Browns' Potential Draft Target: Sheldon Richardson

Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

Sheldon Richardson is the quintessential example of Ray Horton's mantra: "big guys who can run"

Sheldon Richardson is an explosive, high motor, athletic, freak of a DL standing at 6’3" and tipping the scale near 300lbs. Proof that he’s a freak? Richardson recently turned in a 4.82 and 4.72 40 yard dash at his pro day and his measureables at the combine weren’t too shabby either putting up 30 reps, 116" broad jump and a 32 inch vertical.

During the 2012 season, Richardson lined up nearly everywhere across the defensive line and did so with what I consider elite awareness and recognition. He was able to play several techniques and was dominate in pass rush situations. You could find him standing up; dropping into coverage vs a WR, RB, or TE; playing a spy or robber role; being moved to the edge rush like an OLB; or dominating centers and guards on the inside all year long. He registered one of his best tackling games of the season vs #1 ranked Alabama where he had 9 tackles and was constantly beating his blocker in pass situations while contributing to the run.

According to CBS Sports:

Richardson originally signed with the Tigers as the crown jewel of their 2009 recruiting class. Rated by recruiting experts as the top defensive tackle prospect and a top five overall talent, Richardson was unable to fulfill the academic obligations and was instead forced to take the junior college route at the College of the Sequoias (CA).

While there, Richardson's legend continued and he briefly verbally committed to Southern California before electing to stick with his original plan and return to Missouri, his home state.

THE GOOD

• Sheldon Richardson has the ability to get himself free from blockers during pass rush situations with frequency and that allows his combination of strength, speed and incredible athletic ability to reek havoc on opposing OL and QB’s alike

• For his size, he is a tremendous athlete - extremely light footed and agile

• His motor is relentless and you will often find him running (sometimes jumping or knocking over players) 15, 20, even 30 or more yards down the field in pursuit

• He possesses the ability to "bend the edge" like that of an OLB prospect, showing great flexibility, power, and arm leverage

• His "pop" at the point of attack is strong and he typically maintains balance and awareness when engaged with blockers

• He shows the ability and know-how to make big plays, often looking for the ball on tackles or sacks, getting his hands up in the air to disrupt passing lanes, even causing then returning a fumble 70 yards

• He showed versatility playing along the entire DL and was used standing up, dropping into coverage, and even on the outside as stand up edge rusher. When asked to do so, I saw a big DL with an unexpectedly good backpedal and lateral movement and awareness in coverage that was impressive for a man his size

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THE BAD

• His anchor, or ability to dig in vs the run, isn’t elite, nor is his strength. While he certainly is strong, he will need to add strength and technique to be more effective vs the run at the next level. That being said, he did show flashes of run stopping ability, beating blocks and clogging the gap and wrapping up the runner

• He has the propensity to stand up out of his stance and that allows the OL to gain leverage

• He can get pushed sideways so his shoulders turn parallel to the play; he usually maintains balance and pursuit however

• He’s coming off of shoulder surgery in 2011, so depending on where’s he at with his strength and recovery / how teams feel about the injury moving forward, it could be a concern
• His Junior College path to Missouri could be a concern as well due to his inability to keep his grades at required levels to maintain eligibility at Missouri during his Freshman year; or the fact he was suspended for the last home game of the 2012 season vs Syracuse in a game that had bowl-appearance implications. According to ProFootballTalk Richardson was suspended for violating team policies related to academics because he blew off his punishment for skipping class leading up to that game


OVERALL

Sheldon Richardson is an outstanding athlete with excellent pass rush ability. He has a variety of moves and uses his hands constantly to create space and leverage. His motor never stops. It appears to me that if used properly, his ceiling is very high and is among the best, if not the best, DL prospect in the draft. He can do it all. I would speculate that his troubles vs the run can be addressed through coaching and technique adjustment at the next level because he innately takes good angles and is a solid tackler.

During his 2012 Campaign, Sheldon Richardson racked up 75 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss; 4 sacks; 1 Fumble Return; 3 Passes broken up; 3 FF; 1 Kick Block; and 7 QB Hurries.


