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Missouri DT Richardson coming off huge season

Updated: April 20, 2013 1:14AM



While Missouri struggled in the SEC, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson thrived last season, which is why he’s considered a top-20 pick.

If he had stayed at Missouri, Richardson could have been drafted much higher in the 2014 NFL draft, but the decision to turn pro wasn’t his alone.

“Leaving my guys was the hardest thing I had to do,” Richardson said at the NFL combine. “It was a family decision. Me and my father and my mother sat down, and it was something that we all came together, and it was time for us to leave.”

Not that any NFL coaches or scouts are complaining.

Richardson is just under 300 pounds, but he’s explosive, moves his feet well and shined last season on a 5-7 team.

He led all interior linemen with 75 tackles and added 10½ tackles for loss and 4½ sacks.

What does he offer an NFL team?

“Play recognition. Hustle. I think I’m one of the D-tackles that’s fighting 40 yards down the field and guarding receivers and running backs, too, on routes,” Richardson said. “It didn’t happen often, but I do a little extra.”

Some have projected him as a mid, first-round pick, but he could fall to the Bears at No. 20.

Richardson, though, insisted he should go much, much higher.

“I see myself as a top pick. Not a top 10 pick,” he said. “I don’t come in this draft to be second to anyone, so if they see what they like, they’ll draft me.”

Richardson had a shoulder and wrist injury, but he noted that both are fine.

A St. Louis native, Richardson said he’s grateful for the opportunity to fulfill his NFL dream.

“I’m from the part in St. Louis that nobody wants to be a part of,” he said. “I represent what a lot of kids don’t want to represent. I’m just happy to be here.

“It’s a blessing and it’s a privilege, and I’m proud of myself and having my family supporting me.”

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

The Bears appear in excellent shape with Henry Melton and Stephen Paea inside and Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton outside. There are others, of course, but the Bears certainly could use more depth at each position along the defensive line. For now, Nate Collins is likely the first interior lineman off the bench.

FIVE OF INTEREST

DT Star Lotulelei, Utah – Projected as a top five pick before a heart scare during the NFL Combine. He’s expected to drop but probably not anywhere close to No. 20.

DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina – Projected as a late first-round pick, he performed well at North Carolina’s Pro Day to secure his standing.

Bjoern Werner, Florida State – Good overall athlete who could be a strongside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

DE Datone Jones, UCLA – The L.A. native earned all-conference honors after finishing with 17 ½ tackles for loss and six sacks last season.

DE Sam Montgomery, LSU – Barkevious Mingo is rated a better NFL prospect, but Montgomery was the more consistently productive player.

THE THREE BEST

DE Dion Jordan, Oregon – Tall, athletic and revels in contact and making plays, including the capability of covering tight ends and even receivers.

DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida – He has a quick first step, and he’s capable of playing in either a 3-4 or 4-3.

DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU – He’s 6 foot 5, 271 pounds, and he runs a 4.56 in the 40-yard dash.

THREE SLEEPERS

DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State – He weighs 320 pounds, which means he could play nose tackle for the Bears.

DT Jesse Williams, Alabama – Like Hankins, he’s naturally big, but he’s also incredibly strong, bench pressing 600 pounds.

DE Alex Okafor, Texas – He doesn’t have explosiveness, but he’s a good, solid prospect in the later rounds.



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