Rex Ryan got another defensive player in the first round of the NFL Draft, as the Jets with the 13th pick took defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson out of Missouri.
Richardson came out of nowhere in 2012 to be a dominant force in the SEC.
But there were concerns that his one-year-wonder status might not translate to year-in, year-out productivity in the NFL.
Clearly, this wasn’t enough to scare off the Jets, who were no doubt impressed by Richardson’s effort against Alabama last fall when he had a game-high 14 tackles against one of the country’s best offensive lines.
For now, Richardson fills a huge void along the defensive line for the Jets, who also could have taken Star Lotulelei or Sharif Floyd.
Pros: Absolutely marvelous gap penetrator with the quick-twitch speed and hand movement to upset any blocker. Has a very quick first step off the snap and propels himself through the action. Sifts through blockers well (including double-teams) when angling and trying to beat slide protection. Keeps his head up and his body balanced after initial blocking contact, allowing him to make plays after fist impact. Gets skinny off the snap when facing a single blocker — will turn his body to get through and has an impressive rip move to reinforce it. Can maul if he gets his hands up before the blocker, though this isn’t his predominant attribute. Keeps his feet moving and will wear double teams down. Keeps his eye on the play and will disengage from blockers quickly to make plays downfield. Terrific space defender for his size — will careen from sideline to sideline more quickly than a big man should. Has the pure agility to back into defense on screen passes, and the ability to drop in zone blitzes.
Cons: Richardson is not a consistent physical “winner” in that he will get stoned by more powerful blockers, especially in the run game. Will also tend to get boxed out if he’s moving to the side and into the pocket. Comes off the snap too high at times, leading him to lose leverage and angle battles he should win. Limited experience at the FBS level could hurt him on some draft boards, but his play against better teams will more than make up for it on others.
What he brings to the team: Scary gap versatility. Richardson’s first step is what makes him truly special, but make no mistake — this is a player with a fantastic overall skill set with the ability to be an impact player from the start in the NFL. In addition, his positional versatility will make him indispensable to Rex Ryan.His best position might be as a three-tech tackle with his upper-body strength and agility, but he’ll also be able to move with the NFL trend of linemen becoming more position-versatile.