2013 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

Sheldon Richardson"Instinctive and reactionary with his hands, Richardson showcased a repertoire of rush moves to go along with his elite quickness. Moreover, Richardson is able to anchor against the run, squeeze through double teams, or chase down ball carriers to the sideline, as a well-rounded defensive lineman that can be an every down impact player. The outstanding quickness and overall speed with which Richardson gets off the line of scrimmage, may even be best suited outside at a defensive end position along a 4-man front.

Considering his improving body type, physical numbers, developed repertoire of rush moves and instinctually aggressive nature, Richardson’s ability to provide a threat inside or outside will ultimately place him high on many NFL draft boards. Questions regarding Sheldon Richardson’s draft stock will center on academic issues that have dogged him throughout his career at Missouri, College of the Sequoias and maybe further back into his high school days."

This is a Full Scouting Report done for our 2013 NFL Draft Guide. We'll be previewing a handful of our reports before the Guide is finished and published on April 8th. If you'd like to be on the email list to pre-order, my email is EricG@OptimumScouting. Reserve your on-line copy today!

GAMES VIEWED MEASURABLES
Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida Height 6024 Weight 294 40 Time 5.02
Bench 30 Vertical 32 Broad 9'8
PLAYER COMPARISON Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
PROJ. DRAFT POSITION Top 20
INJURY HISTORY  Redshirted in 2010 with a wrist injury
Missed 2012 spring practices with shoulder surgery

CAREER ACOLADES KEY STATS
Rivals.com 3rd best JUCO prospect 2009: 65 tackles, 17 for loss, 3 sacks, 1 FR and 1 blocked kick
2012 2nd Team All-SEC 2010: Played just two games before redshirting
  2011: 37 tackles, 8 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 FF
  2012: 75 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 4 sacks, 7 hurries, 60 yards on 2 FR

BACKGROUND
Always possessing elite capabilities on the football field, for Sheldon Richardson, the only hurdle in his way to becoming a great player was ultimately himself. Ineligible to enroll at Missouri, the nation's top rated defensive tackle and blue chip prospect had to take the JUCO route. Spending two seasons at the College of the Sequoias in California, Richardson wavered in his committment to Missouri but remained true to the Tigers, despite heavy recruiting from Lane Kiffin and the USC coaching staff nearby. Still, with the battle of overcoming himself not yet finished, Richardson underachieved in his first season on campus as a rotational defensive lineman. With the proverbial "light bulb" flashing on for Richardson over the offseason, the 315 pound defensive tackle committed himself to re-shaping his body to improve conditioning, maximize his athletic ability and increase his overall range as a player. The renewed work ethic undoubtedly paid off, as Richardson experienced a tremendous junior season in which he almost led his team in total tackles, in addition to leading in the tackle for loss and sack departments. Richardson was suspended for one game in 2012 for missing class and will have to explain himself at the combine.

ATHLETICISM
Blessed with movement skills and athletic ability unseen at the defensive tackle position, Sheldon Richardson can often be seen on tape chasing wide receivers 20, sometimes 30 yards downfield for pursuit tackles. Capable of turning and running down ball carriers outside the tackle box, Richardson's overall coordination and balance are incredible to say the least. Standing 6'3 and weighing in just under 300 pounds, Richardson poses a packed out but athletic body type that more importantly features ideal arm length to extend, create separation and remain disengaged from blockers. Richardson's explosive, twitchiness suits him perfectly in a four-man front as a gap-shooting, three-technique penetrator; however, the movement skills and speed shown by Richardson could earn looks from NFL teams as a next level defensive end. Able to play with bend and flexion through contact, Richardson does a tremendous job of lowering surface area as a pass rusher, staying on his path and breaking down to finish the play. Best described as explosive, Richardson is a physical specimen that can be a dominant NFL player with time.

ABILITY
Tremendously quick twitched and explosive off the snap, Sheldon Richardson immediately impresses with athletic ability and lateral quickness. Looks in at the football, times snap effectively and fires off the football low, hard and fast. An elite foot athlete that poses a matchup nightmare inside versus slower guards and centers. Very fluid and coordinated in movements, Richardson has shown sideline-to-sideline range and consistently displayed a plus closing burst to the ball carrier after initial read and react. At his best when slanted or stunted across the front, where he can put to use his first step burst, acceleration and body control off the line of scrimmage. Locates the football very well and possesses rare chase speed for a down linemen to follow the throw. Stays in pursuit till the whistle is blown and gives plus effort throughout the entire game. Reads, reacts and redirects to screens as they develop and, again showcases elite athleticism in pursuit. In terms of pure ability, Richardson is as athletic, quick and explosive as they come at defensive tackle; some teams will see the movement skills and lateral burst Richardson possesses, and project him to either a 4-3 RDE or 3-4 5-technique. Rare player that can be moved all across the front.

