Brought in for a club-record £35million last summer, Silva was thrust into a more prominent role after Raul Jimenez's head injury last November and has scored twice in 22 appearances.
The 18-year-old striker was recently branded 'well short' by former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp, but Richards has liked what he has seen from the teenager so far and feels he can blossom into a top talent.
"He's played when he shouldn't have played because with all the best will in the world, he would have been the back-up to Jimenez," said Richards, who scored 194 goals in 485 Wolves games.
"Instead he's been pushed into that position probably sooner than Nuno would have liked and expected.
"I think he's done very well in the circumstances. He's still 18. I got into the team when I was 19, played three or four games, and then was back in the reserves the following season.
"I was more on the bench, coming on occasionally, and learning. Then, the season after that was when it all clicked. I'd had the best part of 18 months, learning how to be a first-team player.
"Fabio has not had that time. He's been thrust into it, but he's a good player.
"I think next season he will show us how good he is – he's good anyway for an 18-year-old. It will happen for him."
Silva, over the past few weeks, has mainly been used as a substitute with January signing Willian Jose preferred up front.
Richards, though, hopes the more progressive, attack-minded style seen in the second half to beat Southampton last weekend will benefit the youngster – even if it is off the bench.
"The win against Southampton has taken the pressure off the team a bit, and hopefully that'll help Fabio," he said.
"By pressing higher up the pitch, that should suit his style more."
Richards added: "He'd been playing in the Portuguese league, and now he's in the Premier League against the best players in the world. It'll take him some time to adjust.
"He's still a long way off his peak. Give him two or three seasons, he'll be flying – gradually improving inbetween.
"He came in sooner than he or Nuno would have expected. But in the long term, he will benefit from that."