It’s not often a pick is tipped by an existing member of the team on local radio, but it emphasises Paul Richardson’s fit in Seattle that Doug Baldwin name checked him in an interview on Friday.
Fast forward to 12:52:
I recall hearing this and thinking, “nah”. The Seahawks needed a bigger receiver, not another lithe 5-11/6-0 type. This was all about a jump ball specialist with a great wingspan — and a red zone threat.
That’s where I/we went wrong this year. And it’s why Baldwin wasn’t disclosing any inside information in that piece — he just knew better than us. As a Seattle receiver he knows what they want, what they look for. He admits they’d like to get a bigger receiver, but they also want rare athleticism, shiftiness and a lack of stiffness. Pete Carroll made the same point himself in Friday’s press conference. They love size at receiver, but it’s tough to match up size with quickness.
With hindsight — and every draft is a learning curve — that would’ve almost certainly made Cody Latimer a much less likely option than we thought. Latimer is big and athletic, he makes tough catches and he run blocks superbly. John Elway admitted in an NFL Network interview that Denver loved his run blocking. In many ways he did fit Seattle.
But he isn’t shifty or smooth. He is a little stiff. He doesn’t glide like Paul Richardson.
Any big wide out they’re going to take better be able to move. They can’t take an age to get up through the gears. It has to be initial explosion and not gradual acceleration. They need to be able to explode out of their breaks and get open. It’s clearer now that they’re looking for guys who do it all — not just high point the football and compete.
Ultimately size doesn’t matter. Being something akin to the complete package does. Speed, hands, length, routes, big plays. Even then you need to match it all with the character, drive and determination to fit into Seattle’s intense locker room. The weak won’t survive. Schneider’s said it. Baldwin said it in that KJR interview. Carroll’s taking the ‘always compete’ mantra to a new level. I’ve never heard a team talk so openly in this way before. Multiple warnings that you better go hard or go home.
Schneider pointed out before the draft that they used a lot of visits this year to see how players acted in the VMAC. How did they approach the staff? They had meetings with the club psychologist to test whether they were mentally strong enough to deal with being ‘all-in’. This goes beyond thorough. Schneider suggested it was in part due to mistakes made in the past on players who didn’t have the will to succeed in this ultra-competitive environment.
Again in hindsight you look back and recall listening to certain players speak. Martavis Bryant is shy and awkward in interviews. Cody Latimer isn’t too dissimilar — he’s not a confident public speaker. Then you put on an interview with Richardson. He’s focused and willing to talk. Confident without being cocky. There’s a determined look in his eye.
He appeared on the NFL Network hours before Seattle took him at #45:
You might ask whether it’s too difficult to judge a man’s character based on media interviews. I’d suggest if you’re uncomfortable talking to a middle aged journalist on a practise field you’re unlikely to ooze confidence sat in front of a NFL Head Coach, a GM and several scouts. Richardson filled every criteria — including the character test — and that’s why, according to Schneider, they were willing to take him at #32 without the Minnesota trade.
That’s not to say the pick will necessarily be a roaring success. Not all of Seattle’s ideal fits have panned out. They’ve had some major success stories (obviously) but also a few misses too. There’s a danger sometimes in placing too much faith in what you believe is a perfect fit. Tim Ruskell was so zoned into what he wanted (senior, big school, zero red flags) he forgot the most important thing — adding good players to your team. You can lose sight over what essentially makes a good roster. Pure talent. Seattle’s current front office aren’t anywhere close to Ruskell in terms of vision — but it seems they too are starting to become quite restrictive in terms of what they’re looking for.
The approach to the offensive line is a good example of this. It appears Tom Cable has the ultimate say on who he wants/doesn’t want. And that’s why you see a guy like Justin Britt going in round two. Cable likes his wrestling background, attitude and upside. He likes how he matched up with Jadeveon Clowney. But he’s a player Mike Mayock had in round five based on the tape. If Britt succeeds it’ll validate the plan. If he fails, an offensive line that ranked poorly over the last couple of years could get even worse having lost Breno Giacomini to the Jets. And some would argue there appeared to be more talented players on the board.
It’ll be fascinating to see if they can keep the hit rate going over the next few years.
Yet at the same time, they’re only going after what has worked so far. Ruskell’s vision wasn’t built on a foundation of success. It was just personal preference. Schneider and Carroll are being restrictive because guys like Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin and others are so amped, driven and focused. They live, breathe and sleep football. Searching for more of the same, in this instance, is totally justifiable. Not that they need any seal of approval from me.
Let’s get into the tape.
Richardson didn’t have much impact against USC in what ended up being a convincing blowout victory for the Trojans. But there is one area I want to touch on.
He’s an excellent route runner as we’ll see later on. But in this game two snaps were a little frustrating. At 0:51 he runs a laboured route, giving it away too easily and almost jogging into the break. The defender has an easy read and he needs to do a better job here selling the deep route before snapping back inside. Get the corner turned. Otherwise he’ll break passes up like this all day.
At 2:09 we see a similar issue. He fails to get separation over the middle and ends up well covered on a crosser. These routes always give an advantage to the receiver if they can sell it in the break. Once again he fails to do that. The quarterback hits him in stride but the presence of the defender behind Richardson leads to a soft incompletion.
This is better:
He engages the route and almost gives the impression he’ll be run blocking. He then darts inside leaving the defender on his heels to get a first down. More of this, less of the routes we saw above.
Cal plays a really soft coverage on Richardson in this game — allowing him to make four easy catches in the first five minutes. The cushion’s too big in zone (see 0:21) and when the corner plays up at the line (0:29) they don’t do anything to disrupt his route. It sets up a deep shot at 1:08 where he gets separation with pure speed down the middle the field. If the quarterback puts a bit more on this it’s a touchdown. Instead it’s just a big gain. But again it really is an appalling coverage job. Enormous cushion, watch him run past you and struggle to recover. Poor defense.
