Sammy Watkins is quick, Mike Evans is big, and Odell Beckham Jr. makes consistently big plays. We know all about these top receiver options, and we've discussed them endlessly since the end of last season, and especially since Mike Williams was traded away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But the second-tier guys in this draft have some really exciting qualities, but also possess some serious question marks. Paul Richardson of Colorado is no exception.
The speedster was an impossible cover for the opponents of the Buffaloes, but why isn't he being lauded as a top prospect in the draft? I took a look at the film to find out why.
What He Does Well
Paul Richardson is FAST.
I know Sammy Watkins is fast, and I know some other guys in this draft are fast, but both on a track and on the football field, Richardson just blows by defenders.
When he puts even the most subtle move on a defender in the open field, he turns on the afterburners and cannot be stopped. It's graceful and smooth acceleration that leaves defenders stumbling, because at one moment they're striding alongside him, and the next they're flailing to grab a hold of him to prevent an easy touchdown.
But he's not just fast. He is a talented route runner who knows how to use his speed to get open. He makes the small movements and gestures which put a defender off balance, and at that point, even the most talented DB isn't going to track down Richardson.
He's not just a burner, though. He's a fierce competitor. He's a tough-as-nails guy. He lays out for every pass, he blocks with a passion (more on this later), and he's not afraid of going into traffic.
Paul Richardson separates and gets open unlike any other receiver I've seen in this draft. His speed isn't just an idea or a concept as is the case with Jordan Matthews. Every single ounce of speed Richardson has translates onto the football field.
Where He Can Improve
So what's the catch? Why isn't Paul Richardson a lock as a top-10 pick to the Raiders or Bucs?
It's unfortunately nothing Richardson really has any control over. He's just not big enough to be an every-down, productive receiver in the NFL.
Richardson stands around 6'0" tall, and weighs only 175 pounds. His hands are small, his frame is small, and it shows on the field.
His hands aren't reliable, which tends to be the case with small-handed receivers. He has a knack for making a big catch, but he just lets some passes slip through his grip.
Because of this, Richardson has a smaller catch radius than many of the other receivers in this draft. He's not going to regularly reach out his arms and snag a wayward pass. One of the huge benefits of a receiver with strong hands like Sammy Watkins or Jordan Matthews is that the functional target area for a pass is wider because of their ability to track the ball, and also reach out for it with powerful, capable hands.
Richardson tries to do that, but comes up short. He tracks the ball well and makes an effort, but he just doesn't have the ability to bring the ball back in for a reception.
Reaching out for a pass that's outside of the ideal target area will also open Richardson up for a big hit, something he's not built to take. He's not going to be the guy sitting out over a bump or a bruise, but a player of his stature will get hurt in the NFL, it's a matter of when, not if.
And despite being a willing and capable blocker, Richardson's size and strength will limit his effectiveness in that area as well. NFL corners with size will not only overpower him in the run game, but will easily jam him at the line of scrimmage if he's unable to accelerate around them.
Outside of his size, the only flaw I noticed in Richardson's game is his tendency to hesitate and stutter step on shorter receptions. He flies down the field on vertical routes, but when he's thrown a quick pass, he doesn't always haul in the pass and take off using his incredible acceleration.
How He Fits the Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have a player like Paul Richardson, and if they're serious about making their team more athletic, they need to find a way to add a player of his caliber to the wide receiving corps.
Richardson might not be destined for an NFL career of full-time receiver duty, but if the Bucs can rotate him in and allow him to stretch and frustrate defenses, he'll be more than worth a mid-round pick.
A trio of receivers featuring Vincent Jackson shifted into the slot, and Richardson on the outside would be a nightmare to cover. Richardson will command a very good cover corner, or a safety with range and a good eye for how the play is developing, while Jackson will exploit any space left in the middle of the field.
The problem is that the Bucs would have to add a capable, every-down receiver as well (like a Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, or Mike Evans). Richardson isn't going to play 1000 snaps a year, and will be best suited to a less-than-full-time role on the offense.
What They're Saying
Very lean, narrow-framed, finesse "X" receiver who made an immediate impact at Colorado before knee injuries derailed his progress. Measurables will go a long way in determining his ultimate draft value, and his success at the next level is dependent upon his ability to make plays in the vertical passing game. Has a boom-or-bust element. Size and durability are question marks.
Terrific athlete who appeared every bit as agile and explosive in 2013 after missing the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL. Very good straight-line speed making him an excellent option on vertical routes. Savvy route-runner who alters his gait off the line and throughout his route to gain separation from cornerbacks. Sinks his hips and explodes out of his breaks.
Generally plucks the ball cleanly out of the air with his hands, securing it quickly. Can track the ball over either shoulder and flashes the ability to dive and haul in the extraordinary catch.
Good vision to set up blocks. Good bloodlines. Father, Paul, Sr., played wide receiver in the NFL with Philadelphia, Oakland, Green Bay and the New York Jets.
Richardson reminds me of a receiver we had in Chicago in the mid 2000’s, Bernard Berrian. Richardson and Berrian have similar size and are similar athletes. Berrian was a productive receiver for about five years, but the pounding on his slight frame took its toll. I can see the same thing happening to Richardson. Still, he is a very solid "B" level player who will probably be gone before the third round is over. He needs to get stronger because he will struggle versus press coverage in the NFL. With his size limitations, I see him more as a slot-type receiver at the next level.
There are plenty of good receivers over the past 20 years who weighed less than 180 lbs. in the NFL, but most of them were in the height range of 5-8 to 5-10 and their frames were more compact. At 6-1, 170 lbs., I hope Richardson is right about getting bigger and stronger – he’s too much fun to watch not to see him play every down.