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Seahawks fans would love to see Paul Richardson’s speed turn into more big plays

Paul Richardson is very, very fast. Does that speed show up on the field as a game changing receiver?

NFL: NFC Divisional-Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the commentariat here at Field Gulls delved into a debate about Paul Richardson and his worth to the team in relation to the rest of the roster. Several commenters pointed to the speed he brings to the table and his ability to tilt the field. This got me wondering about whether or not Richardson’s speed actually does translate onto the field as him being a game-changing deep threat, because off the top of my head I could only think of a couple of long receptions during his career.

In looking at the career-long receptions for receivers who were on the roster last season, this is what they bring to the table as deep threats:

Career Long Reception

Receiver Career Long
Receiver Career Long
Doug Baldwin 80
Tyler Lockett 57
Jermaine Kearse 60
Tanner McEvoy 42
Paul Richardson 40

That alone did not answer my question, because that only looks at a single catch over the course of their careers, so what if Richardson routinely hauls in longer passes, but simply hasn’t had an opportunity to break a deep pass for an absolutely huge gain? Against the Falcons in the playoffs last year, Richardson had catches of 33 and 40 yards, the two longest catches of the day for any Seattle receiver. Against the Lions a week earlier, Richardson’s 27-yard reception was the second-longest of the day, behind only a 42-yarder from Doug Baldwin that happened moments earlier.

So, the next step was to look at a breakdown and distribution of the receptions each of those threats has over the last three seasons in order to evaluate whether the blazing speed of Richardson translates into more long receptions in comparison to the rest of the receivers on the team. Thus, I looked at every reception for those receivers over the timeframe of Richardson’s career (meaning only two years for Lockett and just one for McEvoy) and this is what that looks like:

Reception Distribution

Receiver <10 yards 10-14 yards 15-19 yards 20-24 yards 25+ yards
Receiver <10 yards 10-14 yards 15-19 yards 20-24 yards 25+ yards
Doug Baldwin 51% 20% 9% 9% 12%
Tyler Lockett 48% 21% 9% 4% 17%
Paul Richardson 47% 24% 10% 7% 12%
Jermaine Kearse 50% 14% 14% 9% 12%
Tanner McEvoy 33% 22% 22% 11% 11%

What the above table says to me is that the best deep threat on the roster is Tyler Lockett, and that in spite of his speed, when Richardson catches a pass, it is no more likely to be a big play than it is when when Baldwin or Kearse come down with it. (Author's note: I completely understand that the sample size for McEvoy is small, but I didn't want to exclude him for fear of retribution from the McEvoy fan club, which I refer to as the McMob.)

Now, there are obviously several other factors that are in play, but the big question remains whether the speed of Richardson offset the lack of production through the first three seasons of his career? If it does, then he is worth keeping around, but if it doesn't then the question becomes whether one of the younger receivers on the roster can adequately fill the role of a WR4 or WR5 in Richardson's stead without making a material impact on the team's ability to compete for a Lombardi.

I am not calling for Richardson to be traded immediately, and certainly not for him to be cut outright with no return compensation, but looking at the data it does not appear that his presence on the field yields a big play threat. Now, that’s not to say his speed does not have value, just that to this point in his career that speed has not translated into a disproportionate number of big plays.

Now, back to my statement about whether Richardson should be cut if there is no compensation coming in to the Hawks, and the answer to that is: Absolutely not. Unless one of the other receivers on the roster really outperforms him and the Seahawks really can’t find a trade partner that is.

I know this will cause a lot of hand wringing and teeth gnashing, as commenters will lament that any of the Hawks promising young receivers exposed to the waiver wire will be snatched up by other teams, but that is a different article for a different day. Or maybe later today, depends on how much time my son gives me to research and write, so keep your eyes open for that. It’s a good one. Or will be a good one once I get around to writing it since it doesn't actually exist yet. If it does come to exist.

At this time, despite another ache and pain, Richardson still exists on Seattle’s roster. He has yet to really prove he’s a big play threat, but Richardson’s obvious talents are undebatable. Can he make unbelievable catches? Yes. Is he fast? Yes. Can he become the Seahawks “big play threat” of 2017?

We’ll find out soon.