Photo: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
The Toronto Argonauts have signed 6’0’, 212lb American WR A.J. Richardson.
Richardson played four years at Boise State and spent two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
He has never been a receiver whose athleticism caused heads to turn, but he’s not really missing anything either. He red-shirted at Boise State and was barely involved in the offense his next two years, stuck behind current Miami Dolphins WR Cedrick Wilson and Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State’s all-time leader in… well, everything. When they left in his Junior year, Richardson’s play and playing time took off. As a senior, he had 54 receptions for 825 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Richardson went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft and signed with the Cardinals where he beat out drafted players for a practice squad spot on a team stacked with talented receivers.
I knew I recognized his name when the Argos’ signing was announced, but it wasn’t until I started digging into film and saw one particular play that I remembered why. In 2018, against Shane Richards and the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Richardson caught a one-handed, juggling, toe-tapping touchdown that was unanimously nominated as a catch of the year candidate.
He has some solid NFL preseason film to go along with his great tape at Boise State. There’s one game in particular I’ve taken a lot from, and that was a preseason tilt against Denver where he brought in 5 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Here’s what I see… He’s clearly an intelligent player. His reads are immediate and accurate. He’s also a very strong route runner with great technique. He rarely drops a pass, and he’ll make sensational grabs, but it’s not effortless and the catches aren’t always clean. I’d love it if he were a step faster or a bit more explosive, but he’d be starting in the NFL if that were the case.
Richardson has real potential as a CFL player. I’m actually pretty high on him based on what I’ve seen. Also, let’s not sleep on the fact that Coach Dinwiddie is a Boise State guy, so he knows everything about Richardson, and Toronto brought him in at the first opportunity.
I’m just not sure if Richardson is going to get a chance to play. As with his situation in Arizona, he’s found himself in a talented receiver room. If we’re projecting three American receiver spots, he’ll be up against DaVaris Daniels, Eric Rogers, Brandon Banks, Markeith Ambles, and seven other guys. The good thing for Richardson is his versatility makes him valuable. He’s played more on the outside, but he’s just as comfortable in the slot.
If I can get inside Coach Dinwiddie’s brain for a minute, I think we’ll see Richardson taking snaps behind Daniels at X, with some work at W as well. His best asset is his route-running, and that’s a necessity on the boundary side where there’s less room to navigate. I don’t think Coach Dinwiddie liked what happened to the boundary side last season when Daniels or Rogers went down. They didn’t really have an answer in either scenario, to the point where they had to move Daniels into the slot late in the season to get production. I think Ambles was brought in as a field side guy who has also been tested at W if something were to happen to Rogers, and now Richardson is a possible answer at X if Daniels were to suffer an injury.
As CFL News Hub’s Mike Mitchell pointed out on Twitter today, the Argos once again have 20 receivers on their offseason roster. Some names are written in permanent marker, some in pen, and some in pencil. A.J. Richardson has talent. Don’t be surprised to see him earn his way onto the field this season.