From the highly competitive Pac-12 Conference, Stanford University’s Jordan Richards was taken in the second round of this years draft by the New England Patriots, with the 64th overall pick. As a strong safety, Richards is said to be extremely smart, but was projected to not be picked until the 6th round at the earliest, so this was a bit surprising of a move taken by the Patriots.
In 2014, Richards was selected to the first team All-Pac-12, and he was awarded the National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete Award. He did start all 13 games at strong safety for the Cardinal that season. In 2013, he was an honorable mention for the All Pac-12 team, and was second-team Capital One Academic All-American, in addition to starting in all 14 games. To demonstrate his consistency, he also started all 14 games in 2012, and in 2011, he played in all 13 games for the Cardinal, starting three of them. This consistency is what the Patriots like to see, which is possibly why they had their eyes on Richards in the first place.
Graphic via patriots
Richards had a solid combine, starting with his time of 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He also put up 13 reps on the bench press, and had a 32.0 inch vertical jump and 111.0 inch broad jump. He also posted times of 6.74 seconds in the 3-cone drill and 11.38 seconds in the 60 yard shuttle, both combine bests for his position. Rounding it out, he ran a 4.22 second 20 yard shuttle. At Stanford, he was the team captain and a leader on the defensive side of the field. He did play some wide receiver in high school, so he has demonstrated some versatility. He also had good hands and has made some difficult interceptions throughout his career to this point. Another strength lies in his ability to attack the ball at a high point, and he moves well for a high-low safety. Another plus is his commitment to the team, and the fact that he has a good character, both on and off the field, which many NFL teams are looking for these days.
He does have a glaring weakness in that he is limited on certain coverage routes. He does not have solid football instincts when he is asked to play deep safety, and he is slow to recover, with only average speed. In addition, it is noted that the struggles in man coverage, and tends to grab way too much at the top of the route. He also has room to improve as a wrap up tackler. The Patriots obviously saw some special in Richards, selecting him so early in the draft, but it remains to be seen how they choose to use him early on in his career.
Graphic via zimbio