Willing blocker in blitz pickup; has potential to be very good
Didn't take a massive pounding in college
Hard-nosed runner between the tackles
Improved study habits as a junior
Looks durable; backup for two seasons before becoming a starter
Will need to continue to improve blitz pickup
Summary: Richardson was one of the most dominant and consistent players in college football last year. He carried Alabama's offense in their championship run. Richardson owned the SEC as he produced against every defense he faced. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry with 1,679 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns. He also thrived as a receiver, catching 29 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Richardson ran for 96 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown in the national championship versus LSU's NFL-caliber defense.
As a freshman and sophomore, Richardson was the backup to Mark Ingram. There will be a lot of NFL teams that like the fact that Richardson was a reserve over his first two years. That saved him from a lot of wear-and-tear that other college running backs have entering the league after totaling a large amount of carries as the leading weapon of their college teams. With Richardson's one year as the starter, NFL evaluators have enough tape to make a good evaluation of him.
Richardson looks like a three-down back in the NFL. He is a good receiver out of the backfield with the skill set to develop into a quality blitz protector. Richardson has an elite combination of strength and speed. He gets yards after contact from his strength, and is fast enough to break off long touchdowns on a carry or reception. He has the rare combination to ram through linebackers and run away from defensive backs.
Richardson could fit any NFL offense, but would be a perfect fit in a West Coast scheme because of his receiving ability. As a runner, Richardson could play in a power man blocking scheme or a zone-blocking system. Some believe that Richardson is the best running back prospect to enter the NFL since Adrian Peterson in 2007.
Player Comparison: Adrian Peterson. I don't really like this comparison, but it may be the closest match. Richardson looks like a complete back in a similar manner to Peterson when he entered the league. At the same time, I'm not convinced that Richardson will turn into as good of a running back as Peterson is.
There isn't another running back that Richardson really compares as well to. Like Peterson, Richardson has a special combination of size, strength and speed. Both running backs can control a game and beat defenses with a complete skill set.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Denver
The first team in the draft order that could target Richardson is the Browns. Richardson could land in Cleveland if they don't bring back Peyton Hillis and miss out on quarterback Robert Griffin III. Tampa Bay needs a three-down back as LeGarrette Blount is more of a backup and situational player. Richardson would be a good weapon to help straighten out Josh Freeman. Kansas City could consider Richardson, as Thomas Jones is at the end of the line and Jamaal Charles is coming off a serious knee injury.
If the Bucs or Chiefs pass on Richardson, he could slide in the 2012 NFL Draft like many running backs have. A team could trade up for him, but his freefall would end at No. 17 with the Bengals. They badly need a running back for their young, talented offense. Another team that needs a long-term running back is Denver. They could land Richardson, but it would take a trade up in the first round to do it.
As the NFL Draft approaches, I will be making weekly adjustments up until the 27th of April. Rest of the writeups will be coming later this week. Any questions/comments/criticisms can be voiced in the comments. I will respond to all.