Richardson said. “Just tying it all together, I feel like that just helps me become a better quarterback.” 

Anthony Richardson speaks at the NFL Combine on March 3.
Anthony Richardson speaks at the NFL Combine on March 3.

Florida receiver Justin Shorter said Richardson’s arm is the strongest he ever has been around, which would include fellow projected first-round quarterback Will Levis of Kentucky, who was with Shorter at Penn State before both transferred. 

“He’s going to shock the world,” Shorter said. 

What Richardson lacks in experience after 13 career starts — he threw 393 passes, with 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and ran for 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns — he makes up for in confidence. 

He completed just 54.5 percent of his throws, but the Bills’ Josh Allen overcame college accuracy issues. Richardson also said he changed his mechanics to use his hips more. 

“I want to be a legend,” Richardson said. “I want to be like Patrick Mahomes. I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats. I will be one of the greats, because I’m willing to work that hard and get to that point. And so I feel like I’m going to be one of the greats in the next few years.”