Sheldon Richardson | Defensive Tackle | Missouri | 6'4'', 295 pounds |
Sheldon Richardson had an interesting season at the University of Missouri. The junior defensive tackle opened up the season with more bark than bite. He fired shots at Georgia, calling its brand of football "boring." While the Tigers weren't ready for the SEC, Richardson proved each and every game that he belonged in the nation's best conference playing against the best offensive linemen the country had to offer.
Richardson improved by leaps and bounds from his first season with Mizzou. He wasted no time declaring for the draft and has positioned himself to be a first round pick in April.
Pros: Richardson is an incredible athlete considering his size. At 6-feet-4-inches, Richardson is so fluid in his movement and will likely blow people away with his straight line speed at the NFL combine. He gets upfield in a hurry and uses his agility to create penetration in the backfield. Richardson also displays violent hands both when rushing the passer and shedding blocks in run defense. This skill set would make him an ideal under tackle in a 4-3 or a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4.
Richardson has also demonstrated the ability to play with a high motor more consistently throughout his junior season. The Tiger defensive tackle could often be spotted racing down field to pick up a tackle and playing sideline to sideline. There's a reason he was leading Mizzou in tackles prior to missing the team's game against Syracuse. With his combination of skills, Richardson is a versatile player. That may be his biggest asset. 3-4 and 4-3 teams alike will be able to find a spot for him, and Richardson could become an impact player in either defense.
Cons: While Richardson possesses a high motor, he has shown a tendency to burn out at times towards the end of hames. This was more prevalent in 2011, as Richardson displayed so much more consistency in 2012. He was also a more disciplined player, taking far fewer personal foul penalties than he had in the past. One area of concern for NFL teams, could be Richardson's tendency to say a bit too much in interviews. His passion is noticeable, but after his comments about Georgia, Richardson needs to learn how to reign it in a bit more.
As a defensive tackle, Richardson could stand to improve a bit at anchoring against the run. That's not necessarily the role he filled at Mizzou, but he was outmuscled a bit by bigger guards like Kentucky's Larry Warford and Alabama's Barret Jones. Richardson's game is predicated on his athleticism, but adding some strength wouldn't hurt.
Conclusion: Richardson has an ideal skill set to make a quick impact in the NFL. He's going to blow people away at February's combine with his speed and agility at 300 pounds. Richardson plays defensive tackle with a relentless attitude and a mean streak. He should find a home in the first round with his draft ceiling being the first ten picks.
Pro Comparison: Henry Melton, Chicago Bears - If Melton is the fastest defensive tackle in the NFL right now, Sheldon Richardson could give him a run for his money next year. Both players thrive on athleticism to create penetration and get up the field to make plays. Both have a similar build as well.
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