Regarded as a mid-round prospect before his senior season, Colorado State's Weston Richburg has seen his stock elevated to the top of the class, thanks to his tenacity, technique and durability.
"There's always work to be done, always room to be better," Richburg said. "I look at it that if you get complacent, that's not good. I'm just trying to put good games together and hope that at the end of the season, I can look back and be proud of what I did."
The proliferation of new statistics hasn't reached the trenches, so it's still difficult to quantify an offensive lineman's individual proficiency beyond team statistics and the sometimes misleading and even suspect "sacks allowed" judgment. Evaluation often has to be taken on faith — including trusting the grading coaches — and subjected to the eye test.
"Weston Richburg, since I've come here, has taken probably as big of a step as anybody," CSU's second-year coach Jim McElwain said. "He's made himself not only a huge leader for us and this football team, but has made himself relevant when it comes to the next level. He's handled all the guys that we've gone against. I think he did some good things at Alabama that probably helped him a little bit and helped us."
The Rams' center accounted for 18 touchdown-resulting blocks for a ground game that reached the end zone 37 times in 2013. Since The NFL Draft Report began compiling offensive line statistics in 1980, he is the only center in the Mountain West Conference to have gone through an entire season with such excellent statistics. Add in the fact that he averaged nearly 15 knockdown blocks per game, you have to wonder what Rimington Trophy voters were thinking when they named Florida State's Bryan Stork the best center in college football for the 2013 campaign.
The durable center is also one of the more versatile blockers in the 2014 draft pool, as he has played guard and tackle as well during his CSU career. McElwain toyed with sliding Richburg out of the center's spot last season if it made the offensive line better as a unit, but wisely decided to follow the Paul Brown/Al Davis game plan of keeping his best blocker anchored at center.
"When they talk about my versatility, I think they're talking about that I can play wherever they need me to play," Richburg said. "I think if somebody gets hurt, we have guys who are capable, but I'm able and willing to go play any position. ... I've talked to some guys (about the NFL) and they've said that a guy was only a center, and he went into camp and was going against a guy who could play center and guard, and the center-only guy might be a better center than the other guy. But they're going to keep the guy who plays guard and center, so it's really valuable to be trying to do as much as I can."
Colorado State University Rams
Richburg is a solidly built athlete with long arms, large hands, good bubble, defined upper-body muscles in the shoulders and chest, thick thighs and calves. He displays good bone structure and muscle development. He has a thick chest with good arm length, large hands and a frame that can easily carry another 20-25 pounds of bulk. He has a solid midsection, wide hips and very strong legs.
Richburg is a well-built athlete with impressive forward explosion and initial quickness, but appears a bit stiff in his hips, as he loses his burst when having to redirect. He is best playing along the line or on short pulls, as he might have good timed speed, but seems to labor some when trying to get into the second level. He plays on his feet well and has the first step needed to chip and seal the linebackers shooting the gaps. He has the upper-body strength to neutralize the bull rush and good balance along with proper hand placement, as he is quick to recoil and reset his hands. He can adjust to movement at the line, and even though he does not appear to have suddenness, he somehow manages to get out and make plays in space. He shows explosive movement going forward, but needs to improve his lateral agility, one of the few weak areas in his game. Still, he plays with a wide base and will generally win one-on-one battles, thanks to his lower body strength. Richburg does a nice job of playing on his feet and maintaining balance. He gets a good leg base and generates tremendous power behind his hand punch.
Richburg makes all the line calls. He knows everyone's assignments and has filled in capably when asked to perform at other positions. With his versatility and field smarts, he has been quick to pick up the nuances of playing other positions on the front wall, as he has the speed and lateral agility to lead on traps and pulls as a guard, along with knowing how to keep his hands active and feet shuffling to mirror edge rushers while lining up as a tackle. He is a very intelligent and instinctive athlete who seems to have the natural football instincts that you want from a young player that will be responsible for calling blocking assignments at the next level. He does a nice job of scanning the field to locate twists and games but, for some reason, he does not react as quickly when plays break down in the backfield (three sacks late in the 2013 schedule). He has shown the ability to handle assignments playing in a complex system and it is very rare to see him make a mental mistake. Even though he has adequate lateral agility, he does a good job of adjusting to stunts.
Richburg gives total effort throughout the play. He plays with a wide base and has the upper body strength to generate an effective hand punch. He flashes nastiness in his performance and is the type that seeks a challenge. You can see on film that he won't back down from a confrontation (see 2013 Tulsa, Texas-El Paso and Air Force games. He is a hard worker in the training room and a self starter who works on improving his craft year round. He is a highly motivated type who takes well to hard coaching. He is the unquestioned leader in the locker room and will not hesitate to grab teammates "by the throat" if that what it takes to get them to perform to a high level.
Richburg gets off the ball and into his blocks fast, compensating for a lack of foot speed. He is explosive, quick and powerful enough to sustain blocks. When he stays low in his pads, he can gain advantage. He is best working in the trenches, as he does not have the top-end speed to cause damage working into the second level too often, but has enough initial burst to get out in front on short traps and pulls. When he keeps his pad level down, he displays above average initial quickness off the snap, but he does labor running long distances and is not a great space player, as he appears too stiff in his hips to generate explosive lateral agility. He has the speed to make the reach and down blocks with effectiveness, but just adequate burst getting into the second level to stalk linebackers. His quick first step lets him get advantage with a defender over his head. He has the balance and leg drive to finish blocks.
