2013 could end up being ‘year of the defensive tackle’. Jonathan Jenkins (Georgia), Star Lotulelei (Utah), Sylvester Williams (North Carolina), Jonathan Hankins (Ohio State) and Kawann Short (Purdue) all look good enough to carry first round grades. Jesse Williams (Alabama) and Bennie Logan (LSU) could also get into the mix. And as the tape proves below, it’s time to put Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson on the list.
He’s smaller than some of the guys listed above. Jenkins is a pure nose tackle with superb athleticism for his size, while Williams and Hankins are both capable of playing the nose or acting as a pass rusher. Short and Lotulelei are more orthodox three-techniques and Richardson – at 6-2 and 290lbs – falls into that category. He’s got a bit of the Nick Fairley’s about him in terms of size/athleticism and he’s just as capable as a pass rusher. Perhaps the best example of what an athlete he is are the number of snaps he takes in coverage. Not many defensive tackles drop back, even to monitor screens and underneath routes.
There are some concerns – he’s a JUCO transfer with some reported baggage. He missed spring training this year through injury and teams will need to check out his shoulder as a consequence. He does have a quicker first step than any of the names above and perhaps his most impressive feature is his ability to finish. He’ll gain the advantage with initial burst, but he shifts up the gears to create pressure and execute. He’s very active and doesn’t give up on plays where he’s not directly involved. Richardson appears to do a decent job against the run although he’s more effective rushing the passer. Overall he has an impressive skill set for the three technique position.
The Seahawks could still use further interior help particularly in the form of a legit pass rusher alongside Brandon Mebane. However, as we’ve seen in the three games so far the teams greatest needs are on offense. Even so this is an area to keep an eye on with so many potential first round picks next April.