Brooks: ‘P-Rich’ Settling In For NFL Draft Vigil

BOULDER – For a guy who hopes to soon be making a living mostly with his hands, Paul Richardson is starkly realistic about who has the firmest grip on his future. It isn’t him, and truth is he doesn’t know – but he’s anxious to find out.

“I’ve done as much as I can to get ready,” Richardson said in a phone interview from California earlier this week. “Everything is pretty much out of my hands now.”

The waiting game is nearly over for the former University of Colorado record-setting receiver. If he finds out Thursday what his future holds, that means he will have been selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft (6 p.m. MDT). The draft’s second and third rounds will be conducted on Friday (5 p.m. MDT), with rounds four through seven scheduled for Saturday (10 a.m. MDT).

Including Richardson, seven players from the 2013 Buffs squad have signed with agents and are hopeful of at least getting an NFL look through free agency. The other six: Chidera Uzo-Diribe (DE), Derrick Webb (LB), Gus Handler (C/G), Ryan Iverson (LS), Nate Bonsu (DL) and Parker Orms (DB). Jack Harris (OT) and Paul Vigo (DB) currently don’t have agents. Former CU players Doug Rippy (LB) and Travis Sandersfeld (DB) participated in this year’s Pro Timing Day and have retained representation.

Some draft analysts project “P-Rich” as a third-round selection on Friday, others believe he will remain on hold until early Saturday in the fourth round. The majority of the draftniks base his upside on speed, savvy and route-running ability, with the emphasis on his speed. His consensus downside, according to the analysts: durability due to his lean (6-0, 175) frame and how his CU resume reflects that.  

But Richardson hasn’t paid attention to much – if any – of the pre-draft web chatter and projections. “It’s all irrelevant,” he said. “None of them (analysts) make the decision at the end of the day. I just believe that I’m going to go where I’m supposed to go, and when I get there I’ll prove to the organization that took me that they were right. Hope it’s as early as possible.”

At the NFL Combine in February, Richardson tied with Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief for the eighth-fastest 40-yard dash time (4.40 seconds; the fastest 40 was clocked by Kent State running back Dri Archer at 4.26). In Indianapolis, Richardson had specific workouts with the Carolina Panthers and San Diego Chargers before working out for the Indianapolis Colts in March at CU’s annual Pro Timing Day.

Although he believed he performed well at both sites, he knows it might have little bearing on what transpires over the next three days. “All these teams show interest and say they hope to get the opportunity to take you . . . if they want you, they’ll go early to take you,” he said. “All I can do is wait; if I’m blessed enough to go, I’ll go there and do my thing.”

Since the 2013 football season ended, Richardson said he has improved “all around . . . I’m better in running my routes. I don’t think I’m indicating (to defensive backs) which way I’m breaking. I want to perform at the next level how I did in college – only better. And I can do that.”

At CU last season, Richardson caught 83 passes for 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged 111.9 receiving yards a game, with his 10 TD catches averaging 47 yards and 51 of 83 receptions earning first downs.

Richardson says he’s spent most of his life “having to prove myself, from Pop Warner to UCLA (where he initially enrolled) to CU – and I don’t expect this to be any different.”

In the past several weeks, he has spoken with former CU players David Bakhtiari (Green Bay) and Jimmy Smith (Baltimore) about their draft experiences, as well as close friend Scotty McKnight – also a former Buffs receiver – about prepping for the NFL.

“It’s my turn now and I know I’m a guy on the bubble,” he said. “My best- and worst-case scenarios are really extreme. I really don’t know if it’s going to be early or late. If wide receivers are flying off the board, maybe a team says, ‘We can’t risk getting him later, so we’ll get him early.’

“But I really don’t know. It’s tough, based on history, to project anything. But after those three days (of the draft), there’s no more assuming, no more ‘this would have happened if . . .’ or ‘this should have happened.’ It happens and you go from there.”

The pre-draft take on Richardson from NFL.com and CBSSports.com:

NFL.COM DRAFT ANALYSIS

Strengths: Jab steps and accelerates into routes. Fluid and field fast. Chews up ground with long strides. Stretches the field vertically and can run under deep throws. Can drive off corners, break off and work back to the quarterback. Can extend to pluck off his frame. Shows he's capable of making the spectacular grab. Productive despite a poor supporting cast. Has a 38-inch vertical jump.

Weaknesses: Is very lean. Needs to bulk up and get stronger. Has been injured and durability could be an issue. Vulnerable to the jam. Does not separate consistently -- needs to become a more refined, deceptive route runner. Average burst out of breaks. Lets some throws into his body and drops throws he shouldn't. Gets out-muscled at the catch point for 50-50 balls. Limited run strength. Underpowered blocker.

Draft Projection: Rounds 3-4

Bottom Line: Very lean, narrow-framed, finesse "X" receiver who made an immediate impact at Colorado before knee injuries derailed his progress. Measurables will go a long way in determining his ultimate draft value, and his success at the next level is dependent upon his ability to make plays in the vertical passing game. Has a boom-or-bust element. Size and durability are question marks. – Nolan Nawrocki

CBSSPORTS.COM DRAFT ANALYSIS

Strengths: Terrific athlete who appeared every bit as agile and explosive in 2013 after missing the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL. Very good straight-line speed making him an excellent option on vertical routes. Savvy route-runner who alters his gait off the line and throughout his route to gain separation from cornerbacks. Sinks his hips and explodes out of his breaks. Generally plucks the ball cleanly out of the air with his hands, securing it quickly. Can track the ball over either shoulder and flashes the ability to dive and haul in the extraordinary catch. Good vision to set up blocks. Good bloodlines. Father, Paul, Sr., played wide receiver in the NFL with Philadelphia, Oakland, Green Bay and the New York Jets.

Weaknesses: Very slim build and has struggled with durability throughout his career. Doesn't track the ball over his shoulder as well as he should for a receiver who makes his living on big plays. Too often senses the oncoming defender and allows the pass to slip through his fingers. Doesn't offer much as a downfield blocker.

Compares to: Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers . . . some will compare Richardson to Sanders' more established teammate Antonio Brown. Until Richardson (and Sanders) catch the ball with more consistency, however, each is likelier to earn more of a complementary role in the NFL despite natural playmaking ability.

Overview: The NFL is a sucker for speed at the receiver position, and few possess a more exciting combination of height and explosiveness than Richardson. Despite limited weapons around him, Richardson scored 20 touchdowns during his illustrious career with the Buffaloes, averaging an eye-popping 41.8 yards per score. Richardson answered critics who questioned his ability to stay healthy with a career-high 79 receptions for 1,280 yards and 10 scores for Colorado in 2013, proving remarkably explosive after missing the 2012 season with a torn ACL. Richardson's less than ideal frame might best be protected as a third or fourth receiver in the NFL. Considering how often teams utilize multiple receiver sets in today's pass-happy offenses, that won't necessarily mean that he'll make it out of the top 100. – Rob Rang

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU 

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