FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots finished the second round of the NFL Draft Friday night by selecting Stanford defensive back Jordan Richards with the 64th pick.
Richards, a California native with Massachusetts roots who measures 5 feet 11 inches and 211 pounds, was a Cardinal captain and first-team All-Pac 12 performer last season.
“Just so excited,” Richards said via conference call when asked about getting the call from New England. “It’s an incredible opportunity. Getting to talk with the coaches and Mr. [Robert] Kraft and coach [Bill] Belichick . . . It’s a dream come true. I’m just excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to get out there and get ready to go.”
Richards’s father, Terry, was born in Jamaica Plain and raised in Natick, playing football for Natick High before playing at Tufts from 1975-79. Shortly after graduating, he moved to California — the family lives in Folsom, outside of Sacramento — where Jordan was raised.
“My dad was stoked for sure,” Richards said of being drafted by New England. “Being a California kid, I can’t say I’m a Patriots fan or I was growing up, but shoot — I can change now.”
Despite having family in Massachusetts, Richards said he has yet to visit the area.
In 2014, Richards started all 13 games at safety and totaled 79 tackles (53 solo), with 3 interceptions, 5 pass breakups, 2½ tackles for loss, and 3 forced fumbles. During his Stanford career, Richards appeared in every game, starting all 41 over his final three seasons.
Reading scouting reports on Richards and talking to him, it’s easy to see why the Patriots chose him. New England likes drafting team captains, and Richards’s three-cone time of 6.74 seconds at the Combine was among the better numbers from defensive backs (the Patriots tend to favor players with good three-cone times, a good indicator of change-of-direction and agility).
He’s also smart enough that teammates called him “Coach Richards” because he knew where everyone was supposed to be and what their assignment was.
Richards laughed and said he didn’t like the nickname “at all,” but felt it was his job to know what was going on in every area of the field.
“I want to be the best football player I can be, and that means as a safety you don’t just know what the safety does, you know the corners, you know what the linebackers are up to and defensive ends and D-line and the interior guys,” Richards said. “I think it’s just a way of trying to earn the respect of your teammates and show that it means a lot to you and that you’re really serious about that, and that’s my goal headed to New England is just be a sponge and absorb and absorb and absorb.”
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was in Palo Alto for Stanford’s pro day and spent time talking with Richards, including some time at the white board to break down X’s and O’s.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, whom the Patriots selected 32d on Thursday night, had the same experience with Caserio at Texas.
Clearly both players impressed.
Richards called the run-up to the draft “a long process,” and that he put his best foot forward and tried be himself as he interacted with personnel men and coaches.
“I think I play fast and physical, and that kind of touches all aspect of the game, whether it’s [special] teams or whether it’s defense,” he said. “And as a person I think I’m a smart player and I’m easily coachable and I just want to learn and be the best football player that I can be.
“An organization like the Patriots, I’m going to go out there and be a sponge and soak up as much as I can from teammates and coaches and somehow contribute to the success of this organization.”
He is eager to play anywhere, and enjoys special teams.
“I got to play a fair amount of teams throughout my career. The amount of snaps I got varied year to year, but it’s something that I take really seriously,” Richards said. “If you want to play football, especially at this level, you better contribute somehow on special teams. So I’m juiced and I’m ready for it.”
Richards has two former Stanford teammates in his new locker room in offensive lineman Cameron Fleming and running back Tyler Gaffney, both of whom were rookies last year (Gaffney spent the season on injured reserve).
Since 2008, the Patriots have had 15 second-round picks, and have used six of them on defensive backs. The previous five: Tavon Wilson (2012), Ras-I Dowling (2011), Patrick Chung and Darius Butler (2009), and Terrence Wheatley (2008).
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