The NFL Draft is this Thursday, starting at 7 p.m. with the Kansas City Chiefs holding onto the overall number one draft pick. We are also keeping our eyes on several Mizzou players this weekend. The top Tiger will be Sheldon Richardson, a sure thing first round pick, and a possible top 10 selection. I also expect linebacker Zaviar Gooden to get drafted somewhere between the late second to fourth rounds.
This Google Hangout you are about to watch is a little different in that the tables are turned on me and someone else does the interviewing. Justin Hull from WSCO Radio in Appleton, WI. asks the questions about Richardson and Gooden. You get the break down of both players skills sets and where I expect them to go.
What the draft experts at NFL.com are saying about Richardson.
STRENGTHS Scouts like the light feet Richardson shows for his size, as he is able to twist inside and chase plays to the sideline with great speed. That agility, combined with his length, makes him a strong tackler in close quarters. Richardsons first step off the snap, especially when lined up over the ball, is quite impressive; he gets into the backfield in a heartbeat, beating reach-blocks and will work his way through double-teams if he sees the ball in the quarterbacks hands. He plays with leverage at the point of attack at times despite his height, holding his ground and wrestling with attitude. Has enough athleticism that Missouri uses him as a standup rusher and to drop into short zone coverages over the middle of the field, where shows the ability to cover crossing receivers and tight ends in a short area
WEAKNESSES Richardson can struggle to break down and his upper-body strength is not elite, which means his high pad level and failure to use his hands to shed blocks can allow him to get turned from the hole and taken to the ground once off-balance. He had surgery in the offseason to repair a shoulder injury, so he must show his strength has improved. A better player in pursuit than he is holding the point against the run, where he can struggle to anchor. Drag down lunging tackler that misses ball.
What the experts are saying about Gooden.
STRENGTHS Speedy Will linebacker who attacks quickly when he gets a clear picture, closing in a hurry to attack plays in the backfield. Follows play action between the tackles then goes to the flat to take away the running back. Fluid hips, and his good change-of-direction ability is also useful over the middle against backs, tight ends, and slot receivers. Clicks-and-closes to make the tackle quickly once the ball is thrown. Takes on blocks from tight ends and fullbacks, stays moving to the ball while engaged and sheds to make the play. Gets under their shoulder to get leverage and contain. Solid wrap-up tackler in the open field, with good length for his size and an aggressive attitude to bring the ball carrier to the ground. Also strong enough to lower his pads and stop the forward momentum of piles. Utilizes his speed to hustle downfield regularly. He’ll contribute heavily on special teams coverage units.
WEAKNESSES Possesses only average overall size. Backpedal is really stilted and he bends at the waist to make tackles instead of bending his knees. Primarily reads back flow and can be hesitant or get caught false-stepping when he doesn’t get a clear picture. His aggressiveness can take him out of plays on occasion, as he’ll head into the backfield as running backs run past through the hole. Hasn’t been used as a pass rusher often, and doesn’t win hand battles at the line with linemen and running backs. Not a schematically diverse player, will be limited to just the weakside linebacker spot for 4-3 teams.
BOTTOM LINE Gooden has the speed to cover a lot of ground at the next level, as well as surprising strength and form tackling to bring down big ball carriers in the open field and handle himself in traffic. Injuries hampered his senior season, but that combination of attributes helped him lead the Tigers in tackles as a junior (85, 7.5 for loss, three sacks) and should allow him to earn a top-100 grade as a potential starter on the weak side of the formation. Even if he doesn’t immediately earn a spot as a starter, he should be a valuable contributor on special teams while being groomed as a linebacker.