SUMMARY

He got better as Missouri started to use him in different roles. This makes me think we could be just starting to see the tip of the iceberg regarding Richardson's potential. His versatility, strength, burst, balance, motor and fluidity in space make his my number one rated DL prospect in the draft.

As I have pointed out in my previous piece:

Lombardi and the Raiders drafted a DB over 45% of the time in the first round while Banner and the Eagles took a DL over 50% of the time in the first round. Both Banner and Lombardi have shown a strong affinity for defense, particularly DB / LB heavy drafts.

Richardson could very well be sitting there when the Browns pick at 6 and I feel he would be an excellent choice to solidify our defensive line. Grabbing an athletic, pass rushing DL would ensure we have an extremely talented, non-stop rotation of big, athletic guys who can reek havoc on the QB and tire out the opposing offensive line.

Local Missou beat writer Terez Paylor, among others, has reported that Richardson has a private workout set with Cleveland:

With free agency just days away and the Browns expected to address several areas with players capable of staring, a DL like Sheldon Richardson could make sense. If the pass rushers the Browns like are off the board or if Banner feels we have addressed the pass rush position adequately through free agency, then Richardson could be the pick. That being said, you have to go by your board, and Sheldon Richardson has many qualities and skills that could easily land him atop the Browns' board when we pick at 6.

Yesterday, NFLDraftScout reported updates from his pro day:

03/08/13 - 2013 Missouri Pro Day: Sheldon Richardson swaggered around Dan Devine Pavilion on Thursday, a smile plastered on his face. Missouri’s Pro Day was finally here, and this was a day Richardson had been waiting on for a while. The big defensive tackle has long prided himself on his athleticism - he’s quick to state that linemen can be athletes, too - which is why he’d been stewing since Feb. 25, the day he ran a 5.02 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "I had to (wipe) that five off the record," Richardson said. Richardson, it appears, did just that. After running in front of a crowd filled with family, friends, teammates and 20-plus NFL scouts, Richardson said afterward that a scout clocked him at times of 4.71 and 4.82 in the 40-yard dash, perhaps proving his Combine time was an aberration.

And afterward, Richardson - who checked in at 6-feet-2, 294 pounds at the Combine - seemingly could not have been in a better mood. He lingered near a fence on the field, talking to friends, before smiling and bellowing one of his oh-so-familiar lines to no one in particular. "You ain’t never seen 300 pounds look this good," Richardson said with a laugh.

"The whole NFL wants Sheldon Richardson," said Richardson, who tied for second on the team in tackles as a junior last season with 75 and also had 10½ tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries and four sacks. - Terez A. Paylor, The Kansas City Star

COMBINE INTERVIEW

Somehow I get the impression that Sheldon has a good sense of humor and is just a little bit confident in his game:

"I’m the top pick, not a top ten. I don't come into this draft to be second to anybody."

FILM BREAKDOWN and GAME NOTES

Sheldon Richardson vs Alabama

• Rainy, wet, game at the beginning, puddles everywhere, complete down pour at times
• Neutralized early on, but does manage to barely get a sack after easily slipping a block
• Starts to turn it up in the 3rd quarter, not sure if rain stopping contributed but seemed to recognize their propensity to throw screens and adjusted his rush
• Tackles Lacy twice in a row, one is a stuff in the gap the next is a great adjustment and take down from behind showing great lateral movement
• Motor is turned up in 3rd quarter, around the ball carrier or receiver often
• Hands are more active, showing ability to get free vs run and creates space during screen plays
• Makes a nice run stuff in 4th quarter around 8:42 at the goal-line, beats OL with inside leverage and stuffs Yeldon short of TD

Sheldon Richardson vs Tennessee

• Strong, athletic, fast, fluid in space
• Quick and powerful off the snap
• Active motor, often downfield making tackles or in the play
• Drops into coverage and does so fluidly
• Can get pushed back in run game when he allows himself to stand up instead of keeping pad level low
• Active with hands in passing lane when not in position to rush QB
• Active hands during POA, quick and powerful use of hands
• Ability to shoot gap and stuff run is shown, usually has blocker moving backwards
• Can get turned sideways
• Good lateral movement to find runner inside gap / lane
• Actually shows the same leverage bend on pass rush as you see in OLB’s where he gets his shoulder and arm around the OL and pivots around with a rip motion to clear block
• Bats down key pass with less than a minute in 4th qtr
• Collapses center all the way back into Bray’s lap in OT, nearly blocks another pass

