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NFL Draft Q&A: Backing The Pack on Will Richardson

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for the fourth installment in Big Cat Country’s rookie Q&A series, which ironically centers around Jacksonville Jaguars fourth-round pick offensive lineman Will Richardson.

In order to learn more about Jacksonville’s new tackle, we spoke to Steven Muma of Backing The Pack, the North Carolina State Wolfpack-dedicated blog on SB Nation.

I asked Steven a variety of questions about Richardson as a player and as a person. Let’s see what he had to say.

RO: The Jaguars view Will Richardson as a potential swing tackle who can play on either side of the line and back up both starters. Correct me if I am wrong, but he played mostly on the right side with the Wolfpack. Could you see him playing either position, and where do you think he fits best in the pros?

SM: You’re right, he played right tackle pretty much exclusively, and he was good enough to start there from his redshirt freshman year on (suspensions and illness/injury aside). I suspect he’d have been moved to left tackle at some point if that were necessary, but NC State had some quality left tackles during his time there. It’s no slight against his abilities.

I could see him developing into a dependable left tackle, but no doubt his comfort zone at this point is on the right side.

RO: There has also been a lot of talk about Richardson’s potential as a guard at the NFL level. I feel like a lot of players who are drafted as backup tackles are often talked about as guards, and I think those comments are sometimes unfounded, see Cam Robinson last year. With that said, can you see Richardson sliding to the interior, or is he better built for sticking to the tackle spot?

SM: I think he’s a better fit at tackle, but really who knows with these things. This is another situation where NC State had linemen (Tony Adams, who y’all may be familiar with by now, and Patriots starting guard Joe Thuney) who were good in those spots and so we never got to see how he might handle the interior on a full-time basis.

Editor’s note: For those unfamiliar with the situation, Adams signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jaguars, and as Steven points out, was a college teammate of Richardson’s at NC State.

RO: A lot has been made of Richardson’s off-the-field issues in the past, which includes an arrest for driving while intoxicated and suspensions. Richardson says he is a “changed person” and has seemingly turned over a new leaf. Do you believe this is true and he is mature enough for the NFL?

SM: I understand all of the off-field things get analyzed to death in the lead-up to the NFL Draft because of what’s at stake, and with that said I would not worry about this side of it at all with Richardson. He was 19 when he got cited for that DWI (on Halloween, oops) and he served a school-mandated one-semester suspension for it. I don’t think there is reason to believe you’ll see a pattern from him.

The suspension he served this past season was pot-related. Do people still care about that? I’ve gotten way beyond considering that a character flaw. It’s just something he was doing that should already be legal.

RO: Richardson didn’t allow a single sack in 2017, and Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell also noted that he may not have even given up a single pressure, either. What aspects of Richardson’s game make him so good in pass protection, and what are fair expectations for Richardson if and when he reaches the field?

SM: According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed only five pressures last season, which was tops among ACC right tackles.

He just has a great mix of size, strength, and quickness — and maybe as a right tackle he wasn’t always playing against great edge defenders, but the kind of success he had there makes me think he is good enough to become a long-term starter.

RO: Now that we know about Richardson’s pass blocking prowess, how is he as a run blocker? Was he just as impressive there, or is that an area he needs to improve upon?

SM: Not quite as good, but this is not an area that would prevent him from becoming a starter at the NFL level. It’s not a weakness; he’s just not as adept at it as pass protection. Yet.

Editor’s note: While Richardson still has plenty to improve on as a run-blocker, he was part of an offensive line that helped Nyheim Hines rush for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017.

Key takeaways? Richardson’s past will not be an issue according to Steven, and Richardson’s best fit remains at right tackle, but he has the potential to play on either side.

If you’d like to see the former NC State right tackle in action, the New England Patriots put together a pretty impressive highlight tape for Richardson, which you can view on their website (no. 54).

Be sure to follow Steven on Twitter if you need your Wolfpack fill, and click the follow button for Backing The Pack while you’re at it.

Time to weigh in, BCC readers. Do you think Richardson’s off-the-field issues are a thing of the past? Do you think he could challenge A.J. Cann at right guard, or do you thing he should stick to the tackle spot, where he could be a future starter? Let us know.