Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: WR Paul Richardson’s (Washington) Stem Work

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines an effective stem from wide receiver Paul Richardson that sets the intensity of the entire route. 

The stem is the initial phase of the wide receiver’s route before he makes his break. Not always, but the stem may involve a release from tight coverage at the line of scrimmage. Today, we’re examining a stem against coverage that isn’t attempting to prevent the receiver’s free release down the field.

Paul Richardson has become one of the underrated route runners in the game. During his healthiest season as a contributor in Seattle, Richardson’s fantasy impact per target was better than the top three receivers in football at the half-way point of the 2017 season:

Player Targets Fpts Fpts/Tgt PPR PPR/Tgt
Antonio Brown  94 101.5 1.08  158.5  1.69
DeAndre Hopkins 76 102.6 1.35 147.6 1.94
A.J. Green 65 81.2 1.25 119.2 1.83
Paul Richardson Jr 36 67.4 1.87 89.4 2.48

There are a lot of variables that can explain Richardson’s value here—a small sample size compared to the three receivers above is absolutely one of them. The point of this table isn’t to place Richardson in this tier of players but underscore that a good route runner can maximize his opportunities.

Richardson is a speedy player with excellent skill after the catch. Defenders understand this about Richardson and they want to keep him in front of them. Richardson also understands this and uses his stems effectively to set the tone for the rest of his routes.

This over route is an excellent example. Richardson gets his pads over his knees and opens his stride into full sprinter mode early enough in the route that he sells the defender that he’s running full speed.

Selling this intensity is important because it instills a rhythm that heightens the pace of the defender’s reactions and takes control of a less experienced defender’s thinking. Ever have a teacher or police officer ask you rapid-fire questions? The motivation is to lock your brain into a pattern of question and response that causes you to give the first answer that comes to mind rather than the one you had prepared before the interaction.

The pace-setter is attempting to take the control and when he slips his deceptive trick into the conversation, the pace has the opponent off his game. This is what happens below when Richardson sets a fast pace early and makes the vertical move that might work into the back of the defender, it leads the defender to believe he’s now defending the break. Except, a beat later, Richardson is breaking back to the inside.

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The entire route works because Richardson sets the pace, forces the defender into a rhythm too quick to process on his terms, and then makes his moves accordingly.

For the most in-depth analysis of offensive skill players available (QB, RB, WR, and TE), get the 2019  Rookie Scouting Portfolio. If you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2018 RSPs at no additional charge.

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