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Florida Gators in the NFL: What lies in Anthony Richardson’s future?

Anthony Richardson will enter the NFL with considerable promise — and a polarized consensus.

Syndication: Ocala StarBanner Doug Engle / USA TODAY NETWORK

He’s not in the National Football League just yet, but I spent some time this week talking to my NFL Network colleagues about Anthony Richardson. He’s going to be drafted in the top 15 of the first round — and might go top five, depending on the draft order, how his workouts go, and what numbers he puts up in individual drills.

And yet there are some team personnel who wouldn’t touch him at any point in the first round.

AR’s combination of size, strength, and speed is something you just don’t see, even among the most physically imposing NFL greats who redefined the quarterback position in the last decade. Cam Newton, one of Richardson’s most common comparisons, ran a 4.56 40 at the NFL Combine; Richardson should blow that time away, and probably has a stronger arm than Cam had. Josh Allen, another common comparison, ran a 4.74 40, but Richardson’s arm is probably a shade below Allen’s.

At the same time — as Florida fans are all too aware — Richardson’s weaknesses were too frequently on display in 2022, his only season as a full-time starter. Inaccuracy, inconsistent pre-snap reads, and technical and mechanical breakdowns in the pocket all consigned Richardson — and the Gators — to an up-and-down season.

In all my years covering football, I’ve never seen a player go from elite to awful as much as Richardson did from one week to the next this year. Jaw-dropping 60-yard ropes were shortly followed by five-yard passes spiked into the dirt, and vice versa. It was mind-boggling, and certainly contributed to the initial evaluation of Richardson not being ready for the league.

But as scouts and executives really dive into the tape, there are just going to be too many “wow” moments to ignore. Richardson’s arm is legitimately electric. There isn’t a throw on the field he can’t make and he’ll immediately join Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert at the top of the arm talent rankings in the league.

And all the conflicting feedback is vindication for both Richardson’s decision to turn pro and for those of us who thought he needed another year in college.

Going in the first round — and he will, barring unforeseen calamity — ultimately means his decision to enter the draft now was correct. And just getting drafted that high means Richardson is going to be set up to make generational wealth with his first NFL contract.

But while Florida fans will obviously be hoping his elite skills lead to sustained on-the-field success, there’s also reason to be concerned that Richardson hasn’t yet demonstrated the consistency he’ll need to play 10 years in the league. And if he ends up in a situation where he doesn’t develop and has a career more like J.P. Losman than Josh Allen — to name two Bills first-rounders — then those who have been critics today might get to say “I told you so” down the road.

This is not a discussion or debate that will end soon — or even by the draft. We’ll have a lot more on AR once the NFL season ends and draft season kicks into high gear.

The Return of CJGJ

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has missed four games with a lacerated kidney, but he is now eligible to be activated off injured reserve. That doesn’t mean his return is imminent.

He has said he’ll definitely be back by the postseason. In the meantime, if you are an Eagles fan, CJGJ live tweeting the games has certainly been entertaining.

At the same time, Ceedy Duce’s second career as a gamer is going well. But while he has since deleted the tweet, he was also flexing torching the Gators with James Madison. What gives, man!? Was Georgia Southern not enough for you?

Other Week 16 Notables

Zach Carter recorded his first NFL sack — or, well, it was half a sack in the box score. Looked like he deserved the full sack to me.

Teez Tabor made his first start of the season for Seattle last week — and, hey, merry Christmas, man! Now go out there and defend one of the best tight ends in NFL history!

Tabor made three tackles but was in coverage on a couple of great Travis Kelce grabs.

The Giants poached Jarrad Davis off Detroit’s practice squad this week. The former first-round pick jumps from one playoff contender to another, with the added bonus of joining the active roster and contributing to the playoff push.

Stone Forsythe had his most extensive regular season action in his career in Week 16. He played 45 offensive snaps, almost triple the 16 — total — he had played in 24 career games before Sunday. He committed a false start penalty and was mostly mediocre in pass and run blocking. Still, the Seahawks’ injury situation is dire enough that Forsythe may be in line for his first career start this week, and if he does get that nod, he will hopefully play a lot better with more first-team practice reps.

Player of the Week

Pretty fantastic Christmas when you snag a pick against the GOAT.

It’s so nice, in fact, Marco Wilson did it twice.

On the first pick, Wilson was thinking about a 99-yard pick six — and can you blame him after his first career pick earlier this season was returned to the house, producing that instantly legendary shot of him soaring in for six behind a dejected Andy Dalton? The second interception of Brady was more impressive, with Wilson making an incredible stretch to snare it before landing just in bounds.

