In this post, we’ll be looking at two potential first-round picks on defense, Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson and Kansas State LB Arthur Brown.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri:
Weight: 294 lbs.
Richardson is a player with high potential. He is the kind of player that GMs and coaches draft thinking they can coach him up and hoping that he develops a larger skillset. (This will be something of a theme with this series of tape reviews, as most of the players will have that particular question about them.) What does Sheldon Richardson bring to the table? He brings what is the ultimate disruption to a passing game: an interior pass rush.
Richardson has shown the ability to get off the ball extremely well; in addition, he has a plethora of pass rush moves (Snatch, Swim, Rip, Bull Rush) that he shows on almost every pass rush. The fact that he relies on these moves rather than pure athleticism makes me like him a bit more than I normally like high risk players.
So where are the negatives with Richardson? Well, he has a glaring hole in his ability to stop the run. For an interior player who will see a lot of time between the 3 technique and 2i technique, you want him to be able to squat down and stop the rush. That is most definitely something GMs will wonder about. He potentially can be bullied by centers or guards and has not shown the ability to handle double teams well.
With all that said, I still believe Richardson is an easy top-15 value. His ceiling is an interior pass rusher who can give you 5-7 sacks a season, consistently disrupt the pocket, and also hold his own in one-on-one situations and give some “push” up the middle against the run. His floor is a one- or two-down player who will struggle versus the run and can give middling pass-rush pressure up the middle.
Arthur Brown, MLB, Kansas State:
Weight: 241 lbs.
Arthur Brown is another player with a large question mark. It’s not athleticism, it’s not ability, it’s not football sense: It’s his size. At 6’0″, can he cover the new wave of tight ends in the NFL, who just seem to continue to get bigger, stronger, and faster? Even with that question, though, he has many tools that NFL scouts love to see.
Brown lines up in two distinct positions, Mike (middle) Linebacker and Sam (strong-side) Linebacker. He mostly plays the Mike, but you can see him play strong-side against a few of Oregon’s offensive sets. This is likely done to take advantage of his ability to engage quickly and to take him out of pass responsibility. We do not see too much of Brown in man-to-man coverage, but when he is in zone, he shows solid hips, moves his feet well, and scrapes with the quarterback. All these are things that you like to see out of a LB in zone. The few times we get to see him in man-to-man coverage, he does not make any huge mistakes.
Brown has a nose for the football– he reads plays extremely well. Against Oregon, a team that runs some misdirection with every play, he is fooled only once. Another time, he over-commits to his responsibility (a man-to-man coverage with a back out of the backfield). He engages into the line very well, and he shows that he can get separation with a linemen by shooting his hands, not allowing the OL into his body. He also takes great angles to the ball, reads his offensive line keys that tell him where the ball is going, and has some explosion downhill.
The issues come, again, with his size. At 6’0″, he gets swallowed up a few times by linemen at the second level. A tight end gets right behind him in zone coverage, on a play where he is looking at the play-action in the backfield and not reading the guard in front of him, who clearly sets up in a pass protection. There also has to be a concern of wear and tear: Can he go every down engaging with offensive linemen?
Arthur Brown’s upside is a fairly special player. Personally, his 6’0″ height doesn’t bother me. For comparison, most MLB’s sit at 6’1″+, with Urlacher being one of the bigger guys at 6’4″. Zach Thomas is potentially a top 3 or 4 LB of his era, and he played at 5’11”, 240. Now, I don’t see Arthur Brown getting to the Zach Thomas level. But if he is situated as an ILB in a 3-4, where his pass responsibilities are more attacking the QB than dropping and covering, Brown can make a name for himself early in his career and have a few Pro Bowl seasons. His floor is a player who can not make it as a Mike or Sam linebacker in the NFL and is relegated to being a 4-3 Will ‘backer who continues to struggle in coverage.