The New York Jets took defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick in last April’s NFL Draft. But the rookie thinks if teams were to re-draft today, he’d be playing in Kansas City. That is, he’d be the first player chosen.
“Probably No. 1, most likely,” Richardson told ESPN.com last week. “Kansas City? Yeah. I went into the draft thinking I’d be the No. 1 pick. I had a shot.”
And he has a case.
Richardson, who was actually the Jets’ second first-round draft selection after they took Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner with the No. 9 pick, has teamed up with Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison to form one of the NFL’s elite 3-4 defensive fronts. He was named November’s Defensive Rookie of the Month and was TheMMQB.com’s midseason Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Richardson has racked up 70 tackles (38 solo), 3.5 sacks, 27 quarterback hits and a forced fumble. His forte is stuffing the run, as 3-4 defensive linemen need to do. But his ability to shed blocks and get to the quarterback has turned him into one of the more dangerous defensive linemen in the league.
And, quite possibly, the best value pick last April.
“He was obviously one of the top guys coming out [of the draft] that a lot of people had rated very high, and he’s lived up to that and then some,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Wilkerson and Richardson are two young, very impressive guys that can be dominant players and are showing to be dominant players in this league.”
Much in part thanks to Richardson’s addition this season, the Jets are third in the NFL against the run (86.1 yards per game) and are 12th in sacks (39.0). It’s one of the main reasons the Jets are a respectable 6-8 despite the league’s worst turnover-differential (-19), normally a game killer.
“Right from the get-go, we knew we had something special there,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “He’s got a great motor. He brings it on the practice field as well as the game field. He can play in several spots, inside, outside, left hand down, right hand down, doesn’t matter.”
Richardson played defensive line and tight end in high school, and was a top 5 recruit at any position by some scouting services. His athleticism was too much to only be available to the defense, so Ryan inserted Richardson at running back last week against the Carolina Panthers. It took two tries, but Richardson found the end zone from the 1-yard line for a touchdown.
“I figure it’s hard to stop a guy that’s 290-some pounds with running back skills,” Ryan said.
The Browns will be more focused on containing Richardson and the rest of the Jets’ defensive line. Not many teams have been able to hold the line.
“They have a lot of depth, man,” Browns right guard Shawn Lauvao said. “Everybody they have along the front line is really talented, similar to Cincinnati. The one thing is that we have to have a good week of preparation and make sure we’re on the same page and play with good communication and good technique.
“Richardson has a good motor. He’s really athletic. He plays really good with his hands. I think he’s everything you want in a defensive lineman.”
Or a running back, if you need it. Though Lauvao, center Alex Mack, right guard Jason Pinkston and tackles Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz get the first crack at slowing down the No. 1 overall draft selection, at least in Richardson’s mind.
He’s doing a good job of showing he might have a valid point.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.