Tad Hensinger

Electric Dynamo, Sizzling Play Maker: Meet Paul Richardson

Created on Jul. 08, 2014 12:57 PM EST

The Seattle Seahawks went without a first round draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft due to the fact they traded down and recouped several draft picks. With that happening, Paul Richardson became the de facto first round pick for the team. Drafted in the second round at 62nd overall, the speedy receiver headlines the list of 2014 Seahawks draft picks. Before he was a Seahawk, however, Richardson was the top receiving threat for the Colorado Buffaloes.

During his college days Richardson was an electric dynamo. Richardson was a four year player during his college days with the exception of the 2012 season which he missed due to a torn ACL. When on the field, however, he was an unquestioned game changer. Official timing at the NFL Combine credited him with a 4.4 second 40 yard dash time, although he has reportedly run in the 4.28-4.33 range as well. That speed was evident both before and after his ACL injury. Richardson played 33 career games as a member of the Buffaloes and racked up 156 catches for 2,412 yards and 21 scores. Throughout his college career he boasted an impressive 15.46 YPC average and also snagged his touchdowns at a 40.0 YPC average showing that he was a big play machine. As a result of a quality career as a collegian, Richardson garnered 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors after the 2013 season and was also designated the team MVP that season.

Looking ahead, it's fair to wonder what exactly this means for the Seahawks and Richardson as a player. The NFL is littered with stories of players having a tough transition from the college to professional level. Richardson looks to have an easier time than the average high round draft pick because he won't be asked to contribute in a big way immediately. With the likes of "Angry Doug" Baldwin, Percy Harvin and Jermaine Kearse likely slotted ahead of him at least in the beginning of the season, Richardson will be eased into the offense. This should benefit Richardson greatly as he will be able to lean on the experience of the older guys and refine his craft while still seeing meaningful game action.

As a receiver, Richardson is likely to make a few big splash plays this season where he showcases his elite speed. On top of that, there will be several plays where he gets the ball on a short route and combines his exceptional agility, explosiveness and speed to create yardage. Richardson's value goes beyond those simple play ideas, however. He has similar speed and explosiveness when you compare him to the electric Percy Harvin. For the Seahawks, this means a lot more running lanes for the likes of Marshawn Lynch and Christine Michael. Harvin and Baldwin project to be the starters but Richardson will see his snaps accordingly. With that trio on the field, it is a safe bet to think defenses will be keeping at least one safety deep at all times, sometimes two. Richardson's mere presence on the field will equate to better running lanes against five and six man boxes, similar to what Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball enjoyed in Denver as Peyton Manning directed their prolific offense. Richardson's deep speed will be showcased but it also opens up other receivers underneath. His elite speed on deep routes is likely to draw not only his man but safety attention as well and thereby creating less traffic and attention to the guys running routes underneath. Harvin has been expected to bring this same element to the Seahawks, but it is now doubled if both guys are on the field at the same time. Richardson's addition in the passing game will give Russell Wilson another electric play maker that can stretch the field and draw attention away from other players thereby increasing the offense's effectiveness as a whole.

The running game is much simpler to dissect for Richardson. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him take a few end arounds much like Harvin has done throughout his career, notably against the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Those plays, however, are few and far between. Richardson's biggest value in the run game will most likely be when Seattle goes to a three receivers set or possibly the elusive four receiver set which Seattle rarely does. Richardson's slight build, 6'0 and 175, doesn't really lend much to him as far as being a physical blocker. As a result his value in the run game will likely be as a decoy where he will try to run his man off the line of scrimmage. As previously mentioned, having him on the field will likely draw teams into their nickel or dime packages where you will see more defensive backs on the field with an eye on the deep threat and consequently fewer guys in the box for Lynch and Michael to run against. The bottom line of Richardson's value in the run game is that he will lighten the box stacked against the running backs by drawing defenders out wide and also keeping safeties in check over the top by accounting for his deep threat abilities.

Many players make their mark on special teams. It's a good way to make the roster if you're on the bubble and also a way to effect the game as far as field position. During his college career, Richardson barely touched the field as a return man. In fact, you could easily count the number of returns he had on one hand. That said, there is the possibility he sees the field as a return man. As evidenced by Percy Harvin in the Super Bowl, a return man can make a statement in the game. 
Richardson has the potential play making ability to moonlight as a return man on top of his receiving duties. While he'll probably have to learn a little bit considering his return experience is minimal, the possibility of his game changing ability returning kicks and punts has to have a special teams coordinators salivating. A good kick or punt return can significantly change field position or sometimes change the entire game when it goes for a score. Richardson has the agility, speed and explosiveness to change games from the return position if Seattle chooses to employ his skills in that department.

With the 4th of July now over and training camp mere weeks away, it's a good time to really start speculating on Richardson's role within the Seahawks. At the start of the regular season it would not be a surprise to find him mired in the fourth spot on the depth chart behind Baldwin, Harvin and Kearse. He's very likely to see some time if Seattle goes to four receiver sets. However, it is more likely that even if he's listed as the fourth man on the depth chart that he sees more field time than an average fourth man. His skill set is too electric and game changing to keep on the sidelines. So long as he flashes the ability to transition his college game to the pros he will see the field plenty as a rookie. Unfortunately his upside at this point is probably a starting third receiver. Unless the stars align for Kearse to have a poor training camp and preseason combined with Richardson playing at a game ready level, Kearse will eat up snaps at the third spot to start the season. Richardson, however, is likely to see more of a significant time share and may even bump to the third spot full time as the season progresses and he refines his craft. Given this uncertainty regarding how many snaps he will actually see, it wouldn't be surprising if Richardson flies under the 50 catch mark and pegs somewhere between 35-45 catches while racking up 300-500 yards along with a couple of scores. If you can't wait until the season to get a taste of Richardson's play making skills, check out the highlight video below from his last season at Colorado. Whatever the actual outcome of his season, you can safely bet offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will want the ball in his hands as often as possible.

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