Sheldon Richardson vs Florida

• Beat blocks vs run
• Stand up blitz like an OLB, shifted across line
• 1st @ 3:37 follows play after fighting off block
• 1st @ 2:37 nearly jumps offside, gets back onside, explodes and uses arm strength to push and then pull the C down and then swims right past him and makes TFL
• Incredible effort play, starts from 2 point stance on 43 yard line, far side of field, gets doubled teamed initially then he pulls off of block when he notices the QB scramble, runs all the way across the field in pursuit, meets QB at the 50 yard line and causes fumble but ball goes out of bounds, no first down
• Drives and beats pulling guard and TFL vs RB
• Blocked FG, again effort play
• Does a great job to beat chop block, stay balanced in traffic, shift his feet and still puruse the screen
• Breaks block vs run to make play
• Good play recognition
• 4th Qtr 14:34 beats best OL of Florida by pure strength, causes hold/tackle by OL
• 4:48 in 4th qtr --- jumps in lane, nearly deflects pass
• Always seems to maintain balances after contact

    Max Effort play / QB pursuit / recognition:

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      We see good push from Richardson here, driving C backwards:

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    Here we see him recognize the scrambling QB:

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    You'll notice on the right side of your screen, Richardson is eying QB and in pursuit:

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    Same frame / different view; then we see him close in and cause fumble, although ball goes out of bounds:

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    Great Run Stuff:

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    Blocked FG:

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    Sheldon Richardson vs South Carolina

    · 13:29 1st qtr --- awesome pass rush, beats OL, gets to QB, near sack

    · Shows ability to break blocks with strength but athletic like a LB

    · 1st qtr @ 10:05, great pursuit and sack across the field.

    · Motor, effort, vs dump pass, causes fumble near 9:16 mark

    · 5:06 1st qtr WOW, explodes, beats block with power and swim, absolutely lights up the QB

    · Max effort, turns and chases WR up-field, looking for ball swipe and fumbles just as much as tackles

    · Starts standing up and drops back into coverage like a MLB, pursues pass across field and literally throws WR down 4 yards from where he’s at

    · Does well to spin off of run blocks when recognizes lane is closed and angle has changed, allows him to pursue play

    · Always active downfield

    · Plays several series standing up

    Power Rush

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    You can see he sets his man up here, grabbing the inside shoulder:

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    Max Effort / Hustle across field to make play for loss

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    Ball Awareness / Recognition during pursuit:

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    Near sack / QB pressure up the middle:

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    Sheldon Richardson vs Kentucky

    • Strips ball at 15 yard line, picks it up and returns to other 26! Recognition, strength

    • active again, always after ball

    • Run game seemed to eat him up a little bit more

    • Get pushed back and bent backwards in run play, lazy release, upright, leverage lost

    • Another similar result shortly after, gets pushed backwards and to ground

    • Lots of short screens to his side to neutralize the rush and allow linemen to get upfield to block 2nd level

    • Much better as a rusher than holding point of attack in run game

    • Strong, but not elite at POA, can get off balance if he allows his pads to get up

    1st quarter, 11:20 - run stuff + forced fumble + fumble recovery + 70 yard return:

    ( sorry if it's a little blurry )

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    Causes fumble here, ball comes loose and bounces to the right side of the screen:

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    Sheldon Richardson vs Georgia

    • This is the game he called out Georgia before the game saying they played "old man football"

    • Showed great burst early

    • Got turned sideways on run play, but nearly drives into RB lap

    • Slips the center again, and once again nearly lands in RB lap, pursues outside and helps makes play

    • Huge burst in passing situations, uses swim and rip moves to gain straight line to QB

    • Shows strength and power when rushing as stand up rusher, beats double team nearly sacks QB

    • Great run stopping ability shown in 4th quarter, shuts down Lacy on a few back to back plays

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