The University of Missouri has had a knack for generating first-round draft picks over the last four years. Since 2009, the Tigers have had six players drafted by a team in the first round. Sheldon Richardson, a 294-pound defensive lineman, is the latest Missouri player picked in the first round, and the New York Jets will be relying heavily on his explosiveness and versatility in 2013.
The Jets finished last year with several question marks regarding their defensive identity. Though they ranked second in the league in pass defense, they got gashed for 133.6 rushing yards per game and rarely generated pressure on the quarterback. The strong secondary got little help from the front line. Richardson is a huge addition to a defensive line that lost two big bodies, Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha, to free agency. While Rex Ryan has always proved capable of designing disguised blitz packages, having a solid front for the Jets’ 3-4 defense would take tons of pressure off of the secondary. Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples are moving into 2013 with some positive momentum, and adding Richardson to the mix could be key in solidifying the defensive line.
Richardson is incredibly versatile for his size, and he’s had experience at almost every position on the line. He’ll be able to strengthen the interior and make plays against the run, but he’ll also get a chance to become an edge rusher in certain situations. For this reason, Richardson is a great fit for the Jets. With a dubious offensive roster, the Jets will need all the help they can get to keep opponents from scoring. Richardson should certainly be a key contributor in his rookie campaign.
Jesse Schwartz is an NFL New York Jets Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.