2013 NFL Draft: Sheldon Richardson or Sharrif Floyd?

USA TODAY Sports

If the Panthers choose to go defensive tackle with their first round pick, Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd would certainly be the two players that make the most sense, provided Star Lotulelei is unavailable. Let's take at look at each of these dynamic SEC defenders for a few minutes in order to make a more informed opinion on who might be the better fit for the Carolina Panthers.

DT Sheldon Richardson 6' 3" 295 lbs Missouri

Strengths

-High Motor

-Elite quickness off the snap

-Superb ability to knife through gaps before trap blocks develop

-Disengages from block effectively

-Excellent closing speed

-Best games against best teams

-Superb hand technique

-Versatile: Can play UT in a 4-3 and 5 technique in a 3-4 scheme

Weaknesses

-Plays too high at times

-Academic issues caused him to get a late start to his pending NFL career

-Average run defender

Sheldon Richardson began his college career as the prize of Missouri's 2009 recruiting class, but that quickly unraveled due to academic issues. He soon found a home at a junior college in California where he dominated the competition. Richardson once again became a hot commodity in major FBS scouting circles. Although he committed to USC early on, his heart ultimately led him back to his home state, and he didn't disappoint.

Even though Richardson was mostly used as a rotational player(only started two games) in his first season at Missouri in 2011, one could see flashes of the formidable starter he would become on a regular basis in 2012. Most college guards were unable to deal with his quickness and surprising strength at the point of attack, and there is plenty of film to prove it. The other quality that stands out on his tape is his uncommon determination and speed to relentlessly pursue ball carriers 20 to 30 yards down the field. Even in the bigger, stronger, faster era of today's NFL, it is still highly unusual for any defensive tackle to possess the speed and will to make plays that far from the line of scrimmage.

There isn't any doubt in my mind that Richardson is a special talent, and the scouts agree. One of the knocks on him is that he's only had one season of starting experience against top level talent, but I'm not so worried about that aspect, especially when you consider the fact that his best plays were made on the biggest stage against the most talented teams. My major issue with Richardson is that he was born on the first day of 1989. That's right, he is already 24, and will be 25 at the end of his rookie season. Can you believe that he is only a little more than five months older than our very own Greg Hardy? Throw in the fact that defensive tackle is one of the positions that is known to take more time to develop than most positions, and it makes me even more nervous about taking a guy like Richardson. Perhaps the Panthers will look past his age only to see a prospect who has just the scheme versatility they've been looking for to run their 4-3 and 3-4 hybrid defenses.

Solo Assists Total TFL Sacks PBU QB Hurries FF
2011 15 22 37 8 2 1 2 1
2012 39 36 75 10.5 4 3 7 3

2012 Game by Game Statistics

Opponent Solo Assists Total TFL Sacks PBU QB Hurries FF
Home Southeastern La. 2 1 3 0 0 1 1 0
Home # 5Georgia 2 3 5 1 0 0 1 0
Home Arizona St. 6 3 9 1.5 0.5 0 1 0
Road # 8 South Carolina 3 4 7 0.5 0.5 0 1 0
Road UCF 6 3 9 2 1 0 2 0
Home # 23 Vanderbilt 1 4 5 1.5 1 0 1 0
Home # 1 Alabama 9 5 14 1 1 0 0 0
Home Kentucky 3 2 5 0 0 0 0 0
Road # 9 Florida 2 4 6 1.5 0 0 0 1
Road Tennessee 3 4 7 0.5 0 1 0 0
Home Syracuse DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 0
Road # 5 Texas A&M 2 3 5 1 0 1 0 0
Total 39 36 75 10.5 4 3 7 1


DT Sharrif Floyd 6' 3" 305 lbs Florida

Strengths

-Scheme versatile(4-3 or 3-4)

-Explosive first step

-High motor

-Effective swim move

-Above-average run defender

-Reads plays well

-Sheds blocks with ease

-Powerful base

Weaknesses

-Poor technique(hand usage and pad level)

Sharrif Floyd's story is one of triumph in many ways. Not only did he grow up in a rough neighborhood where his "father" was in and out of jail, but it was also typical for him to wear the same set of clothes every day in elementary school. Upon learning at the age of 16 that the man who had been raising him in an abusive home wasn't even his father, Floyd moved out and found a home with his grandmother. Despite his challenging upbringing, Floyd seems to be a hard working, high character prospect who is expected to go in the top half of the 1st round in this year's draft, and guess who's been spending time with him: none other than the director of football operations at IMG Academy, Chris Wienke. Look at what our former 1st round pick had to say about Floyd:

"Sharrif is a guy that has all the tools. He’s going to be a guy that can go in and cause some havoc early on. His quickness for a big man is unmatched. The combination of power and speed with that guy really separates himself at that position. I see him being a real force in the NFL."

In some ways, Sharrif Floyd is a mirror image of Sheldon Richardson. They both can play in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Additionally, they each possess high motors and explosive burst off the line of scrimmage. But this is where the comparisons end. For instance, you won't see Floyd chasing ball carriers 30 yards down the field, but, as I eluded to above, what defensive tackle does? Another contrast between the two is their age: Floyd is nearly three and a half years younger than Richardson. This explains in large part why Richardson is more technically sound than Floyd.

Even though Richardson is the more polished prospect, I believe Floyd could have just as much impact both initially and in the long term. This is why I would be more willing to bet my team's future success on Floyd if I were the GM. Of course, there is always the chance that neither of these players(or only one will be available) will even be there when we pick, but don't let that possibility ruin the debate. This article is assuming that both will be there at 14. Be sure to let everyone know how you feel in the poll and the comment section that follows.

Solo Assists Total TFL Sacks PBU QB Hurries FF
2010 10 13 23 6.5 0 0 1 0
2011 19 27 46 6.5 1.5 1 4 0
2012 29 17 46 13 3 0 6 1

2012 Game By Game Statistics

Opponent Solo Assists Total TFL Sacks PBU QB Hurries FF
Home Bowling Green 2 2 4 1.5 0 0 0 0
Road # 5 Texas A&M 1 4 5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Road Tennessee 2 2 4 1.5 0 0 1 0
Home Kentucky 3 0 3 0 0 0 0 0
Home # 14 LSU 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 0
Road Vanderbilt 2 2 4 0.5 0 0 1 0
Home # 8 South Carolina 3 1 4 1 0 0 0 0
Neutral # 5 Georgia 3 1 4 2 0 0 0 0
Home Missouri 5 0 5 3 0 0 1 0
Home La-Lafayette 2 0 2 0 0 0 1 1
Home Jacksonville St. 2 1 3 0 0 0 1 0
Road # 10 Florida St. 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0
Neutral # 13 Louisville 3 2 5 2 2 0 0 0
Total 29 17 46 13 3 0 6 1


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