KANSAS CITY, Mo. The biggest wildcard in this year's NFL draft might just be Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock described Richardson, who is 6 feet 4 and 295 pounds, as a rising prospect who seems certain to go in the first round, perhaps even in the top 15.
"I really like that kid," Mayock said in a Monday teleconference call. "He is so gifted athletically. I see him as a three-technique guy but really, I would think any of the 32 teams in the NFL could find a place for him on their line. He's that good."
Mayock isn't alone is his assessment of Richardson. Scouts have raved about Richardson's quickness into the backfield, especially when lined up directly over an offensive lineman.
Richardson's agility and length make him an intriguing prospect.
"He's got that athleticism," Mayock said. "He's really exciting. I think he's as athletically gifted as any defensive lineman in the draft. I think he's more athletic than the Utah kid (Star Lotulelei)."
Mayock, though, does have Lotulelei ranked as the second best defensive tackle prospect behind Florida's Sharrif Floyd. Richardson is third on Mayock's list.
Mayock also has Floyd rising up through the prospect ranks.
"There's a lot of depth on the defensive line in this draft," Mayock said.
Richardson, though, could be the surprise of the draft.
"How many defensive linemen do you see at 300 pounds who can play standing up?" Mayock said. "That's what they had him doing at times at Missouri. He's a guy who can move around to a lot of positions and NFL teams will find the right one for him."
Of the NFL Network's four mock drafts, two of them have Richardson going at No. 14 to the Carolina Panthers. One has him going to the Steelers at 17 and one has him going to the Cowboys at 18.
Fox Sports' Peter Schrager, however, doesn't have Richardson going until pick No. 32 to the world champion Baltimore Ravens.
Mayock, though, doesn't see Richardson lasting into the 20s in the first round.
Mayock also has some hope for Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden, who is 6 feet 2, 233 pounds.
"Another good athlete with some speed and closing skills," Mayock said. "Not great instincts, though. I think once he identifies the play, he has the athleticism to make the play.
"I think he is better off just reacting and just letting that athleticism take over his game."
Mayock sees Gooden going as high as the second round.
H-back, wide receiver T. J. Moe from Missouri could be a mid- to late-round pick, according to Mayock.
As for the Chiefs and their No. 1 overall pick, Mayock, like ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., doesn't see the team going with a much-needed quarterback.
Mayock believes the Chiefs will be better off picking an offensive linemen with the top pick. His choices: Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel, Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher, Alabama guard Chance Warmack or North Carolina lguard Jonathan Cooper.
"They need a quarterback and a lot of people think Geno Smith is in that ballpark, but I don't," Mayock said. "(At No. 1 and 33 they) need to find what's the best combination to get the best value."