2013 NFL Draft: Sheldon Richardson prospect profile

Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

We scout Missouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.

With the combine looming, it will be interesting to see which defensive lineman boost their stock the most. Sheldon Richardson will be one of many quality defensive line prospects who will be participating this week at the NFL Combine. Richardson had a really good season in which he recorded a whooping 75 tackles, four sacks, and three forced fumbles.

Richardson's best game statistically came against the best team, Alabama. Richardson had 14 tackles and a sack against the Crimson Tide. At 6'4 295 lbs, Sheldon projects to be a 3-4 end or a 4-3 tackle in the NFL.

Pros:

- Play recognition: He's able to read a play quickly and react. His recognition is evident when you see how fast he gets into the backfield at times. Not only does it take speed and strength to make tackles for a loss (10.5 last season), it takes the ability to read where the play is going, and Richardson does that.

- Swim move/Power move: I'm really impressed by Richardson's swim move. He has the ability to use speed and finesse to get past the lineman at times, he doesn't always have to use brute force. Richardson also is strong enough to push the offensive lineman back and to the side.

- Pursuit: He's fast enough when a quarterback gets out of the pocket he can still get to him for a sack, and when a ball carrier gets passed him he can still catch up and make the tackle. For a lineman Richardson can run sideline to sideline well and takes good angles to get to who has the football.

Cons:

- Misses some tackles: Will have to improve on squaring up and making sure he's in the best position to make the tackle.

- Over-pursuing: It will be very important for him to maintain the edge in a 3-4 defense. His aggressiveness has made him the good player he is, but he will have to pick his spots more in the NFL or a big play is going to happen for the offense. He allows open lanes at times and has to work on clogging the them.

- Strength: Don't get me wrong, he's a strong dude. But there have been times where he's been handled by an offensive lineman and he isn't able to get pressure or drive the offensive lineman back, he's the one getting driven back. This doesn't happen to Richardson all the time, but it's something to be aware of. He will have to get stronger.

Do Your Homework: Watch videos of Richardson against Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama (featured below):


Why He Might Fit The 49ers:

Richardson projects as a 3-4 end or 4-3 defensive tackle in the NFL. The 49ers need depth at end and Richardson could provide the while being groomed by the best defensive end in the game today, Justin Smith. The 49ers like physical players and Richardson certainly is one, he's more of a fit than not.

Why He Might Not Fit The 49ers:

It depends on whether the 49ers are looking at defensive line for round one. They could have defensive end as the number one priority for the first round and could have Richardson on the list of players they want. But it's also possible the 49ers have their eyes on a d-lineman in the second or third round, which would eliminate Richardson from the equation. This same kind of thought can be said for any of the "need" positions, but we don't have access to what Trent Baalke and company are thinking, so all we can do is speculate.

What They're Saying:

Kevin Weidl of ESPN has some pros and cons on Richardson:

Pro Football Weekly has an article in which RIchardson says he can gain weight without losing his quickness.

Richardson is saying he wouldn't mind getting to know Destiny's Childs Kelly Rowlands a little better, do you hear him?

- SB Nation's Dan Kadar has Richardson going to the Carolina Panthers in the first round of his two-round mock draft.

- Richardson is the 15th ranked prospect on SB Nation's Top 100 Big Board

- Check out all of his stats at cfbstats.com

Conclusion:

If the 49ers are going to get a defensive end in the draft, I hope they don't settle for finding Justin Smith's eventual successor. I hope they are trying to find the next Justin Smith, a player when you watch film of them you say, "Wow, he's a bad ass." Could Sheldon Richardson be Smith's successor? Maybe. Could Richardson be as good as Justin Smith? Way too early to tell. Whether it's Richardson or another end drafted by the 49ers, they will benefit greatly from having Smith to learn from as well as Coach Tomsula. They'd be put in a great situation to improve. If Richardson is still on the board when the 49ers are up in round one, they could be tempted to draft him.

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