NFL

Patriots Shock Everyone With Jordan Richards at No. 64

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When the New England Patriots selected former Stanford safety Jordan Richards with the No. 64 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the most common reaction was, “Huh?” Richards seems like a solid player, but it was surprising to see New England go with a safety, especially one who nobody thought would be off of the board in the second round.

Richards was projected as a sixth- or seventh-round prospect by NFL.com and some pundits immediately criticized the pick by saying he was picked several rounds too early. It’s hard to question New England and their results, but in this case it probably would’ve made more sense to select Richards later or trade down rather than picking him at No. 64.

Looking at Richards, it’s easy to see why the Patriots fell in love with him though. The First-Team All-Pac-12 player seems to fit their culture, as he is a great leader with an excellent motor. He was a three-year starter at Stanford and became the team’s defensive captain. He is a good run stopper and he doesn’t shy away from physical plays. He also has good hands, as he played some wide receiver in high school.

However, Richards has his share of weaknesses too, which is why he was initially projected as a late-round pick. His coverage skills leave a lot to be desired and his instincts have been described as “below-average.” Richards particularly struggles in man coverage since he is poor at mirroring his opponent and doesn’t have good recovery speed.

It seems most teams saw Richards as a physical safety who could help their run defense, but the Patriots saw much more. They seem to see a diamond in the rough who has the potential to be a very productive, well-rounded safety.

In recent years, the Patriots have made a habit of picking a surprise safety project on day two of the draft. They picked Tavon Wilson with the No. 48 pick in 2012 and selected Duron Harmon with the No. 91 pick in 2013 – both of which were shocking as well.

If the Patriots can work with Richards and turn him into a significant contributor, Bill Belichick will look like a genius once again. However, it’s also possible that this will blow up in his face since they took him so early (when they had other needs, such as an offensive lineman or cornerback) and since Richards will now face high expectations as he begins his NFL career.


About Alex Kennedy