Richardson is one of the up-and-coming players in the league. His rookie season saw flashes of dominance as he got better throughout the season. One of two first-round draft picks by New York this season, Richardson showed he can help form an impressive defensive front for the Jets alongside Muhammad Wilkerson. He was moved from his college position of defensive tackle to defensive end in Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense and was named a starter to begin the season.
The former Missouri star racked up 77 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in his inaugural campaign for a team that finished 8-8. Richardson's best day came against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 24, when he made a career-high nine tackles including three for a loss. He also was award NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for November.
This award comes as no surprise to Richardson, who said after the season he believed he deserved to win it, per ESPN.com.
"I am the defensive rookie of the year," Richardson told reporters. "I don’t have odds. That’s just how I feel. If anyone has an opinion on it, they can state their opinion but that’s just me."
While Richardson may have felt he deserved the honor, there were still several standout rookies on defense this season. Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan was among the league leaders with five interceptions, Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah led all rookies with eight sacks and Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso finished his first season with 159 tackles and four interceptions. Also, 49ers safety Eric Reid was on a top-tier defense and collected four interceptions on the season, while Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow and Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree were among the top tacklers in the NFL. The competition for the award likely makes it all that more meaningful for Richardson.
The previous three winners of the award are Ndamukong Suh, Von Miller and Luke Kuechly. The award was first given in 1967, and since then five of the winners have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame including Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Lawrence Taylor, Mike Haynes and Derrick Thomas.