New England Patriots 2015 NFL Draft and Beyond

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Feb 23, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Stanford Cardinal defensive back Jordan Richards back pedals during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

2nd Round (64th Overall) – Jordan Richards (DB, Stanford)


Jordan Richards continues a baffling stretch of second and third round draft picks by Bill Belichick in his tenure in New England. In 2013 it was Rutgers safety Duron Harmon taken in third round at #91 overall. In 2012 it was second round draft pick Tavon Wilson out of Illinois at #48 overall. Now Richards is the safety taken early who was so far down the draft boards of other teams that they must have thought it was a mistake when New England drafted him.


Wilson had a promising rookie season when in a strong safety rather than free safety role. However, the 2013 season saw him firmly planted on the bench and last year he played just in the dime defense. Harmon is a pure free safety who has played well when given the chance. His game-clinching interception of Joe Flacco in the end zone in the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoffs has been his signature moment in his two season in New England.


Richards is a highly intelligent player with average speed and size. However, he is versatile, strong, and excelled in the short-space quickness drills such as the the three cone and short-shuttle drills. Richards was the team captain at Stanford (some smart people go to school there) and was nicknamed “coach” by his teammates for his understanding and knowledge of the defense. His run support and short zone defense in the passing games could be a strength in the NFL.


If Richards becomes a starter in New England no one will care about his draft position, but for now he looked like a reach in the second round. Maybe Belichick did not think he would be around at #96. Maybe he was simply a player wanted and if Belichick wants a guy who in the draft room will tell him no?.


2015 Role:

Richards will be counted on to contribute on special teams immediately and should push Tavon Wilson off the roster and take his role on the dime defense immediately. By the end of the season as as second round draft pick he should be expected to start taking away snaps from holdover Patrick Chung at strong safety. Expect Richards (if healthy) to snag about 250 to 400 snaps on defense as a rookie while being a “core-four” special teams player on the field for basically every special teams play.


Nov 1, 2014; Eugene, OR, USA; Stanford Cardinal safety Jordan Richards (8) and linebackers Blake Martinez (4) and A.J. Tarpley (17) swarm Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) in the first half at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

2016 and Beyond:

Expect Richards to ascend to the starting role for 2016 at strong safety and eventually knock Chung off the roster. Belichick obviously sees RIchards as the complement to Devin McCourty at safety to be the bigger, closer to the line of scrimmage strong safety for the foreseeable future. Richards is going to be a physical presence at strong safety who should be able to make some big plays with his coverage near the line of scrimmage. If the Patriots keep him out of man coverage and playing deep centerfield at safety he can be an asset for the future.


Similar pick in the past:

The easy comparison is Tavon Wilson, but Wilson was more of a linebacker in safety’s body and more of physical specimen than a cerebral player. Think of Richards as a more athletic James Sanders who was a fourth round draft pick in 2005 (#133 overall) and was a key contributor in the secondary for six years despite his lack of athleticism. Sanders was smart and strong and played a total of eight years in the NFL.  No doubt Belichick fell in love with Richards as a more athletic and quick version of Sanders.