Trent Richardson enters the NFL season as the most anticipated rookie running back in Fantasy Football since Darren McFadden came out of Arkansas in 2008. He’s the highest drafted running back (No. 3 overall) since Reggie Bush was taken with the second pick by the Saints in 2006.
Running backs can have the biggest Fantasy impact, compared to quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends, usually because they are able to step into an offense and have the least to learn. QBs have to learn everyone’s jobs. TEs and WRs have to learn routes, as well as how to block and get off the line against NFL-caliber defenders.
A running back, however, is usually only as good as his offensive line allows him to be. If there are no holes in the line of scrimmage, you have to be named Barry Sanders to get positive yardage – and even he had waaaaaaay more stops behind the line than would make most people happy.
Richardson inherits a very good offensive line, with one of the best left tackles in the game in Joe Thomas. But he also inherits a very young passing game around him, although Brandon Weeden (28) is three years older than encumbent QB Colt McCoy.
The Browns’ offense should lean heavily on the running game, and Richardson has good hands and can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Cleveland hired former Vikings head coach Brad Childress as their offensive coordinator, but he doesn’t have much of a track record for being the guy that calls the plays. He only called plays once with the Vikings, in his first season as the head coach. And before that, he was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia – but Andy Reid called the plays.
But with all the hyperbole surrounding Richardson (how long until the talking heads call him, “T-Rich”?), can you remember how many first-drafted RBs have been big Fantasy winners in Year One? Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown, Bush, McFadden, Peterson, C.J. Spiller and Cadillac Williams were all drafted in the top 10, like Richardson. And really, only Peterson did enough to warrant a top-10 RB spot for his sophomore Fantasy season.
What the mainstream sites are saying
Michael Fabiano, NFL.com: “For those of you out there worried about Richardson’s schedule, well, keep in mind that he has favorable matchups against several teams — including the AFC West — and one of his two games against the Steelers is in Week 17 (most fantasy leagues end in Week 16). I can see Richardson come off the board in the mid to late second round as a No. 1 fantasy back with upside.”
Dave Richard, CBSSports.com: “Pretty much the best running back prospect to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. Can do it all, can play every down and distance and can plow into the end zone. He’ll be fun to watch.”
Christopher Harris, ESPN.com: “First, there’s the rookie factor. Is it impossible for a rookie RB to turn in a top-10 fantasy season? No: In the past 10 years, Matt Forte and Steve Slaton did it in ’08, Peterson did it in ’07, Maurice Jones-Drew did it in ’06 and Clinton Portis did it in ’02. But that’s it. Five guys in 10 years.”
Trent Richardson Fantasy Football Rankings
Harris, ESPN.com: 32nd overall, RB14
Jamey Eisenberg, CBSSports.com: 23rd overall, RB13
Michael Fabiano, NFL.com: N/A overall, RB9
FFToolbox.com: 15th overall, RB9
My Final Analysis
Richardson’s talent isn’t questioned, but the buildup over his ability has been increasing since the football season ended. With no games going on, we got to hear about how he was the best running back in the draft and the Browns traded up a lot to get him. The hyperbole machine continued after the draft, as Fantasy Football sites got in line to talk about his awesomeocity. (It’s a word!)
But it’s the Browns. And they don’t have much of a passing threat to take away defensive attention from Richardson.
I put Richardson at the top of the third round, but still as a solid RB2, just behind Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Turner, and Fred Jackson. But I would take him ahead of Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. Those last two are also highly debatable as to where they should be drafted.
- Average Fantasy Football Rankings in June: RBs
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