Richardson explained his impressive outburst thusly: "Any time someone's in my way, I'm going to try to knock them over. Either they're going to hit me or I'm going to hit them. So, nine times out of 10, I'm trying to throw the lick."
Indeed. Add in the speed that had him timed at 4.45-4.49 in the 40-yard dash, and Richardson looked every bit the top-five prospect he looked to be through Alabama's 2011 season. Some believe Richardson to be the most complete running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, who was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
It's very possible that Richardson could go even higher. The Cleveland Browns (fourth overall pick) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (fifth) have been linked to Richardson as possible destinations, and according to Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the draft's new salary structure could make the selection of a running back that high an appealing idea - especially when a player of Richardson's talent is the target.
"I think he's probably the best running back in the draft this year," Saban said. "Probably one of the best players in the draft. I think that's based on his performance and his production and his consistency he's played with. The personal characteristics he has in terms of psychological disposition to be successful, which is really A-plus.
"I know there are some people that have some concerns about taking a running back high but with the salary-cap changes in the rookie pool, you're not investing as much in a guy as you used to."
Investment or not, both the Browns and Bucs need a franchise back.
Cleveland lost Peyton Hillis to the Kansas City Chiefs, and with new head coach Greg Schiano rooted in the old school when it comes to play-calling, the Bucs would be an ideal destination for a guy who can clearly take the lion's share of the carries. Schiano has already told running back LeGarrette Blount that he'll only get carries if he doesn't fumble -- well, Richardson put the ball on the ground exactly once in 614 touches at Alabama.
"If the two quarterbacks [Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III] go 1-2, and the Vikings are not in the market for a tailback at No. 3 because of Adrian Peterson, this kid is going 4, 5 or 6," Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said on March 27. "He's the best tailback I've seen come out since the aforementioned Adrian Peterson. He brings toughness, he brings speed, he brings pass protection.
"Richardson might be the best position player in this draft. I watched 150 of his carries today. I watched every catch he made on tape today. . . . I watched every pass protection I could find in about a 10-game span, and he might be the best pass-protecting running back in this draft also. So when you talk about toughness and perhaps the best positional player in the entire draft, I think if he is available at No. 5, with that offensive line, they've got to pull the trigger."
The offensive line Mayock speaks of is Tampa Bay's, which just added Carl Nicks -- the NFL's best guard in New Orleans -- to a young unit that is full of potential. With Richardson running behind Nicks and fellow outstanding guard Davin Joseph, the rest of the NFC South could be in for a beating -- even more so when Richardson starts pass-blocking for quarterback Josh Freeman. At that point, someone's going to need some Advil.
- Cleveland Browns
- Adrian Peterson