I know there are some Gators fans who continue to bring up the shoe toss every time they hear Wilson’s name. And Wilson — rightfully, given this small, but vocal minority’s awful behavior — rarely refers to UF. But he’s a Gator, always will be, and one that’s gonna have a long career in the NFL that I look forward to following.

If folks want to forever define Wilson only by his worst moment, that’s their right — but I think they’re wrong to do so.

Play of the Week

Welcome back, Jon Greenard!

In his second game back from injured reserve, and the first time playing significant snaps, Greenard made his presence felt with that massive blow on Derrick Henry. He also had three tackles and a fumble recovery.

The Texans are better when their Gators are healthy.

Here are all of the Week 16 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):

The Good

  • Marco Wilson, ARI, CB

Week 16: 2 INT, 39 return yards, 4 tackles, 2 PD, 59 snaps (73%)

  • Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE

Week 16: 3 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 TFL, 1 fumble recovery, 30 snaps (49%)

  • Eddy Pineiro, CAR, K

Week 16: 3/3 FG, Long 40, 4/4 XP

  • Kadarius Toney, KC, WR

Week 16: 1 rec (2 targets), 8 yards, TD, 2 PR, 9.0 avg, 5 snaps (6%), 5 ST snaps (18%)

  • Demarcus Robinson, BAL, WR

Week 16: 1 rec (1 target), 6 yards, 1 TD, 28 snaps (54%)

  • Keanu Neal, TB, S

Week 16: INT, 1 tackle, 1 PD, 9 snaps (12%)

  • C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB

Week 15: 1 fumble recovery, 61 snaps (92%), 7 ST snaps (24%)

  • Carlos Dunlap, KC, DE

Week 16: 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, 54 snaps (71%)

  • Kaiir Elam, BUF, CB

Week 16: 2 tackles, 30 snaps (48%), 6 ST snaps (24%)

  • Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT

Week 16: 69 snaps (96%)

  • Brandon Powell, LAR, WR

Week 16: 3 rec (3 targets), 12 yards, 2 rush, 3 yards, 1 PR, 12.0 avg, 40 snaps (62%), 7 ST snaps (27%)

  • Van Jefferson, LAR, WR

Week 16: 3 rec (5 targets), 19 yards, 61 snaps (94%)

  • Jeff Driskel, HOU, QB

Week 16: 3/4 passing, 40 yards, 1 rec, 4 yards, 2 rush, 2 yards, 19 snaps (28%)

  • Zach Carter, CIN, DT

Week 16: 0.5 sack, 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, 12 snaps (21%), 3 ST snaps (12%)

  • Freddie Swain, DEN, WR

Week 16: 1 rec (2 targets), 11 yards, 50 snaps (75%)

  • Trent Brown, NE, RT

Week 16: 56 snaps (100%)

  • Taven Bryan, CLE, DT

Week 16: 2 tackles, 1 PD, 30 snaps (56%), 5 ST snaps (23%)

  • Max Garcia, ARI, G

Week 16: 76 snaps (100%)

  • Tommy Townsend, KC, P

Week 16: 6 punts, 41.0 avg

  • Alex Anzalone, DET, LB

Week 16: 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 68 snaps (100%)

  • Teez Tabor, SEA, S

Week 16: 3 tackles, 26 snaps (49%), 4 ST snaps (17%)

  • Stone Forsythe, SEA, T

Week 15: 45 snaps (59%), 2 ST snaps (8%)

The Limited

  • Evan McPherson, CIN, K

Week 16: 1/2 FG, Long 28, 1/2 XP

  • Jon Bostic, WAS, LB

Week 16: 1 tackle, 6 ST snaps (22%)

  • Dante Fowler, Jr., DAL, OLB

Week 16: 19 snaps (27%)

  • Malik Davis, DAL, RB

Week 16: 1 snap (1%), 17 ST snaps (55%)

  • Feleipe Franks, ATL, TE

Week 16: 1 snap (1%), 8 ST snaps (38%)

The Inactive

  • Marcus Maye, NO, S: Inactive (Shoulder)
  • Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Inactive
  • Dameon Pierce, HOU, RB: Injured Reserve
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, PHI, S: Injured Reserve
  • Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE: Injured Reserve
  • D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT: Injured Reserve
  • Jonathan Bullard, MIN, DT: Injured Reserve
  • Marcell Harris, NYJ, LB: Injured Reserve

The Practice Squad

  • Jarrad Davis, DET, LB
  • Jabari Zuniga, NO, DE
  • Antonio Callaway, DAL, WR
  • Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR
  • Fred Johnson, PHI, OL
  • La’mical Perine, MIA, RB
  • David Sharpe, BAL, T
  • Jeremiah Moon, BAL, LB
  • Duke Dawson, PIT, DB
  • Jean Delance, GB, OL
  • Jonotthan Harrison, ATL, OL