Richburg shows consistency playing over his feet and under control when sliding in pass protection. Even without top-end speed, he does a good job of getting out on the edge, where he can impact, run and seal off. He is not going to look very fluid moving side to side, but he showed in the 2013 Texas-El Paso, Wyoming and Nevada games that he has the balance in his retreat and kick slide when taking on edge rushers.
Balance/Stays On Feet
Richburg has good natural balance, which allows him to play with his feet underneath him in pass protection. When he gets position on his man, he will sustain and finish. His strong leg base and arm strength keeps the defenses constantly aware of his abilities. He has enough functional strength to neutralize the bull rush when he plays with a low center of gravity and comes off the snap with a wide base. He has made good strides with his hand usage in 2013, as he used to expose his chest and that gave defenders some success walking him back into the pocket when they got into his body. He has good foot balance for his position, but will have to improve his upper body strength more to better lock out and control the much bigger nose guard types that he will face at the NFL level (2013 opponents in one-on-one situations averaged 281 pounds in 2013). He does move his feet well moving forward to sustain. With his lower body balance, he can stay on his blocks, but is just an adequate finisher if he has to move laterally to make the play.
Even though he does not have great speed, Richburg will flash good aggression with his hands into the defensive tackle and has more than enough pop and strength to consistently put his opponents on their backs. The thing that really stands out when you watch film of Richburg is his exceptional tenacity, as he simply refuses to give up on the play. He showed as a senior that he can exhibit sudden force with his hand punch and while he will not win foot races in the second level, he can maintain his balance and strike into his defenders in the short area. His problem arises when he has to run long distances, as he will revert to leaning and pushing rather than gaining position.
Richburg has a very good feel for taking angles. He comes off the snap low and with a wide base, doing a nice job of maintaining the rush lanes. With his low stance, he has had good success leveraging, especially vs. the bull rush in 2013 (see Wyoming, Hawaii, New Mexico and Air Force games). With his balance and leg drive, he is able to root out and drive off bigger defensive tackles when he keeps his pads down. He is not the type that will get too high in his stance or chest-block. While he continues to bulk up and develop more uppe- body power, he can compensate by out-finessing his opponent, but you would like to see him roll his hips better.
Richburg is a solid pass protector when battling in the trenches, but he gets caught up in the action at times and tries to do too much, failing to recognize plays breaking down in the backfield. He works well in combination with his guards playing in a phone booth, but looks sluggish when having to redirect. He has that above average lower body strength to effectively anchor vs. the bull rush and shows the vision and feet to quickly react to twists and games. He has good knee bend, but you would like to see him be more flexible, as he will bend at the waist when having to change direction suddenly. When he sets his wide base, he has the balance to generate decent pop on contact. He has the ability to play flat-footed, and has worked hard in extending his hands, as he used to be prone to short arming at times.
Richburg is best when working in the short area, as he will end up on ground when he isn't under control in attempts to work into the second level. He generates a good burst coming off the ball and shows good hip snap and aggression blocking on the move. His lack of great foot speed prevents him from getting good position up field when having to go long distances. On the short pulls and traps, Richburg gets off the line adequately, but is not a space player due to lateral movement issues. He has good balance at the line of scrimmage and shows adequate upper body strength when widening the rush lanes. He does a nice job of playing on his feet, but must do a better job of shifting and adjusting his weight playing on the move.
Adjust on Linebacker Downfield
Richburg shows good hand usage to position and cut off the linebackers, but lacks the foot speed to come out and stalk the defenders working in space. He just does not seem to have the explosive hip snap to stalk defenders well into the second level. He does have a good concept for angling, but needs to get up on the linebacker quicker than he has shown. You just do not see the change of direction skills needed to wheel and cut off in the open.
Use of Hands/Punch
Richburg does a good job of hand punching in pass protection. He also does a good job of grabbing and maintaining position on run blocks. His strength and hand quickness are starting to become better best assets and he knows how to get underneath the defender, deliver a jolt and put his opponent on their back. He is the type of player who is developing heavy hands to control, when he locks on securely.
Richburg is very alert to twists and games. He scans the field well and keeps his head on a swivel, looking for secondary targets after making his initial block. He has a good feel for the bull rush, staying low in his pads to root out the bigger defenders. He has a very good concept for angling, but is a better battler in the trenches than when on the move. He is alert to plays breaking down in the backfield and has enough balance and body control to anchor. He shows good ability to play flat-footed, but you would like to see him move better in space.
SHAUN O'HARA-ex-New York Giants: Like the former Giant, Richburg is a sound technician with very good initial quickness. He plays with a wide base, but is more of a trench battler than one who can operate in space. He has experience at every line position and has a keen knowledge for taking angles. He has worked hard to improve his upper-body strength in order to protect his body better from defenders. If a team is looking for a no-flash, but consistent performer, Richburg will deliver every game.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.