You can’t take running backs high in the first round. Okay, you can, but you definitely can’t take them in the top 10. Okay, my sources are now telling me that’s okay as well. But I know for a fact that you better not select one in the top 5 picks and especially if you have to trade up to take him. That basically sums up all of the talk surrounding Trent Richardson for the months leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft. As I stated in an article called “The Myth of a Running Back’s Draft Value”, special, every down backs, aren’t routinely found in the later rounds as most people believe.
Trent Richardson is more than an every down back. Since January, I’ve dubbed him as a modern era Earl Campbell. He has the tree trunk thighs, the shiftiness that’s uncommon to a bigger back, and the rare combination of abilities that allows him to run through defenders or past them. It didn’t matter where Richardson was selected, he was going to be a value pick. No one who’s seen Richardson’s play will ever question the selection.
While it’s a smart pick for the Cleveland Browns, it should be rather disappointing from a fans perspective, well, any fan outside of Cleveland. Richardson will be a workhorse back and should still be effective but I would have liked to see him go to a team where he had a better supporting cast. Due to Cleveland selecting Richardson, fellow rookie, Doug Martin fell into the ideal situation in Tampa Bay. If the Browns had went a different direction, Richardson would have unquestionably been wearing a Bucs uniform this season. He then would have been setup for a monster rookie campaign. Now, back to reality…
Cleveland did move up and they also selected their quarterback of the future, later in the first round. The Browns have all but crowned Brandon Weeden as the starter for the 2012 season. Trent will need Weeden to be a quick learner or he will be facing a lot of eight man fronts. It may not matter if Brandon is up to game speed come September or not. The team still doesn’t have the guys in place to force a defense to shift focus from the young, powerful back.
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The team will need Greg Little to become more consistent and complete to strengthen the receiving corps behind him. Joshua Cribbs has always been one of my favorite return men to watch and he did put up 41 catches, 518 yards, and 4 touchdowns in 2011, which almost matched his totals for his first 6 seasons in which he had 59 catches, 580 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He proved he could perform when given more starts at wideout but I doubt the team would continue to take the potential risk of injury and decline in return ability.
The team has high hopes that Mohamed Massaquoi will have a strong season with Weeden at quarterback but his statistics have declined yearly since his rookie season. Carlton Mitchell and Jordan Norwood are two younger guys that the team hopes steps up. Norwood could possibly take a bigger step in his second season and Mitchell has to prove that he’s more than a tall, speed guy. It would also help if Carlton could stay healthy, so that he may get on the field. They are two rookies that bring intrigue for different reasons. Travis Benjamin was worth a mid round selection in this draft, thanks to his speed. The team envisions him stretching the field and that’s what they’ll need to open the field up for Richardson. I wouldn’t expect to see any Oklahoma State replays of Weeden to Josh Cooper in Cleveland, after August.
After viewing the receiver group as a whole, I can see the potential of Richardson having help, but it’s setup to come in the next few years, as the wideouts are a youthful bunch that will have to develop as a unit. It’s projecting a lot to expect that a rookie quarterback, albeit a 28 year old rookie, can elevate the game of a young group of receivers enough to take the pressure off a rookie running back. It would be beneficial to Weeden to have a talented group of tight ends as a security blanket. His group of Benjamin Watson, Evan Moore, and Jordan Cameron is another area that is potential based. Watson is old reliable if called upon but Weeden needs either Moore to step back up his average per catch to where it was in 2010 or Cameron to develop into what the Browns had envisioned when they selected him.
Richardson is the key piece to this young offense. There is absolutely no competition in the backfield. Montario Hardesty can’t stay healthy and hasn’t produced when he was on the field. From 2007-2010, Brandon Jackson only had one season where he averaged more than 3.7 yards per carry. Chris Ogbonnaya stepped in and played better than expected last year but Cleveland’s not in any rush to get him any touches. This is Richardson’s backfield, it’ll be his ball, and the offense will be ran through him.
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That’s good and bad.
Cleveland has a decent offensive line and will provide holes for him but the opposing defenses will require Weeden to prove what Colt McCoy couldn’t and that’s the ability to pass down field consistently. If Brandon lacks the ability to keep the defenses on their heels, than Richardson will take a pounding on every carry. As talented and well built as Richardson is, even a train would get knocked off the track by high speed collisions. I mention the comparison of Trent Richardson to Earl Campbell. Trent can very well punish defenders when he carries the ball but this isn’t college. For every highlight trucking that Campbell dished out during his glory days, it’s him who struggles to walk around these days.
After Richardson was drafted by the Browns, he set behind a table at his press conference in Radio City Music Hall and I asked if he had any fear that the Browns would run him into the ground. He answered in the manner I would suspect from such a high class individual. He told me that he would do whatever the team asked of him and he just wanted to do his part. His answer and demeanor should be commended but it may not be rewarded. I fear that he has landed in a situation that will be beneficial to the team, the city, and the fans but I don’t know if his style can hold up in this offense, unless he teammates play at a much higher level in 2012. He definitely has the talent to be successful in this league and his production will come early but the real question is, can he stay healthy in the role Cleveland has planned for him?
Dr. Roto’s Fantasy Football Spin
If this was 2007, the Fantasy world would be salivating over Trent Richardson. Back then Fantasy Football seemed simpler. Running backs got 25 carries a game and the position was the most valued in Fantasy Football. Recently, however, times have changed. First, wide receivers became in vogue. Next came the mobile QB. Finally, 2011 saw the TE position be glorified by the likes of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. However, it is good to know that there are some places where tradition holds strong. A place where nostalgia reigns and Fantasy owners can go back to the ways of old. That place is the home of the Dawg Pound, Cleveland, Ohio.
The Cleveland Browns are not a sexy team. And although they are solid on the whole defensively, on offense they leave a lot to be desired. However, the Browns have tried to correct their flaws. They drafted a good WR#1 last year in Greg Little and this year they added two good offensive players in QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson. Richardson, in particular, looks like he can be special. He has incredible lower body strength as well as a burst that can get him through most any gap. He is rarely brought down by the first tackler and he is an excellent blocker (and pass receiver) out of the backfield. He is an old school RB–one that is capable of carrying the ball over 20 times a game as well as being the goal line back too.
In a time where Fantasy owners are searching desperately for running backs who will grab the lion’s share of their team’s carries, look no further than Trent Richardson. He will be the bell cow in Cleveland for the next few years. Fantasy owners would be wise to look at taking Richardson somewhere around the late second/early third round of their drafts. He is well worth the investment.