The comparisons between Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson and Lamar Jackson were going to be inevitable this pre-draft season. Richardson turned that up a notch Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine, saying he's been making that comp for years.
Asked which quarterbacks he emulates, he pointed to the Ravens' 2019 unanimous MVP and former Panthers MVP Cam Newton.
"I started calling myself Cam Jackson in 11th grade. Just trying to make big plays," Richardson said with a grin.
On paper, Richardson's stats don't scream first-round pick. He completed 53.8 percent of his passes last season, his first as the Gators' full-time starter. He averaged 212 passing yards per game and tossed 17 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
But Richardson also adds a dynamic running presence, as he rushed for 654 yards and nine scores last season. He's averaged 6.9 yards per carry over his career.
Richardson has massive talent and a build that dropped jaws at the Combine, but analysts believe refinement is needed. Many pundits view him as a player that could use a redshirt rookie season before becoming an NFL starter.
Richardson was asked about being labeled a "project" and bristled at the question. It's clear he'll come to the NFL with a chip on his shoulder, not unlike Jackson did when he slid to the final pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
"I don't even know what that means, 'Project label,'" Richardson said. "I'm willing to bring anything, anything and everything that they need from me. I'm gonna work hard. I'm gonna be dedicated to my craft, and I'm just gonna be a leader in that organization, so just grow and continue to grow."
The flip side is that Richardson could be the biggest quarterback boom in the draft. His stature alone, more in the mold of Newton but with perhaps more speed, portends a special athlete.
"Anthony Richardson is the second quarterback for several teams that I talked to. We can look at the numbers. It doesn't look great on paper. You look at the accuracy and this, that, and the other," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said last week.
"He has elite, elite arm strength. He is a rare athlete. You don't see quarterbacks running away from LSU with 80-yard touchdown runs. Like, he has big-time, big-time ceiling, big-time ability."
Jeremiah mocked Richardson to the Detroit Lions at No. 18 overall. Other pundits have mocked Richardson to Baltimore at No. 22.
"I know [his tape is] a little bit of a roller coaster. I know he hasn't played a ton," Jeremiah said. "But teams are starting to look at some of these quarterbacks as lottery tickets, and this one has the biggest pay-out. That's why I think you're going to see Richardson go pretty high."
Richardson is reportedly doing well in in the pre-draft process already, including in interviews.
He's been training for the Combine in Jacksonville with 6Points and owner/trainer Denny Thompson, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him post eye-popping numbers in the quarterbacks workout Saturday.
"I'm just excited because I feel like I'm growing into myself and I'm just having fun with the process," Richardson said. "I feel like my body has definitely changed, my mental has changed, and my mechanics have definitely changed. So I'm ready to showcase what I can do."