Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Draft Profile: Sheldon Richardson - DT - Missouri

The following is the 5th in a series of draft profiles for the 1st round pick for the Dallas Cowboys. These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.  Surely, circumstances will dictate what actually happens on that day, but we will profile the 8-10 most likely candidates and try to kick the tires on each and every scenario an how it relates to the Cowboys in 2013 and beyond.

Sheldon Richardson
Defensive Tackle
6'2, 294
40 time: 4.99     Bench Press: 30 Reps

January 1, 1989 (Age 24)

This NFL is evolving.  To a point that Sheldon Richardson is one of the highly touted defensive tackles in this draft despite looking like a linebacker.  He wears #34 as a defensive tackle and honestly, it doesn't even look that weird because runs like a deer.

But, it is that ultimate question in the game of football.  While we evolve to better athletes at these positions that were normally reserved for the big and strong players, are we allowing our defenses to get to a point where they can be attacked physically again?

Richardson is a physical marvel who while running a reported 4.81 on his pro day also plays with great speed.  He runs everywhere fast and therefore on screen plays where he must head for a sideline runs by many players who don't have his gifts.  But, it is one thing to have great wheels, it is quite another to play to the whistle at all times.  Does this special player have the motor that doesn't stop until the play stops?  If he gets blocked initially, is he now out of the play?  With Richardson, you will see the answer is "never".  When a play gets past him, you will often see him running to the ball with great pursuit.  Trust me, this is not always the case with defensive linemen.  Never giving up on a play is a very useful and admirable trait that is important to value.  And his 75 tackles as a DT indicate that he is getting in on plays that are not necessarily plays in his direction.

He has been productive at Missouri, playing 24 games in 2 seasons and finding 24.5 explosive plays (Sacks + Tackles For Loss).  This ratio is strong (not great) and representative of a guy who can get where he wants to go and do something when he gets there.  He also has the ability to drop back into coverage on a zone blitz concept as his movement skills are exceptional.  I wouldn't recommend too much dropping of a DT into pass defense, but it at least would be available with a guy like Richardson.

His negatives are out there as well, in that he has said and done a few things that might not be everyone's (Jason Garrett) cup of tea.  He missed a game as a violation of team policy and lobbed some quotes out there that indicate he is ready to battle you in the media, too.

But, those items don't concern me too much.  What does make me wonder is if this type of player can help you go through the physical teams that wish to ground and pound you.  For instance, when we look at guards who are strong as can be decide to double team and shove him, can he do anything to stop it?  Does he have a run anchor in physical play or is he simply a penetrating athlete who never stops running?  What does he do when Seattle or San Francisco are going to run right at him?

This is nit-picking, for sure, but you hate to draft a 1st Rounder who has a weakness that might make him a target for game-plans because of a weakness.  However, there is a give-and-take with regards to skill sets.  If a guy cannot be moved in the running game, he is not likely to have much effect in the backfield.  Conversely, if a guy has the athletic talents to penetrate and blow plays up deep in the backfield, then he is likely to not have the anchor to stand in there and hold his ground.  If a guy can do both, he is Vince Wilfork.

But, Richardson is a magnificent specimen who will impress you with his film - in particular, a 14 tackle, 1 sack performance against Alabama below.

Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test.  Find the DT who wears #92 and watch:

Vs Alabama

Vs Florida

Vs South Carolina

The Case For Dallas Taking Sheldon Richardson at #18:  Richardson is clearly in that category of player that if he slides to 18, the Cowboys would likely run to the podium to take him.  He has a few things that might bother you if you are picking #4, but by the time you get to the back half of the 1st Round, you are more than delighted to take on any slight risks.  He is exactly the type of player the Cowboys should be targeting in that he is a defensive lineman who has position versatility and also the ability to defeat blocks and make plays in the backfield.  If you consider the idea of a premium player at a real position of need and a guy who is a finished product who can step in Week 1 and cause problems for your opponents, look no further than Richardson.

The Case Against Dallas Taking Sheldon Richardson at #18:  The one knock on him would be that your team is not physical enough and while he is plenty weight-room strong, I am not sure he plays as strong in the trenches all of the time.  If he were to face a strong guard who has good hands, he might have a very quiet day and from that standpoint, a guy like Sylvester Williams might be more what they need.  But, there is not much of a case against Sheldon Richardson.  He looks like he could really have an impact right away.

In ranking him, I have him as the best DT we have looked at.  I still want the both guards, first, but Richardson is a special player at a position where the Cowboys don't have much.

So far, of our 5 profiles, I would list them in this order:

1. Chance Warmack - Report Here
2. Jonathan Cooper - Report Here
3. Sheldon Richardson
4. Sylvester Williams - Report Here
5. Sharrif Floyd - Report Here

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