As Ty Law walked to the podium to announce the Patriots 2nd round selection (64th overall), Patriots nation was holding it's collective breath. Since the 2010 draft, the Patriots are hitting around .500 when it comes to their second round selections. Picks like Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, and Jamies Collins have contributed to winning football games during their time in Foxborough. Other 2nd rounders like Jermaine Cunningham, Ras-I Dowling, Tavon Wilson, and Aaron Dobson did not live up to their billing.
The selection of a safety in the 2nd round could be a good indicator of how the team viewed this years crop of defensive backs, corner in particular. They identified Richards as the safety they liked most and wanted to address the secondary early on, no need to wait around if you have a strategic plan for other portions of the draft. Let's take a closer look at Jordan Richards and see how he fits the Patriots system.
Type of Player
You can't find anything on Jordan Richards that doesn't begin with lauding his intelligence, so we'll continue that trend and touch on it as well. In his introduction to the New England media, Richards was asked about the 'Coach Richards' nickname he picked up from his teammates at Stanford.
CBS Boston Sports:
"I wanted to be the best football player I could be and that means as a safety, you don't just know what the safety does; you know the corners, you know what the linebackers are up to and the defensive ends and the d-line and interior guys. I think it's just a way of trying to earn the respect of your teammates and show that it means a lot to you and that you're really serious about that. That's my goal heading to New England, to just be a sponge and absorb and absorb and absorb."
Jordan Richards played both strong and free safety during his time in Palo Alto. Belichick noted to the media that Stanford did not play Richards in a linebacker role, but he has shown he's not afraid to come down and help with run support. What really has impressed me is apparently also what impressed both Bill Belichick and Nick Casserio: leadership both on and off the field. Jordan Richards had been voted captain by coaches and teammates at Stanford.
Last season Richards was a candidate for the Lott Impact Trophy, an award handed out to a defensive player that shows character both on and off the field. Named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, the award views characters the same as success on the field. Some NFL teams overlook character and hope for the best, we know that kind of wishful thinking doesn't equal success in the NFL. You need guys who can play on the field and know how to lead off of it. We know now that teams like the 2008-2009 Patriots were undoubtedly talented, but plagued by guys who weren't good fits for the culture here in New England. Culture type issues ultimately led to those particular teams demise.
40 Time: 4.59
Vertical: 34 1/2 Inches
Broad Jump: 9 feet
3-cone drill: 6.74 seconds
Richards turned heads during his three cone drill testing. The three cone drill is of note for defensive backs in particular because it correlates into change of direction. It's been noted that his speed might be an issue against NFL caliber receivers, but his ability to tackle/make open field tackles is likely what interests the Patriots enough to make him this high of a selection.
What does this all mean?
If Richards wants to make an immediate contribution to this team, it's likely going to start somewhere other than safety . The 64th overall pick will be competing against the likes of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson, and Duron Harmon for reps at the safety position. With that said, he's versatile and already has the 'Do your job' mentality. As we see every year with the Patriots, if this kid comes in and impresses the coaching staff, he's going to take somebody's job.
Since the selection of Jordan Richards, I've been thinking of a quote Belichick gave to Michael Holley for the book War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team.
"The first rounders are the guys, obviously, with the fewest questions. In the second round, a lot of times you find players with first-round talent but not first round performance or production, if you will. Then in the third round, you see guys who are maybe better football players than a lot of guys in the second round, but not as maybe overall talented, in terms of measurements. So I think there’s a certain bust factor, if you will, in the second round. That’s just in general."
Where does Richards fit into all of this? Do the Patriots feel they're reaching on this guy, or has Bill fooled us all once again.
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