2014 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Antonio Richardson
Extremely effective pass-protector
Strong and powerful
Very athletic for a big blocker
Reliable versus pass-rushers for four quarters
Showed speed in his drop
Gets push in the ground game
Mobility to hit blocks on the perimeter
Gets to blocks on the second level
Can anchor against bull rushes
Experienced against elite competition
Strength for man scheme
Plays with fire, passion
Occasional lapses on speed rushers
Grabs too much
Can be sloppy with feet
Had micro-fracture surgery after sophomore season
Summary: If you want to watch a tape of a blocker having success against Jadeveon Clowney, put on the games between Tennessee and South Carolina from the past two seasons. Volunteers left tackle Antonio Richardson had as much success against Clowney as any offensive lineman in college football. Even though Richardson did well going against Clowney, there are many differing opinions in Richardson's draft grade.
Entering the 2012 season, Dallas Thomas was a quality tackle prospect, but Richardson's talent prompted Tennessee to move Thomas inside to guard. Richardson was excellent at protecting Tyler Bray's blind side. The Volunteers did a great job in pass blocking with Richardson leading the way, allowing only eight sacks all season. He was a Second-Team All-SEC selection.
In his 2012 meeting with Clowney, Richardson won the matchup for 59 minutes. Clowney beat Richardson around the corner late in the game to get a critical strip-sack that saved a win for South Carolina. Still, Richardson was phenomenal as a sophomore.
Richardson played well in 2013, but wasn't as good as the year before. He had micro-fracture surgery over the 2012-2013 offseason and looked somewhat slowed down as a result. The junior wasn't as quick out of his stance, at getting into his drop or at firing to the second level. He was athletic as a sophomore but lumbered more this season with flashes of his 2012 form.
As expected, Richardson had a tough schedule in 2013. He was jacked up for another shot at Clowney. In the beginning of the game, Clowney beat him for some plays in run defense, but Richardson settled down and played well. He kept Clowney from recording a sack and did well in pass protection.
Richardson continued his tough schedule by playing well against Missouri's speed rushers. The only rusher who was able to get some pressure going against Richardson was Missouri's Kony Ealy. He worked himself free of Richardson on a few occasions, but never quickly enough to get a hit on the quarterback or a sack.
Richardson was beaten for a sack by Georgia's Ray Drew, but aside from that play the Volunteers tackle played well overall. Perhaps Richardson's worst game of the past two seasons came in the loss to Florida. He was beaten by Dante Fowler for a strip-sack and had issues in the first half with the Gators' defensive linemen.
There is no doubt that Richardson has the skill set to be a starting left tackle in the NFL, plus he could play right tackle. When healthy, Richardson is very quick and athletic for such a big blocker. He gets depth in his drops and is able to negate speed rushes. Richardson also uses his size to stonewall bull rushes. He has great length with 35-inch arms. Richardson displayed surprising power given such long arms with the 36 reps he generated on the bench press at the Combine.
As a run-blocker, Richardson has the strength to move defenders at the point of attack. Tennessee had success running behind him. He does a nice job of pushing to the inside on off-tackle runs and also does well kicking out to the side. Richardson was better at getting to runs at the second level as sophomore than in 2013.
Richardson needs to work on grabbing less. That looks like it was a byproduct of coming off the micro-fracture surgery. He also can get sloppy with his feet and lunge too often. Richardson's overall technique could use refinement, but he has good tools for the NFL.
Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Richardson is getting dinged by some teams for the surgery and how that impacted his play last year. As a result, he could go as high as late in the first round or fall as low as the third round. If Richardson can return to his sophomore form, he could be a steal. The NFL is a passing-driven league, so left tackles who can block on the island are in high demand.
Player Comparison: Donald Penn. Penn (6-5, 340) is on the decline now, but years ago, he was one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Penn was very good at taking on speed rushers and had surprising athleticism for such a big blocker. Richardson is the same, and both tackles have good length. They also have more power than many left tackles and aren't limited to being just tap dancers on the blind side. In the NFL, I could see Richardson turning into a Pro Bowl left tackle like Penn used to be.
NFL Matches: Seattle, Houston, Buffalo, Miami, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans
There are a lot of teams that could consider taking Richardson late in the first round or on Day 2. The defending Super Bowl Champion Seahawks could consider taking Richardson at the end of the first round to fix their hole at right tackle.
The Texans could use a right tackle to replace Derek Newton, and Richardson would be a nice fit for the first selection of the second round. If anything happened to Duane Brown, Richardson could move over to the blind side as well.
In the NFC South, Tampa Bay and Atlanta could both consider adding some offensive tackle help. Penn is slowing down wtih the Bucs, while Sam Baker hasn't been consistent enough for the Falcons. The Saints could lose Zach Strief in free agency, and landing Richardson in the second round would be a great fit for New Orleans. If Terron Armstead struggles in his second year, the Saints could move him to right tackle and have Richardson protect Drew Brees' blind side.
Buffalo needs a new right tackle, and if the Bills take Richardson, they could flip him and Cordy Glenn in time. The Dolphins have a ton of holes on their offensive line and need two new tackles.
The Ravens could lose their starting tackles in free agency. Even if one of them is re-signed, Baltimore will need another starter. Richardson could be a nice value for the Ravens in the second round.