- Steve Muench, Scouts Inc.
Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate with 66 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. But would he have been the first overall pick if Kansas City could go back and do it again?
There’s an argument for it. And he made it Thursday when he told ESPNNewYork.com as much.
"Probably No. 1, most likely," Richardson said of where he would go in a redraft. "Kansas City? Yeah. I went into the draft thinking I'd be the No. 1 pick. I had a shot."
Offensive tackle Eric Fisher has missed time with injuries and hasn’t played at the level expected of a first overall pick. Chiefs fans who favor Richardson over Fisher might contend that they could have started OT Donald Stephenson opposite Branden Albert and it would not have affected the record. Meanwhile, the Chiefs rank 20th in yards allowed per game. At the very least, Richardson would have bolstered the run defense.
It’s not that easy, though. And as well as he’s played, Richardson might not have cracked the top five if teams drafted again today.
Even though he’s been banged up, Fisher has played well enough to start 10 games for a 10-3 team, and he still has a great deal of upside. His play should improve once he has an offseason to heal and has a full NFL season under his belt. He also has the skill set to push Stephenson for the left tackle job when it comes time to replace Albert, who will be a free agent and has had problems staying healthy.
As porous as the Kansas City defense has been, the stat that matters most is points allowed, and only three teams are giving up fewer points per game. So drafting Fisher over Richardson still makes sense. Taking Lane Johnson, whom the Eagles took with the fourth overall pick and who has started all 13 games, makes more sense than taking Richardson if the Chiefs decided to pass on Fisher.
If the Chiefs passed on Richardson, would he have been a top-five pick? Again, there’s an argument to be made, but it’s unlikely.
Jacksonville lost its second overall pick, offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, to a broken ankle after five games, but the need at tackle was so great that taking Fisher or Johnson still makes more sense than taking Richardson.
It would come as no surprise if the Dolphins reached for offensive guard Chance Warmack or offensive tackle D.J. Fluker knowing what they know now. Even though both players have struggled at times the Dolphins are desperate for help along the offensive line with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin out of the lineup.
Even if the Dolphins were to address the defensive front and pass on Dion Jordan who has not made much of a splash despite his considerable talents, they are more likely to take Barkevious Mingo who has a similar skill set to Jordan’s and has made more of an impact playing for Cleveland. Yes defensive end Olivier Vernon is having a breakout season and Cameron Wake could finish with double digit sacks for the third time in the past four seasons but finding another edge rusher is still a need. Wake’s production has been streaky and he’s been slowed by a knee injury. He also turns 32 in the offseason and he won’t be as effective when he starts to lose a step so adding another edge rusher. Richardson is at his best on the inside where the Dolphins have good talent and better depth.
Philadelphia and Detroit shouldn’t have buyer’s remorse after taking Johnson fourth overall and defensive end Ziggy Ansah fifth overall, respectively. Johnson is a perfect fit for coach Chip Kelly’s scheme, and Ansah has the potential to be special.
What if the Eagles don’t take a tackle because Fisher and Johnson are off the board and they know that Joeckel will get hurt? Richardson would be in play, but New Orleans free safety Kenny Vaccaro would be an interesting option considering they need help at safety and he’s another rookie playing a high level.
Finally, there are two wild cards to keep in mind when it comes to projecting where Richardson might go today. The first is he plays with one of the best defensive linemen in the league in Muhammad Wilkerson, and he may not be as productive without Wilkerson drawing attention away from him.
The second is defensive tackle Star Lotulelei’s health doesn’t seem to be as much of a concern as it may have been when the Panthers made him the 14th overall pick. While his individual stats have not been as impressive, Lotulelei is playing at a high level and he is a big reason why Carolina has the best run defense in the league.
Any top-five team that would consider taking Richardson if it could now would also consider Lotulelei, whom it may take instead.
As for a redraft list, there are a number of scenarios, including Ansah going earlier and Richardson coming off in the top five, but here's a legitimate scenario that doesn't include Richardson in the top five and mixes it up.
Muench's Rapid 2013 Redraft
1. Chiefs -- Lane Johnson, OT
2. Jacksonville -- Eric Fisher, OT
3. Miami -- Chance Warmack, OG
4. Philadelphia -- Kenny Vaccaro, S
5. Detroit -- Ziggy Ansah, DE
475dTodd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl