If you've ever been a parent, then you'll understand the importance of your child learning to crawl before he or she walks. Studies show that crawling does wonders for the development of a child's brain. The experts will tell you that crawling is beneficial because it increases strength and coordination while building the back and stomach muscles which will eventually assist them when walking. Furthermore, the foundation for a child's ability to manipulate objects such as a pencil or ball is being laid as their tiny hands learn to bear their own weight while crawling. From an academic standpoint, crawling boosts the communication between both hemispheres of the brain for higher level skills such as reading, speech, and articulation.
Thankfully, both of my boys spent plenty of time crawling before they took their first steps. This is encouraging because it makes me feel more confident about their present and future ability to grasp the cognitive concepts they will need to succeed both on and off the field(court).
Of course, we've all heard of infants who have managed to skip crawling altogether. Maybe it just so happens that you are one of those children who went from sitting to walking without so much as a thought about transporting yourself across a room on all fours. Even so, this didn't keep you from excelling both athletically and academically as you matured throughout adolescence and adulthood. You should wear that badge of honor proudly because it places you in the minority.
Similarly, athletes from the lower levels of college football(FCS, Division II, Division III, etc) are exceedingly less likely to experience the immediate success of their FBS counterparts when making that enormous jump to the NFL. In other words, expecting prospects from random small schools like Midwestern State and Valdosta State to become solid starting lineman early on in their NFL careers is like expecting your infant child will completely skip the crawling stage.
Now, do some of these overachievers quickly become legitimate difference makers at the professional level? Of course, but they are the exception to the rule. Drafting these prospects in the early rounds is always a risky proposition. In fact, you don't need to look any further than the Panthers' very own Amini Silatolu and Edmund Kugbila in order to understand this concept. Sure, the story of their NFL careers is largely unwritten, but just look at the physical damage that has been inflicted upon them in the early chapters thus far.
Is it really all that far fetched to connect each of these small college guards' injuries to the great divide between the level of athletes they were blocking in Division II and the ones they are being paid to block in the NFL? Would you put your infant child in a standing position without assistance if he or she were obviously a couple a months away from developing the coordination, balance and muscular maturity it takes to walk? Of course you wouldn't, because the fall could be devastating to the physical and mental health of your child. In the same way, Silatolu and Kugbila have been asked to do the improbable, and the results have been about what we could expect.
As we all know, the Panthers are in great need of help along the offensive line. How about this for a novel idea? Moving forward, let's hold off on selecting offensive lineman from the sisters of the poor universities until the later rounds of the draft. If we are truly serious about protecting our franchise quarterback, then why not use an early pick on a lower risk prospect who has dominated his opponents at the big boy college level this time around?
Without further ado, I give you OG Cyril Richardson.
Dave Gettleman should already be in love with this guy. He is a Hog Molly in its highest form. At 6-Foot-5, 335-Pounds, Richardson is a dominating run blocker who has unmatched power at the point of attack and beyond. This intelligent Baylor Bear is also quite nimble on his feet for a man his size, as evidenced by his above average pass blocking ability. When asked to pull as the lead blocker, he has the quickness to get to the next level and suffocate linebackers. Richardson also showed his versatility in 2011 when he was given the responsibility of protecting Robert Griffen III's blindside. Although the New Orleans' native played decently at left tackle, he was moved back to his more natural position at left guard the following season, and has thrived ever since.
There are quite a few scouts who have him graded as a first round talent for all of the aforementioned reasons above. However, because he seems to lack motivation at times, I would personally place him a notch below Chance Warmack, who was the #10 pick of the Tennessee Titans in the 2013 draft. If the season keeps trending in the same direction, the Panthers will unfortunately be the owners of another top ten selection. With that being said, I would wait to see if he falls into the second round, where I wouldn't hesitate to snatch him up.
Ultimately, Richardson has all the tools to very quickly become an extremely effective guard at the next level, and unlike a couple of our most recent lineman selections, he can already crawl.
Take a look at this video of OG Cyril Richardson and tell us what you think CSR.