Sheldon Richardson playing more disciplined, improving his 2013 NFL Draft Stock

Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has been shooting up draft boards due to his ability to improve a few key flaws he displayed during the 2011 season.

Missouri Tigers football fans could count on two things from Sheldon Richardson in 2011.

They could be certain that for a handful of plays each game, he would look like the most dominant player on the field. He would shed blocks, display incredible quickness and makes plays in the backfield. Mizzou fans could also be assured that Richardson would make one bonehead play each game, whether it be a late hit on the quarterback or getting caught out of position, Richardson was making as many mental mistakes as he was great plays.

The 2012 season has changed Richardson for the better.

Before the Tigers' first SEC game against Georgia, Richardson opened his mouth, calling Georgia's style of play "old man football." After getting stomped by the Bulldogs at home, Richardson was told to take a break from the media. He has since returned to providing reporters with colorful quotes, but Richardson's play has done most of the talking this season.

He no longer takes the stupid personal foul penalties fans were accustomed to seeing. He no longer fades at the end of games or disappears for stretches of play.

Instead, Mizzou has seen a much more consistently disruptive Sheldon Richardson. He has been shedding blocks with ease, displaying great hand use and agility. Richardson exhibits solid pad level and maintains a consistently high motor throughout the game, despite playing a high percentage of his team's snaps.

Richardson has looked downright dominant at times this season, vaulting his draft stock into the late first round on some boards. Richardson does have another year of eligibility remaining after this season, but with Mizzou's performance this season, combined with his draft stock peaking, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him enter the draft.

Richardson doesn't quite measure up to Utah's Star Lotulelei or Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins. But he's not particularly far off, either. He could very easily be the third defensive tackle off the board.

The key for Richardson will be proving he can be consistently dominant throughout the season, despite the double-teams he will continue to see going forward. In last weekend's game against Alabama, Richardson experienced a fall back to earth a bit. He had his moments, where he displayed his ability to shed blocks, but he also looked over-matched against the NFL-caliber talent on the Crimson Tide's offensive line.

The story is not completely written yet, and the next few months will be key to determining a conclusion on his draft stock, but right now, Richardson looks more and more like a first rounder every week.

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