Summary: Missouri struggled with its move to the SEC, but Richardson was one Tigers player who was clearly better then the competition. He was a dominant force at the point of attack. The explosive junior was constantly firing into the backfield to be a disruptive presence against the pass and the run.
Richardson was impossible not to notice when watching tape of the Tigers; he was all over the field. If plays went away from him, Richardson would give tremendous effort to run across the field and get in on tackles. Because he is extremely fast, he was able to have an impact with that effort. Richardson got in on tackles over 10 yards down the field on wide receivers after receptions.
Richardson finished the year second on Missouri in tackles with 75. He registered 10.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, three passes broken up and three forced fumbles. too. Richardson also returned a fumble 60 yards against Kentucky. The Tigers did not qualify for a Bowl game, and the junior quickly declared for the 2013 NFL Draft. He recorded 37 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble in 2011.
Missouri used Richardson at defensive end and tackle. He had success as a pass-rusher at end as well as at tackle. Richardson beat Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker for a sack coming from end, and is a much better pass-rusher than his sack totals indicate. Richardson had 14 tackles against Alabama. He was impressive going against the Crimson Tide's superb offensive line.
Against Kentucky's Larry Warford, Richardson didn't make plays versus the tough guard but found a way to have a big impact versus the Wildcats' other linemen.
Richardson could be a dangerous pass-rusher in the NFL as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. He also could play end on run downs and move inside to tackle in passing situations for a 4-3 system. Richardson also would fit as a 3-4 defensive end given his length, speed and great motor. He is an impact player who is a three-down player and tone-setter for a defense. Richardson is a fiery player who has some potential to be a leader in the locker room.
Player Comparison: J.J. Watt. I don't think that Richardson will turn into as a good of a player as Watt. However of all the players in the NFL, Richardon's non-stop motor and style of play is the most reminiscent of Watt. Both players also have explosiveness and the instincts to make impact plays even when not recording sacks. Watt (6-5, 295), a second-year pro, and Richardson have almost identical measurements with length and speed. Watt is a better player in the NFL than he was in college and Richardson definitely has that potential.
NFL Matches: Carolina, Oakland, New Orleans, Dallas, Minnesota, Denver, Atlanta
There are a number of teams that could consider Richardson in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders are probably going to pick in the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft. Both of those teams need help at tackle, and if Richardson has a strong Spring, he could move into top-10 consideration.
The Saints would be a great fit for Richardson, too. He could play defensive end in potential running situations and move inside to tackle on pass plays. Richardson would be a huge upgrade for New Orleans' defensive line, and the team badly needs a player like him on defense.
The Cowboys have considered using their first-rounder on a defensive lineman in recent years, but have ultimately addressed other positions. Richardson would fit their defense well as a five-technique. It wouldn't be surprising if Jerry Jones wants his own version of J.J. Watt, and Richardson could be the closest thing to Watt in the 2013 NFL Draft.
If Richardson slides into the back half of the first round, Minnesota, Denver and Atlanta make sense. Each team could use a young play-making defensive tackle to upgrade its interior pass rush and run defense.