We’ll see later on in the Arizona tape that you just can’t afford to do this against Richardson. If he gets a cushion he’ll just run away from you and find the open spot downfield. This won’t change in the NFL and he’ll draw attention from the free safety on many snaps as a consequence. His big task at the next level will be dealing with press — but there’s also enough evidence on tape where he’s shifty enough to stutter-step and elude contact.
The best play on the Cal tape where he actually wins vs being gifted an easy catch comes at 2:55. Colorado lines up two receivers to the left including Richardson. They both run downfield with #87 getting passed off to the safety by the outside corner. Richardson sticks his foot into the ground and drives to the sideline really doing a good job selling the deep ball. He’s wide open when he makes the catch — and this time it’s on technique and not a terrible defensive scheme.
He also makes a nice sideline grab at 3:53. Good route, nice catch in a tight spot. Just gets one foot in. It follows a failed deep shot on 3:43 where Richardson runs away from the safety and the QB just misses. He can certianly take the top off a defense that’s for sure. Russell Wilson won’t miss shots like this.
There are two plays that really stand out against Oregon (three if you count his touchdown throw at 0:43) and one ugly drop.
First the positives. Richardson’s first catch is another example of solid route running. He starts in the slot and shapes to run to the right sideline. He then turns and runs a go-route downfield. The corner completely bites on the outside move and he can’t recover. Richardson’s wide open when the quarterback throws for a big gain. This is a very technically accomplished play.
At 2:11 he makes a superb one-handed catch. Not only does he track the ball over his shoulder and secure it while leaping in mid-air — he’s also being dragged back on a clear pass interference by the corner. I remember watching this game live and thinking it was a catch-of-the-season candidate.
Sadly there’s a bad drop to even it out. At 3:14 he does the hard part — shaking off the corner with ease and rushing down the right sideline. He’s wide open. The throw this time is on the money. It’s an easy catch for a huge gain. And he drops it. Whether he takes his eye off the ball or hears footsteps I’m not sure. It’s a poor drop. On the plus side the little stutter-step to get open was textbook receiver play — but you’ve got to have that one.
He does have a second drop in the game at 4:08. The QB is hit while he throws and the ball loops kindly to Richardson. Again, he just drops the ball. There’s no excuse because he’s under no pressure.
There were two issues in the USC tape running over the middle. Not so here. At 0:25 he runs a much better route inside creating separation and making a difficult grab. It sets up the kind of play that warrants comparisons to DeSean Jackson.
At 0:38 he’s given a huge cushion and he just explodes into the open space downfield. As soon as the corner turns (his cousin as it happens, Shaq Richardson) it’s over. He has to turn because he fears the go route down the sideline. As soon as Richardson sees the switch he cuts across the middle. The corner can’t recover. This is the D-Jax style play. It’s what he’s famous for. And when he makes the catch he finishes it — running clear into the end zone. Hopefully Richardson will force pro-corners to respect his deep speed in the same way. If he can get them turned, he’ll work the middle. If they don’t turn he’ll beat them in a foot race and compete for the ball. This is a great example of technique and explosive athleticism working together for a big play.
This was a pretty spectacular game for Richardson. At 2:24 he makes an acrobatic one handed catch similar to the one Percy Harvin made against Minnesota last season. It’s tight coverage, he palms it up in the air with one hand and comes down with the grab.
He also hurt his lower leg/ankle in this game and didn’t play most of the final quarter.
I’m not big on posting highlight videos to show what a player is capable of — it’s a small sample of extremely positive plays. But I also think the four games available online don’t really do his playmaking quality justice.
As you can see he’s a big play artist. The Seahawks love that, along with the speed.
I can see why they wanted to add a deep threat to the offense. For all his athletic brilliance Percy Harvin has never been a true downfield receiver. He does his damage with YAC and getting the ball in his hands quickly. He’s going to operate mostly in the slot and the backfield — getting the ball on a quick hitter and going to work or using the jet sweep/end around’s.
By adding Richardson you’re adding another weapon the defense has to account for. You’ve got Marshawn Lynch running the ball so do you drop the safety into the box? You’ve got Percy Harvin lined up in the backfield drawing attention. Russell Wilson’s running ability adds another dimension. And now you’ve got a genuine deep threat to keep a defense honest. Until now the Seahawks never really had a true field-stretching playmaker.
He’s probably not going to be a 1000 yard receiver — in the same way Baldwin, Tate and Rice never topped that mark in Seattle. Harvin will get the opportunity if he stays healthy because you’ve got to feed him the ball. Richardson isn’t a production machine in the waiting. But he will make chunk plays and his mere presence on the field will make life easier for the other weapons on the offense.
It’s a thoroughly understandable pick. Not the orthodox split end we expected but the thinking behind the selection is clear.
— Fantastic speed, glides downfield and has similar physical skills to DeSean Jackson
— Technically gifted, knows how to get the corner turned and use that to his advantage, explosive out of his breaks most of the time
— Catches the ball away from his body with relative ease
— Despite a lack of size he competes for the ball, good leaping ability and clear evidence on tape that he’ll try to high point the football
— Driven personality fits the team
— Even if he’s not making a play, his presence can help keep a defense honest
— Doesn’t drop many passes but the ones he does spill tend to be easily avoidable
— Will need to show he can avoid press at the next level, might have games where he’s shoved around and can’t back down, quick feet and shiftiness will help him avoid contact
— Very little experience as a return man so immediate impact could be limited
— Small hands (sub 9 inch) that aren’t the strongest, good ball skills but doesn’t absorb the football
— Even beyond his rookie season, Richardson’s role could be fairly limited if he isn’t making big plays or acting as a decoy