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The road to QB1: Anthony Richardson

The road to QB1: Anthony Richardson

Through just four games in 2023, Anthony Richardson has already impressed fans and fantasy managers with his natural talent and athleticism. With 2024 hopefully being his first full season in the NFL, Richardson will get a second chance to make a first impression given the continuity of Indianapolis’ offense.

In the small sample size he has provided, Richardson has shown signs of potential star status, but still needs to improve significantly to become a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. With only two full games on his resume, there are already concerns about resilience, especially since the quarterback has suffered two different injuries in his four active games, including an AC joint sprain that sidelined him for good.

On paper, Richardson averages just 144 passing yards per game, but he has only played two complete games and rushed for 211.5 yards. His true strength comes on the ground, where he rushed for 136 yards on 25 carries. Richardson also scored more touchdowns with his legs (four) than with his arm (three).

Week 1 of the 2024 season will feel like déjà vu for Richardson, as he will essentially be a redshirt rookie year. Not much has changed on the team, as all 11 offensive starters from last year are back.

Calling Richardson a potential QB1 candidate before he’s even played his fifth game as a pro may seem absurd, but it’s a feat that many others have accomplished recently. Over the past decade, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen have made the leap into the fantasy elite in their second year after a less than stellar rookie showing.

Of the names mentioned above, Jackson is the most important and relevant to Richardson, as the 27-year-old essentially blazed a new trail for dual-threat quarterbacks in fantasy. Jackson certainly isn’t the first quarterback to prove that a mobile signal caller can succeed in the NFL and fantasy, but he was the first to do so without elite passing numbers.

Richardson is by no means a bad passer, but you’ll never confuse him with Tom Brady. His biggest threat is creating big plays, not as a pocket passer, as evidenced by his 27-point fantasy performance against Los Angeles in Week 3, in which he completed just 11 passes with 44 percent accuracy. Following Jackson’s style of play will be key to his fantasy success in 2024.

Indianapolis’ consistency and chemistry will be hugely important for the former first-round pick, as seven of Indianapolis’ top eight receivers from 2023 will be back in Blue. Arguably the team’s most important signing will be the signing of all five starters from its stellar offensive line, which will be the third-best unit in 2024, according to PFF.

Aside from simply staying on the field, increasing his touchdown numbers will be Richardson’s biggest key to leading the fantasy quarterback rankings. His effort and efficiency as a runner shouldn’t wane, though he clearly needs to take a smarter approach in that regard to avoid further injuries. But even with the limited sample, averaging less than one touchdown per start will never translate into a QB1 result.

With his rookie season ended by a throwing shoulder injury, the first few weeks of 2024 will shed light on Richardson’s true season prospects. Passing has never been his strong suit, a problem that only major surgery could fix.

Regardless, the ceiling for “AR-15” in fantasy couldn’t be any higher as long as he can avoid another early exit.