Drafted with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft, coming by way of Missouri(after attending 2 years at the College of the Sequoias}, and a trade of an all pro Jet, Sheldon Richardson proved to be a force on the defensive line. Many Jet fans were disappointed seeing the Jets take another D-lineman in the 1st round of the draft for the third year in a row, with Coples coming in 2012 and Wilkerson in 2011. The result has been a very effective defensive line that is stacked, and an outside linebacker (Coples) who is still learning a new position but shows signs of excellence already. Richardson’s contribution to this line has not been small, he is already proving to be a force in a position that is one of the most difficult to adjust to at the NFL level.
During the 2013 NFL season Sheldon racked up 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble, 77 combined tackles with 42 coming solo, and most impressively 12 tackles for losses with 25 yards total stuff yards. He’s a run stopping machine, and a big part of the reason the Jets run defense was so stout this season. Hes also incredibly athletic for man his size and can get after a ball carrier with some of the best defensive tackles in the league, this will also help him in the future against some of the mobile quarterbacks in the league. However, when playing the defensive tackle position there so much more to consider than weight and speed of a player, there is also technique and the ability to adjust.
In the trenches a lot of things come down to the way linemen use hands, it’s almost a game within a game, and when an offensive linemen loses this game his quarterback, or the running back he is blocking for, pay the price. This is something Richardson has excelled in this area this season showing a quality of technique that you don’t regularly see. His time at Missouri clearly prepared him well. As he continues to improve in this area over his career he will become a more effective pass rusher and his sack totals could reach double digits by his third year or fourth year in the league. The only areas Richardson could use improvement in is the timing of the snap, he is often slow off the snap, which is apparent when looking at him next to Wilkerson, the three year veteran.
Overall Richardson had a more than commendable rookie season, and may still win the defensive rookie of year award, which a massive triumph considering some of the other defensive players drafted. His presence was felt in opposing backfields on a regular basis, and he tired out many defensive lineman while starting all 16 games this season. He is versatile, durable and even contributed on the offensive side of the ball as a power fullback towards the end of the season, scoring two short touchdowns in a goal line stance. His football knowledge is impressive as well, as he showed in those two late season touchdowns, making the proper adjustments and finding the right gaps to power through.