by Will Overton
Everything we hear about as we prepare for our fantasy football drafts is that the fantasy game has become a QB/WR driven game. The time for running backs to go early has gone and now it’s all about getting the high point scoring throwers and catchers.
We heard the same thing going into the NFL Draft in April as well. The need for a primary running back isn’t necessary anymore everyone said. Yet the Browns not only thought high enough of Trent Richardson to take him in the top five, but they felt the need to trade up to do it.
The thing is all those people who are saying the league is changing and the NFL is headed in a different direction are right. The days of a team’s offense being powered by one running back are pretty much over. And that’s why when you find a guy who isn’t sharing the workload at running back it’s a very valuable thing.
That’s the position Trent Richardson is going to be placed in right from day one, assuming he signs a contract in the near future. Richardson will be the Browns lead back and I don’t see anyone on the team who will threaten that status. Peyton Hillis has left town for Kansas City. Montario Hardesty was touted to be a potential lead back in Cleveland, but he didn’t show anything last year to make anyone believe he could do it. Chris Ogbonnaya had two strong games, but he’s no long term answer.
That leaves Trent Richardson and him alone as the Browns primary running back. And he’s more than capable of shouldering that load by himself. The question is how productive can he be transitioning to the NFL game.
Richardson always looked like the better back running next to Mark Ingram at Alabama and last year with Ingram gone he got the chance to put his talent on full display. Richardson gained 1,679 yards on the ground in 283 carries, scoring 21 TD’s. It’s a big step up from college football to the NFL, but it’s encouraging to note that Richardson was most productive against the SEC teams, the teams with the best defenses. Richardson torched LSU, Auburn and Florida last season and showed he was too good for college football.
The one knock on Richardson might be that he doesn’t possess elite level speed, and he doesn’t. He may struggle to get to the outside at times and he may not break loose for many 80 yard TD scampers. But he did run a 4.47 40 yard dash and that’s enough speed to complement the raw power he possesses as a runner and his high football IQ.
There is some concern with Richardson going to the Browns where they struggled to find success on the ground last year. Yet the Browns were middle of the pack in the league at creating holes, the running backs just couldn’t find them. I think we can all agree that Peyton Hillis isn’t that good, but two years ago he posted some of the best numbers in all of fantasy football behind this offensive line. This offensive line isn’t great, but they’re not as bad as some make them out to be, and Richardson can find the holes if they’re made for him, that’s one of his biggest strengths.
When it comes right down to it the amount of running backs not tied in a running back by committee group is dwindling. And Trent Richardson is the kind of back that will be on the field on 1st, 2nd and 3rd down, and in the red zone, he’ll be the Browns go to weapon as much as possible. And Richardson isn’t that kind of back because Cleveland has no one better, he’s that kind of back because he has top of the line talent and he’s the kind of running back you just don’t take off the field.
I’d be very cautious taking him as your number one back, but I think Richardson makes a fantastic number two back this season and it wouldn’t end up surprising me at all to see him put up number one back numbers right away.