NEW YORK -- New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson boasted late in the season that he is "most definitely" the choice for the 2013 Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
He was right.
Richardson was announced as the top defensive rookie at Saturday's "NFL Honors" awards show.
It's rare for a defensive lineman to take home the award because the position's biggest contributions rarely show up in the box score or in casual game viewing. Credit The Associated Press writers for recognizing a precocious star who is already one of the league's most formidable run-stoppers.
The Jets realized early on that Richardson would make an immediate impact, teaming with Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison on the Sons of Anarchy defensive line that was arguably the league's best in 2013.
"He's had a tremendous year and I think he has a great future here," coach Rex Ryan said in December. "The production is a huge part of it and the way he plays. He's got that relentless motor. For a defensive tackle and being as productive as he is ... the tape doesn't lie."
Richardson won the award over the Buffalo Bills' Kiko Alonso, the Carolina Panthers' Star Lotulelei, the New Orleans Saints' Kenny Vaccaro and the Arizona Cardinals' Tyrann Mathieu.
The Jets defensive end can thank the increasingly popular metrics website Pro Football Focus, which has shed new light on the impact of interior linemen on both sides of the ball.
Among 3-4 defensive ends, only J.J. Watt produced more stops (any solo tackle which constitutes an offensive failure) than Richardson's 41. The former Mizzou star gets off the ball quickly, pushes the pocket and blows up opposing run games.
If we knew then what we know now, Richardson would have been the heavy favorite to go off the board at No. 1 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.