Wondering why I had Jalen Richard above Tyler Ervin, Jordan Howard, and nearly even with Jonathan Williams? Read below.
Last winter, Sigmund Bloom called me to talk shop. I was in the middle of wrapping up my final grades on running backs. One of the players no one was talking about but consistently popped was Jalen Richard.
Before I applied my projections of upside to specific skills, he rated as high as ninth on my board. After accounting for potential for backs to improve in the realms of ball security, pass protection, decision-making with regard to blocking schemes, and other areas, Richard fell to 14th–still good for a player I heard nothing about from draftniks.
He was only one category of improvement away from overtaking the likes of my prospects rated 8th-13th on my board, including C.J. Prosise, Paul Perkins, and DeAndre Washington.
Here’s my write-up of Richard. You can find his play-by-play reports and other grades with the rest of the 2016 RB class in the 2016 RSP.
14. Jalen Richard, Southern Mississippi (5-8, 210)
It’s doubtful that a team drafts Richard. He’ll be a UDFA for a squad seeking camp bodies. Even so, Richard is a talent. C.J. Anderson started his career this way.
Like Anderson, Richard has a low center of gravity, good vision between the tackles, burst, and agility to make a surprising bid for a roster spot. Richard does an excellent job of getting his pads low and driving through through contact. He’s not a powerhouse, but he can get under linebackers and push them 3-4 yards.
In addition to his vision and agility, Richard’s pad level makes him a reliable short-yardage runner and he’ll surprise defensive tackles with his pop. Richard’s low center of gravity helps him run through hits and wraps for extra yards. He also sets up his blocks with a good balance of patience and decisive action. Richard does an excellent job of changing his stride length to squeeze through creases or make a quick bounce to another opening at the line of scrimmage.
His acceleration is borderline starter-caliber. Richard can break long runs because he can hit holes cleanly and get on top of a defense early, forcing them to play catch-up. Quick enough to get outside on designed plays, Richard has the speed to outrun the pursuit of linemen and linebackers into the secondary. He’s adept at getting down hill as early as possible.
Get Richard on a safety and he often has the speed to pull away from the defender, but cornerbacks will track him down. Despite Richard being more of a straight-line, down hill runner who uses moves to get through the line quickly, he has excellent feet. He can cut and make lateral moves in succession to avoid defenders or set up angles in the
Richard is a fearless cut blocker, willing to attack linebackers at the line of scrimmage. When he misses these attempts, he’s often too low because he drops his head early and telegraphs the move. Richard’s stand-up game is good and should get better. He can square an opponent, set his feet, and punch with pop. He understands how to steer defenders and he’s displayed skill to handle defensive backs and linebackers in the stand-up game.
Southern Mississippi used Richard as an outlet receiver, but he can make plays with his back to the line of scrimmage. He’ll also adjust down field and work open for his quarterback once the original route doesn’t break open.
The Golden Eagles had a good offense this year, and despite the fact that running back Ito Smith was the talk of the television broadcast crews, Richard often looked as good or better. Although the reasons for the depth chart alignment were different for Cal, reserve runner C.J. Anderson engendered similar analysis a few years back.
Keep that in mind.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Monitor Richard from afar. If NFL beat writers begin praising him, or injury and opportunity dictate, add him to your preseason roster. If Richard impresses, consider this year a practice squad period and don’t expect anything until at least 2017.
For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2016 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – early-bird purchase for April 1 download available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2015 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.