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Sheldon Richardson makes most sense for Saints in first round of NFL Draft

The New Orleans Saints should take defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson from Missouri with the 15th pick in the 2013 draft. I will make the case via process of elimination.

The Saints really need an offensive tackle with Jermon Bushrod leaving, but the top three offensive tackles will be off the draft board when the Saints pick. Luke Joeckel out of Texas A&M should be the first player selected by the Chiefs, Eric Fisher from Central Michigan won’t get pass the Lions at the fifth overall spot and Lane Johnson from Oklahoma is a long shot to make it to the 15 selection held by New Orleans.

The top defensive ends/3-4 rush linebackers may also be gone. I really like Dion Jordan, a 6-foot-6 250 pound defensive end who would be an excellent rush linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme, but he will come off the board quickly. Jordan is a rare blend of speed, quickness and athletic ability. A real competitor with a good motor, he comes hard off the edge rushing the passer but can move well in coverage.

“Ziggy” Ansah a defensive end from BYU would fit well in the new Saints 3-4 scheme but I think he is a top 10 selection. A big, agile prospect with speed and quickness, the native of Ghana is versatile with the talent to line up at several defensive line positions. A combination of size and athletic ability though still raw, Ansah has zoomed up the draft board.

Jarvis Jones, an outside rush linebacker from Georgia, has an outside chance to slide to number 15, but that is due to a medical issue. He has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine. Jones possesses outstanding pass rush ability, just what the Saints need, but he still may not make it to 15. If he does, do you take a chance on a medical problem that could really shorten a player’s career?

Another talented defensive lineman, Sharrif Floyd out of Florida, has a lot of ability and is an improved prospect with good character and a non-stop motor. He has speed and size, pass rush capabilities, athleticism and a quick first step. Therefore, I don’t look for him to get out of the top 10.

Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei fromUtah is a dominant big man with strength and quickness to can beat double-team blocks and clog the middle on running plays. He had a great pro-day but may slide a bit due to leaving the ccouting combine after the discovery of a heart . Again, he is another prospect I don’t think he will be there when the Saints pick.

That leaves LSU defensive end “Kiki” Mingo. aat 245 pounds, Mingo will have to move to outside linebacker in the pro game and would be learning a new position, so he would be raw. He needs to learn to drop into pass coverage. His production also dropped off in his junior season, although he did have a good bowl game against Clemson. He does have outstanding speed and quickness. He can rush the passer but is a bit too inconsistent.

So if the local team wants to improve their defense, by the process of elimination, Sheldon Richardson is the best player available when the Saints pick.  A versatile lineman at 6-foot-3 and 296 pounds, he can line up at both defensive tackle and defensive end. He has been productive playing in both the Big XII and the tough SEC.

Richardson has excellent strength in the upper body and legs, is quick off the line and has a burst. Instinctive and aware, he also has a good motor with the desire to succeed. While he had only one dominant season  in 2012, Richardson had shoulder surgery and missed time in 2011. He came back strong. With fine speed for a big man, he will chase and pursue. He lined up at defensive end against Alabama, going against the Tide’s good offensive tackle D. J. Fluker and racked up 14 tackles and a sack in that game. He does seem to play better against top teams in big games.

Al’s Pro Prospects Final Issue is out; it rates over 700 prospects including seniors mixed in with the 76 underclassmen who are entering this draft. Sent out first class at once at no extra charge, the draft guide is a must-have. Contact Al (E-Mail:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) for more information.


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