The Jets were in the fortunate position this year in that they had two first round selections. The first was used on Dee Milliner, a player we covered yesterday. The second was a complete surprise, as Rex Ryan and the gang thought it be prudent to select yet another defensive lineman. Personally I didn’t like the selection; there were plenty of talented players around Richardson at bigger areas of need. However he is now a Jet, which means he’ll get the full support of everyone here, just like any Jets player should. Richardson’s journey to the NFL hasn’t been a straight forward one, but it has been one full of surprises and the key word of this article "versatility".
Looking over Richardson’s time at Gateway Tech High School in St Louis, it is hard to find a position on the football field that the guy didn’t play. Predominantly a defensive tackle, he also lined up in the backfield as a running back. On the line as a TE or WR, he returned punts too. This is all incredible considering he was already 275lb’s in high school. He wasn’t a 240 guy who put on 60 lb’s in college. He is naturally a big guy, but he is also a naturally athletic guy as well. In his senior season at Gateway he recorded 88 tackles and 19 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries and one interception. Oh he also added 6 defensive touchdowns. Not to mention he caught 27 passes for 541 yards and 8 touchdowns, all from the tight end position. So if you are not quite getting it yet, this guy is just an incredible athlete. He didn’t play against elite competition in high school like Dee Milliner did, but at any level of competitive sport, those numbers are impressive. He was very much a man amongst boys.
Following on from his impressive senior season at Gateway, Sheldon had the world at his feet. He was rated the #1 DT prospect and #4 overall prospects in the country by rivals.com. He was a 5* prospect with Scout.com and graded 81 by ESPN recruiting. As you would expect this meant he fielded offers from some highly prestigious programs. These included Missouri, Arkansas, USC, Miami, Florida and Minnesota. Originally picking Missouri as his college of choice, Richardson briefly flirted with making a final decision on national signing day, however shortly before he confirmed that he was sticking with his original pledge and would join Missouri.
Unfortunately for Richardson and Missouri, this is where things got a little more difficult. Unable to fulfil the academic obligations that go with college football at Missouri, Richardson was forced to spend the first two years of his college career at junior college (College of Sequoias in California). He got off to an impressive start in 2009 at JUCO recording 65 tackles, 17 for a loss and 3 sacks. Rivals.com named him the #3 best JUCO prospect. Unfortunately in 2010, he missed all but 2 games following a wrist injury, a season he would redshirt before transferring back to a Division 1 program.
After such an impressive season in 2009, Richardson really could have picked the program he wanted to attend. He briefly verbally committed to USC while playing out in California, however eventually he decided to stick with his original commitment and join Missouri for the 2011 season. However it was a race against the clock as he had coursework he needed to finish to even become eligible to play by the NCAA. Eventually he did make it and he started his career as a Tiger. In 2011 he made just two starts, but he did showcase his disruptive nature on the way to earning honourable mention all-conference. Recording 37 tackles 8 tackles for loss and two sacks.
His best year like Milliner came in 2012 as he took up a starting DT role on Gary Pinkel’s defence. He recorded an impressive 75 tackles which was good enough for most by any defensive tackle in the Southeastern conference. He also notched up 10.5 tackles for a loss as well as 4.0 quarterback sacks. He also forced three fumbles and recovered two. He lined up at DT and DE, often shooting the A-Gap. However his versatility allowed him to drop into coverage and his pursuit was always that of a man half his weight. His versatility is what made him a disruptive force. I thought he may stay in Missouri for his final year to refine his technique and truly become one of the most well rounded DT’s in the nation, however he decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and elect for the draft.
CHARACTER & INJURY CONCERNS
We focused on this area with Dee Milliner, a player who only missed one game his entire college career, so I think it is only fair to do the same with Sheldon Richardson. Richardson missed nearly the entire 2010 season with a wrist injury that required surgery, however as far as I am aware there have been no further problems with it since then. He did undergo shoulder surgery following the 2011 season and some believe this may have caused some of the weaknesses in his game that we will address a little further down the page. On November 15th 2012, Richardson was suspended from the Missouri team for an unspecified rules violation, just over two weeks later he declared for the draft. We don’t know what this rules violation was (rumoured to be academic) and this is the only discrepancy I can find, but it’s noteworthy.
As we did with Milliner, we’ll do a quick mini scouting profile just to go over his game:
+ Incredibly athletic for a man his size
+ Has good hands, good speed and good acceleration off the snap
+ Good awareness and play recognition
+ Does a nice job disengaging from blocks to make tackles
+ Elite motor!
~ Only one year starting experience against FBS competition.
~Upper body strength is questionable
~ Sometimes gets stood up, loses balance, pushed out of plays
~Even though he is disruptive, didn’t get to the QB much
I do like Richardson as a player and whether he is playing as a 3-4 DE or a 4-3 DT, he has a disruptive nature and a high motor, two things that will enamour him to the Jets faithful. However I still believe this to be a complete luxury pick. Personally I would have preferred we went with another position because I think the talent at DT was solid throughout the draft. Damontre Moore going in the 3rd round, Jesse Williams going in the 5th round. However he is a Jet and I’m sure he’ll make a few plays this year. Hopefully with Wilkerson and Coples, he can give us the defensive front that will petrify opposing lineman and quarterbacks.