Talented but troubled Sheldon Richardson declares for NFL draft

Getty Images

Sheldon Richardson, a physically gifted defensive tackle who carries some off-field baggage and injury concerns, has declared his intention to leave Missouri early and enter the 2013 NFL draft.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Richardson definitely has NFL talent. He was a highly recruited prospect out of high school who had 18.5 tackles for loss in two seasons at Missouri, after starting his college career at the junior college level. But Richardson played through a shoulder injury in 2011 and had shoulder surgery early this year, which could raise a medical red flag, and he also was suspended for a game this season, reportedly for blowing off a team-issued punishment for skipping class. Richardson is also known for running his mouth, including saying before Missouri played Georgia that Georgia plays “old-man football.” (Georgia then beat Missouri 41-20.)

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he supports Richardson’s decision to turn pro.

“I’ve always said that when guys have opportunities like these, if they’re ready to go, then they should go,” Pinkel said. “I have no doubt that Sheldon is ready to play in the NFL, and while we’d love to have him for another year, the important thing is that this is the right decision. It will be fun watching him play on Sundays.”

Richardson will be one of the most intriguing defensive line prospects in this year’s draft.