Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson fits the mold of what the Dallas Cowboys need in order to run Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defensive scheme. He’s an interior linemen who has outstanding athletic ability for a man standing 6-4 and weighing nearly 300 pounds.
If he is available when the Cowboys make the 18th overall selection in April’s draft, several experts suggest that Dallas should pull the trigger.
In the latest mock draft roundup, offensive and defensive linemen continue to dominate what experts are forecasting for Jerry Jones and Co. But Richardson’s name appeared the most.
Earlier this month, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay called Richardson “a perfect fit” for the Cowboys’ new scheme.
On Monday, NFL.com draft expert Mike Mayock said Richardson has the “movement skills of a 250 pound linebacker” even though his “natural position” is as a three-technique defensive tackle.
“But it’s not the only position he can play,” Mayock said during a conference call. “You can move him around and I think just about all 32 teams in the league could find a way to utilize his skill set. He’s really exciting. He’s got a ton of upside, and he’s as physically gifted a defensive player as there is in this draft.”
Here’s what some other experts have written over the past week about what the Cowboys could do with their top pick.
CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang:
Pick: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue.
Comment: “After a long run with the 3-4 defense the Cowboys are making the switch to the 4-3 alignment with new coordinator Monte Kiffin. For Kiffin’s famous Tampa-2 scheme to work the team will need to add a penetrating three-technique defensive tackle. Short, powerful and surprisingly quick, has been a playmaker throughout his career for the Boilermakers and enjoyed a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl.”
NFLDraftScout.com’s Dane Brugler:
Comment: “With Warmack off the board, there is a good chance the Cowboys switch gears to their needs on the defensive line, especially as they transition their defensive schemes. Richardson has the skill-set to do just about anything you need, flashing the strength, power and overall athleticism to be disruptive.”
WalterFootball.com’s Walter Cherepinsky:
Pick: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina.
Comment: “The interior of Dallas’ offensive line is an abomination. The front office actually found two downgrades at guard last offseason, while center Phil Costa is a sieve. The Cowboys have to find some help for Tony Romo.
“I’d hate the idea of slotting two guards in the top 20, but Jonathan Cooper is capable of playing all three interior positions. Dallas will love his versatility.”
Second round: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU.
Third round: Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina.
Fourth round: Shawn Williams, S, Georgia.
WalterFootball.com’s Charlie Campbell:
Comment: “The Cowboys came close to drafting J.J. Watt a couple of years ago, but passed on him for Tyron Smith. With Dallas switching to a Tampa 2, the team needs an explosive three-technique defensive tackle. Richardson’s explosiveness, speed and motor would be perfect for Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. … Richardson has the potential to develop into a special player. He is utterly relentless with a non-stop motor. Richardson has elite speed and athleticism to beat offensive tackles and guards with his burst off the snap. While undenabily a great run-defender, he is a better pass-rusher than the stats indicate.”
Second round: Eric Reid, S, LSU.
Third round: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee.
Fourth round: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks:
Pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah.
Comment: “New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will transition the Cowboys to a 4-3, but he needs a dominant presence in the middle to set the table for the defense. Lotulelei flashes disruptive potential, but defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and Kiffin will need to rev up Lotulelei’s motor to get him to thrive in a Cowboys uniform.”
NFL.com’s Josh Norris:
Comment: “This might be worst-case scenario for Jerry Jones, as the top three defensive tackles, the top safety and the top guard are all off the board. Cooper is a very talented player, especially on the move, and could be an All-Pro lineman if he limits the number of losses to quickness off the snap.” SBNation.com’s Dan Kadar:
Pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama.
Comment: “If there ever was a right tackle suited for the Dallas Cowboys, it’s Fluker. He’s a powerful run blocker who can drive defenders backward with ease. The Cowboys can benefit from the depth at defensive tackle this year and wait improve the team’s new front four.” DraftCountdown.com’s Scott Wright:
Comment: “Richardson profiles as a disruptive three-technique at the next level and would be an ideal compliment to Jay Ratliff.”