Sheldon Richardson, Rookie of the Year
Following the Jets Monday night upset in Atlanta, Sheldon Richardson is finally getting the respect he deserves as the early favorite to win the Rookie of The Year Award. A lot of people say that they saw this coming, but the reality of the fact is that most people were confused by the Richardson pick at 13th overall. I am not one of those people, below I am including an article I wrote for a sports journalism class back in April...
Going into last weeks NFL draft, it was widely expected by fans and media personnel alike that the Jets would draft a pass rusher in the first round. By selecting Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick the Jets fulfilled these expectations, just not in the way that everyone thought.
Throughout the entire offseason almost every mock draft had the Jets linked to the top outside linebacker prospects such as Barkevious Mingo, Dion Jordan, and Jarvis Jones. All three of these players have the potential to fill the position of a pass rushing OLB that has been so sorely missing from every Rex Ryan Jets defense. Instead the Jets chose to draft Richardson, a defensive tackle out of Missouri.
To many this seemed like an idiotic pick. why would the Jets take someone who plays the position already filled by the Jets budding stars Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples? Especially when a player like Jarvis Jones was still on the board.
To me however, it seems idiotic to question this pick. I see one of two explanations for why people might hate on the Richardson pick. Either they never actually watched Richardson’s highlights, or they don’t understand the incredible flexibility that adding Richardson will provide for Ryan’s defense.
As soon as you start watching Richardson’s highlight tape it becomes apparent that the 6’2”, 294-pound defensive lineman is an absolute stud. He plays extremely fast and showed an incredible ability to penetrate some of the best offensive lines the SEC had to offer. In 2012, Richardson totaled 75 tackles with 10.5 of them coming behind the line of scrimmage, while also recording 4.0 sacks. Even more impressive is that his best game of the season came against an Alabama offensive line that saw two players get drafted in the first 11 picks of the draft. With the combination of Richardson’s speed and superb inside rush moves, he is a player that can regularly make plays in the backfield against both the run and the pass.
This is not to say that there aren’t weaknesses in Richardson’s game. For instance he at times struggles to stand his ground against run blocking. But all rookies heave weaknesses, and who better to work on Richardson’s then Rex Ryan.
Speaking of Ryan, to think that he will not be able to find ways to play Coples, Wilkerson and Richardson at the same time would be naive. Earlier in the offseason Rex mentioned the fact that we might see more 4-3 fronts out of the Jets next year. This is what I first thought of when Richardson was picked. A four-man line of Wilkerson, Coples, and Richardson, along with the size and strength of Kenrick Ellis has the making of a dominant line. The type of line that is capable of completely taking over a game. Think the Giants vs. Patriots Super Bowls.
Another option is for Rex to keep the Jets in a three man front where Coples stands up as a pass rushing linebacker, with Richardson, Wilkerson, and Ellis keeping their hand in the dirt.
No matter how Ryan chooses to use Richardson, he will be able to use his ability to penetrate and rush the passer to make a serious contribution. In time it will be evident that taking Richardson with the 13th pick was the only move to make.
So far this season Richardson has 24 total tackles, 11 of which are solo. Even more impressive is that 5 weeks into the season the rookie has already recorded 2.5 sacks to go along with his 3 tackles for a loss. If his abilities as a run defender and pass rusher don't impress you enough, he has also flashed signs of his quick instincts by knocking down a pass.
With the early success of his line mate and potential candidate for Defensive Player of the Year Muhammad Wilkerson, the two combine to help form one of the most formidable defensive lines in all of the NFL. It should be scary for the rest of the NFL to realize that both of these players have only been in league for less then three years. It is a safe bet to say that the Jets Terror Twins will be wreaking havoc on the rest of the NFL for years to come