Captain Vincent Kompany was ruled out through injury, so Lescott was drafted in at centre-back.
"He is a quality defender," Richards told the club's official website. "A lot of people don't understand how good he is - well, people do because he is playing for England - but he really is a top-class centre-back, one of the best in the league.
"I think last season and at the start of this season he has shown that."
City's 3-0 win over Sunderland put them second in the table, four points behind early leaders Chelsea.