You can’t teach confidence and New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson has plenty of it. Late in the 2013 NFL season, the Missouri product boasted he should “most definitely” win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and the voters listened as his name was called at the annual NFL Honors ceremony on Saturday night.
Richardson led all finalists with 23 votes, beating out second-place finisher Kiko Alonso, who was a second-round pick by the Buffalo Bills. Also in the running for the award were New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
While he may be a bit cocky, Richardson backed up his strong talk with incredible play on the field in 2013, recording 78 tackles and 3.5 sacks to go along with one defended pass and one forced fumble. He became the anchor for the Jets’ defensive line that was nicknamed the Sons of Anarchy. Opposing coaches admitted Richardson was an instant game-changer as their game plans had to be altered to ensure he was blocked on every play, which usually an honor reserved for superstars like Robert Mathis and Julius Peppers.
It’s great to see three finalists for the award from teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs and the fact Richardson one means the voting was true to the award and not a popularity contest as is the case for most of the NFL honors these days. Richardson is more than deserving and he’ll likely contend for Defensive Player of the Year every season for many to come.