The above numbers and abbreviations stand for grades of Stoutness/Penetration/Pass Rush/Vs Zone and a positional grade for Strongside End in Mike Pettine's defense. For more in-depth descriptions of these terms, look here.
- 6'3" 283 pounds
- very long arms for his height (34 5/8") and huge 11" hands
- very good agility and balance
- extensive experience at 5-tech end
- able to run the arc around the edge, has the lateral bend of an edge rusher
- gets hung up on blocks when playing as an interior lineman
- pops up too high at the snap, shouldn't see action at 3-tech WT until he changes this
- good agility to finish the play in the backfield
- average knee bend
- excellent upper body flexibility to absorb and shed blocks to his chest and shoulders
- stouter at the point of attack than you'd expect given his weight
- holds up very well vs. zone, on the move
First off, let's look at Stoutness. Richardson grades adequate here with a 7, despite only weighing 283 pounds and possessing only average knee bend. He manages this due to a combination of upper body flexibility to absorb high blocks to his chest and shoulders, the ability to lean into blockers without losing his balance, savvy footwork to get lower despite mediocre knee flexibility, the habit of timing his footwork and hand usage well together, and a propensity to angle his body to defenders (turning a shoulder to them) to prevent them from locking on to his chest.
Let's start with the worst of the worst: this is as bad as it gets for him in terms of giving up ground when anchoring at the point of attack. He's at right defensive end in the play below, facing a double team from the left guard and left tackle. He typically fares much better than this.
Here's an example of Richardson selling out to stack blockers up at the line. Richardson is at right DT and takes on the left tackle and left guard. He anchors in his spot but has to commit fully to it and cannot adjust to the runner bouncing the play outside.
And now, an example of his typical stoutness against run blockers: Richardson is at right DT and engages the left guard. He holds his ground vs. this single block:
Let's move on to how he fares against zone blocking. Bobby Richardson faced quite possibly the best zone blocker in the 2015 NFL Draft class (and maybe even the best overall offensive lineman), Iowa's Brandon Scherff. He actually held up really well, had a good showing, and this made for an excellent battle between two quality prospects.
Richardson (#95) takes on the LT from his right DE position. Scherff (#68) comes at him with power, attempting to drive him off the ball. The D-lineman absorbs the contact with his upper body flexibility and lean. Moreover, he turns his outside shoulder into the blocker and "gets skinny" to slide off the block in anticipation of the running back.
At right 3-4 DE vs. Scherff again, he takes on the block and then sheds to the backside to corral the ballcarrier:
From his right end position, he contacts Scherff shoulder-to-shoulder, manages to get the better hand swipe in, and moves on past Scherff in backside pursuit:
Same spot, same opponent: Richardson again gets as low as he can and presents only a shoulder to Scherff. This time he attacks the B-gap after absorbing the block:
Same positions and matchups as above with another 1-gap assignment. This time his penetration forces the running back to change his course. Richardson displays impressive agility and lateral quickness when trying to adjust to the ballcarrier.
Bobby Richardson's performance against Brandon Scherff was quite impressive; however, he didn't pitch a shutout. While I'd say he won the matchup overall, it wasn't by a wide margin. On the majority of plays, the two fought to a draw. There were also a handful of times that Scherff won the engagement, sometimes in dominant fashion.
Richardson is at right 3-4 DE against LT Brandon Scherff on this play. Scherff takes him to the woodshed this time, getting up into his chest and driving him downfield. Richardson doesn't usually expose his chest to his blockers, but he really pays for it on this one:
Against the LT again, Richardson wins the leverage battle, getting up under Scherff's block. Scherff falls to the ground and cuts the defender's knees out from under him, though. It's hard to tell if this is because of contact from the fullback or if this was intentional.
This time the play is run his direction. Richardson engages Scherff and the offensive tackle fails to sustain a block on him. It's not as positive as it may seem: he and the outside linebacker are set up well for the left guard, who takes both out.
Pettine's 3-4 Under base defense often asks the 5-tech strongside end to be the edge rusher on his side of the formation. The outside linebacker on that side (the SAM, often Mingo) is asked to drop into coverage the majority of the time.
Well, Bobby Richardson brings more to the table than just his run defense. He has the range, quickness, agility, bend, lateral quickness, and strength to pose a legitimate threat as a pass rusher coming off the edge.
Here we can see Richardson's agility and lateral bend on display as he turns a tight arc to the quarterback:
Again he demonstrates lateral quickness and agility, this time on an inside rush:
Here we can see his closing speed:
This is the same play from a different angle:
Right now Bobby Richardson is limited to 5-tech strongside end. He has some upside as a pass rusher in sub defense and as a 3-tech weakside tackle, but his play on his college tape would be insufficient for success there in the NFL.
He simply plays way too high to line up inside. He stands up at the snap. At his end position, he often shows an instinctive feel for when to drop lower to get leverage or slip past a blocker. Inside he just doesn't look as comfortable. He needs to learn to come off the ball low and stay low if he wants to be effective as an interior defensive lineman.
An example of this can be seen in the following play. Richardson comes on an interior rush from a right defensive tackle position. He pops up at the snap and stays high upon contact with the left guard and afterwards. This may have resulted in a sack on this play, but he won't be able to drive back the much more powerful guards he'll face in the NFL so easily.
Bobby Richardson is an intriguing 5-tech prospect who could fit well at strongside end in Pettine's scheme. He is undersized at 6'3" and 283 pounds but makes up for this with his 34 5/8" arms and being a surprisingly stout run defender for his size. He also poses a legitimate threat as an outside rusher, which is important at this position.
At the present time he is not a versatile player, though he has the potential to develop into an effective penetrating 3-tech in a 4-3 front, in sub defense, or at weakside tackle in Pettine's base front if he can learn to consistently stay low off the snap. Adding muscle should also be a key focus of his long term development plan.
His current lack of versatility poses questions:
How far will he fall in the draft as a result of this?
On tape, I see a second round talent, but this is a deep defensive tackle class with an especially deep second tier. Richardson's limited versatility may hurt him on many draft boards.
Not much separates the 2nd DT in this class from the 11th. Arik Armstead, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Eddie Goldman, Michael Bennett, Grady Jarrett, Jordan Phillips, Marcus Hardison, Carl Davis, and Bobby Richardson all grade out very closely. (Xavier Cooper and Gabe Wright will likely also enter that mix for 4-3 teams looking for a 3-tech pass rusher.) As a result, Richardson may be available at the top of the 3rd round, where he would be a tremendous value.
Mike Pettine and Jim O'Neil have a versatile scheme that includes a diverse assortment of defensive fronts. The Browns already have Desmond Bryant and Billy Winn at strongside end; they don't have a need for another 5-tech. That being said, they could easily accommodate an additional 5-tech like Richardson by running a traditional 3-4 front more often in base defense. That way, they could get two 5-techs on the field at the same time.
Alternatively, they could stick with the 3-4 Under as the primary base defense and start the season rotating all three at SE. As the season goes on, they could make Richardson the primary backup and use Billy Winn elsewhere. I think this would be the best plan for Bobby Richardson's rookie year. The coaches could then consider further options for the following season based on his physical and technical development.