2013 NFL Draft: Sheldon Richardson Scouting Report

By Curt Popejoy
Sheldon Richardson-Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Sheldon Richardson

Defensive Tackle

University of Missouri

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 295 pounts

What I Like — When I watch Richardson play, I make two comments more than any others. First, I can’t believe how clean he stays during the games, and I can’t believe how many plays downfield I see him trailing from the off side of the field. These are both testament to his athletic ability and hustle. For a big man, he’s very fit.

The Tigers used Richardson in various schemes which, if you watch enough of his games, really gives you a sense of all the different things he’s good at.

Richardson does a great job getting a quick first step at the snap, and can twist his shoulders and get past the offensive line before they can get their paws on him. I’ve heard differing opinions about whether Richardson is a better one-gap or two-gap player. While I think he can play both, I still like him much more as a one-gap three-technique tackle.

As a pass rusher from the interior, Richardson is as good as any in this draft. He has the ability to split the defense and change direction, and his solid tackling make him a natural. Richardson is also a smart football player, and he does a nice job on fakes and play action, illustrated on plays where the Tigers had him in a two-point stance.

He was asked to both rush and drop, and was able to do it. To me, this all points back to his effort and desire. One thing you hear a lot about 300-pound defensive tackles is about them taking plays off. Richardson played what looked like close to 70 percent of the snaps I watched this year, and there were a tiny number of incidents where I ever felt like Richardson wasn’t going at full speed.

What I Don’t Like — For all of Richardson’s speed, finesse’ and agility, where he does come up a little short is in the power department. He’s strong, without a doubt, but he doesn’t always know how to apply it. He doesn’t use his arms very well, and when he does get caught up, it was because he didn’t extend properly and let the offensive lineman get a hold of him.

This is compounded because Richardson plays a little high. It isn’t a bad thing as long as you win, but when you don’t, it’s not hard for a big old guard to work you backwards if they are up in your shoulder pads, and you are back on your heels.

Following the same trend of not playing with enough power, I don’t like the idea some have tossed around that Richardson would make a great five-technique end in a 3-4. He just doesn’t play low enough, and I think he would really struggle to set the edge. To me, he almost seems tentative at times and it gets him in trouble.

I would like to see him get more aggressive in run support, and just work hard on doing his job while letting others make the play, rather than feeling like he has to make every play. Sometimes for a player like Richardson, less can be more.

What it all means — Richardson is among the top defensive tackle prospects in this entire draft, but where he ranks for a particular team will vary greatly depending on what that team wants from him.

If Richardson could get onto a 4-3 team with a big massive nose tackle to plop down next to him and a good presence at the defensive end positions, Richardson could be a terror. It would allow him to be more assertive and just focus on getting after the quarterback, where his closing speed and motor make him as good as any in this draft.

Richardson appears to be a young man who takes to good coaching judging by his scheme versatility, so I think his shortcomings could be coached out of him. There have been some incidents that could raise some red flags, but by all accounts, Richardson is a pretty mature young man who has found a new focus on football.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft, and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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