TECHNIQUE
Only above average with his technique, hand usage and rushing repertoire as a redshirt sophomore in 2011, Richardson has clearly taken the time and effort to develop into the dominant force he has always been capable of as a 5-star high school recruit. Firing off the ball with a low center of gravity and ideal leverage, Richardson extends his arms right away to engage the blocker and initiate a variety of sudden pass rushing moves. Very sudden and explosive with swim, rip and even spin moves, Richardson's foot speed and body control allow him to employ rushing techniques that some defensive ends struggle with at the NFL level. Can work a short swim move to put the blocker on his back hip, working powerful and quick hands to win at the point of attack. Controls his pad level extremely well by skinnying his shoulders and presenting a difficult target for the blocker to punch. Counters extremely well by having length and coordination at the point of attack; will work to create separation off the snap and react to the blocker. As a tackler, Richardson flashes snap at the point of attack and explosiveness through first contact. Has shown a willingness to throw his body around and fully extend for wrap tackles in pursuit, possessing the strength to yank down ball carriers even when out of position. Occasionally will be overzealous in attacking the football, leaving his feet early to launch for an upward strike. Richardson uses his hands exceptionally well and has developed a number of devastating rush moves.

STRENGTH/POWER
Though Richardson is more of a penetrator than a plugger, he still is a naturally powerful being capable of stacking and shedding inside for tough tackles. Can be stood up by the double team, but more often than not displays a strong base and core to anchor down at the point of attack. Struggles occur most often when Richardson attempts to take blockers on directly with squared shoulders; at his best when turning and sliding his shoulders between multiple blockers, Richardson remains a one-gapping defensive lineman at his core. Sudden hands and long, powerful arms enable him to shed with ease, as he creates a strong push off the snap with initial hand usage and burst. Body control and pad level adjustments make Richardson a difficult target to strike and sustain for blockers, and hand usage enables him to quickly shed into the backfield for disruptive plays. Rare pursuit player along the defensive line, who has remarkable closing speed and open field athleticism to chase down ballcarriers. Never gives up on the play, gives plus effort through the whistle and impresses with straight-line speed.

SUMMARY
A name that’s continually made positive and negative waves in the media this season, from his “old-man football” statements about Georgia’s style of play to an end of the year suspension that held him out of the Syracuse game, Richardson has decided to move on to the next level. Despite being a top rated defensive recruit in the 2009 class, Richardson was unable to finish enrollment at Missouri due to academic ineligibility, which resulted in a two-year stint at the junior college level. Still highly regarded after his 2010 season at the College of the Sequoias, Richardson was pursued heavily by USC and Missouri, before following through with his commitment to Missouri. After a so-so 2011 campaign that featured dashes of flash here and there from the talented junior, Richardson turned in a dominating 2012 season. While stats are only a fraction of the scouting process, the fact that Richardson nearly led his team in tackles with 75, while leading his team in TFL’s and sacks is downright remarkable. Coming into his own as a prospect, Richardson combined his plus physical tools with improved technique and tremendous effort on a per-snap basis. Standing 6034, with long arms and a naturally powerful frame, Richardson more than looks the part of a 3-technique or RDE for some 4-3 teams. The Missouri DT dedicated himself before the season to taking care of his body, claiming to have improved his bench press from 350 pounds to 400 pounds, in addition to running a 4.7 40 time. And while those numbers may have seemed out of proportion prior to this season, the tape of Richardson in 2012 versus SEC opponents has done nothing but further evidence this type of elite physical tools. Looking in at the football, Richardson does a great job of timing the snap count, firing off the line with low pad level and extended arms to immediately combat the opposing blocker’s hand usage. Instinctive and reactionary with his hands, Richardson showcased a repertoire of rush moves to go along with his elite quickness. Moreover, Richardson is able to anchor against the run, squeeze through double teams, or chase down ball carriers to the sideline, as a well-rounded defensive lineman that can be an every down impact player. The outstanding quickness and overall speed with which Richardson gets off the line of scrimmage, may even be best suited outside at a defensive end position along a 4-man front. Considering his improving body type, physical numbers, developed repertoire of rush moves and instinctually aggressive nature, Richardson’s ability to provide a threat inside or outside will ultimately place him high on many NFL draft boards. Questions regarding Sheldon Richardson’s draft stock will center on academic issues that have dogged him throughout his career at Missouri, College of the Sequoias and maybe further back into his high school days.

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