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Player Spotlight: Trent Richardson

A detailed look at Trent Richardson's fantasy prospects for 2013

Trent Richardson exploded into the NFL last year with an exciting 267/950/11 rushing and saw seventy targets for 51/367/1 receiving over 15 games of action - all this, despite cracking multiple ribs during week six of the season and playing through that injury until the final, meaningless game of the season. The above was good enough for an eighth-place finish among fantasy running backs while playing on the 5-11 Cleveland squad. He had three games with over 100 yards rushing last season, and seven games in which he posted over 100 yards combined - his best game coming week two vs. Cincinnati (19/109/1 rushing with five targets for 4/36/1 receiving).

There are some injury concerns regarding Richardson entering this season. First of all, he indicated to the Cleveland press on April 14, 2013 that there may always be 'lingering pain' due to the ribs injury suffered last year, though he seemed to walk that comment back on April 16 when he claimed to be 100% healthy - he stated it was much easier to breathe this spring and that he is now able to sleep through the night without discomfort from the injury. Richardson missed the bulk of the late-May OTAs due to an injury to his shin (he got stepped on in a practice session) - the team describes the injury as a strained muscle in his right shin, but Footballguys.com's resident doctor Jene Bramel suspects the injury may actually be a bone bruise (that carries with it the risk of a stress fracture of the bone if not allowed to heal properly). In any case, the team is going to hold Richardson out of practice sessions until the beginning of training camp to allow the shin injury to fully heal. As the team is installing Norv Turner's offense this preseason, it is a concern that Richardson will sit out practice sessions.

Regarding Cleveland's new offensive coordinator - since 1991 Turner has been either an offensive coordinator or a head coach for various NFL teams. In his previous seven stints as offensive coordinator (when Turner hasn't had the additional duties as head coach), Turner's rushing attacks have been in the top ten in terms of rushing yards four out of seven years, with five-of-seven landing in the top half of the league, while his teams have landed in the top ten in terms of rushing touchdowns three out of seven years, with a top-16 finish six out of seven years. During Turner's years in Dallas, Emmitt Smith averaged 1,587 yards rushing per season and 13 TDs per year with 39 total rushing scores from 1991-1993; during his first year in San Diego (2001) LaDainian Tomlinson posted 339/1,236/10 rushing and 59/367/0 receiving; in 2002 while with Miami, Ricky Williams threw down 383/1,853/16 rushing with 47/363/1 receiving, while in 2003 Williams posted 392/1,372/9 rushing with 50/351/1 receiving; and finally in 2006 Turner coordinated in San Francisco and Frank Gore posted 312/1,695/8 rushing and 61/485/1 receiving. As you can see, featured backs on Turner-coordinated teams have a sterling record of achievement - in fact, he's coordinated/head coached for the league's top rusher five times during his career (Emmitt Smith all three years in Dallas, Ricky Williams once, LaDainian Tomlinson once). Dynasty owners of Trent Richardson should be thrilled that he is coordinating the Browns' attack this year, and redraft league owners would be wise to take note of the above when considering whether or not to draft Richardson.

Positives:

  • Richardson is young and has the resiliency of youth - he should be able to heal up his shin in time for training camp
  • Richardson will play in a system that has produced a lot of quality fantasy running backs over the years
  • Richardson is the clear-cut #1 running back on the roster - Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya aren't going to challenge for the top job

Negatives:

  • Richardson is missing reps in OTAs due to his shin injury, putting him behind in the learning curve on Turner's offensive system
  • Richardson has a short track record in the NFL - was last year's 3.56 average yards per carry a fluke or not?
  • So far Richardson has spent a lot of time banged up - though he has shown toughness playing through the painful ribs injury last year

Projections:

  • 300 rushing attempts
  • 1,200 rushing yards
  • 9 rushing TDs
  • 50 receptions
  • 350 receiving yards
  • 2 receiving TDs

Final Thoughts: Richardson looks like he is in an ideal situation to put up big numbers in Norv Turner's offense, assuming that he is healthy by the time training camp starts. Given that he will be only 23 when the season starts, I believe that he'll be fully healed and ready to go when training camp arrives. Richardson looks like he should easily post top-ten fantasy numbers and if everything breaks right for him this year, he could land among the elite (top-three) fantasy backs in the land.


 

Responses from the Message Board

fightingillini commented:

Richardson IMO is a pretty safe pick in the 1st round. You know he's going to get a lot of carries, a lot of receptions, and proved last year that he can punch it in near the goal line. IMO one of the top 5 RBs in the league in terms of talent. If Weeden can show improvement, the sky is the limit for Richardson. The guy was a top 10 RB last year despite a 3.6 YPC and he played hurt for much of the season.

300 car, 1190 rush yards, 10 TD 55 rec, 400 rec yards, 2 TD

Biabreakable commented:

The Browns have a long history of being a bad team. They lost their team who became the Ravens and has since won 2 super bowls. The team that is the Browns now started as an expansion team in 1999 and has yet to establish a team identity. For me Richardson changed that. I think he personifies the identity of the team now. I became a 1st time ever fan of the Browns mainly because of Richardson as well as my appreciation for offense built around running the ball. I think the offense last season was ill suited to the Browns talent on offense. The new coaching changes of bringing in Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator are the best possible scenario for Richardson, Weeden (or his replacement) and Josh Gordon who also emerged as a legitimate deep threat. While Weeden may not be the long term answer he has a legit deep ball that defenses must respect. Norv Turner has been very good at creating a pass offense that is enough of a threat to keep defenses honest so that the running game can keep working.

Couer de Lion commented:

I'm sure I'll get blasted by a ton of people for this, but Richardson didn't look like a superstar in the making to me at all last year. The guy runs hard, no doubt, but I didn't see any special lateral movement, vision, or explosiveness when I watched him (granted it was only a handful of games, but still...) -- he looked much closer to a Leroy Hoard than the Adrian Peterson-level talent he was hyped as being. Could it be a combination of his inexperience, nagging injuries, and a crappy supporting cast? Sure it could. But if I'm investing a 1st round pick in a guy, I want difference-making talent, particularly if the guy in question has to overcome being in a bad offense. I'm not convinced that Richardson is an elite player.

Richardson's numbers last year were based purely on volume and usage at the goal-line -- with Norv Turner calling the plays that's not likely to change in 2013, so he has that going for him at least. But his percentage of TDs relative to Cleveland as a whole just doesn't look sustainable to me, and I'm not buying an offensive turn-around for the Browns. Seems like we've heard this song and dance (THIS is the year!!!) a time or two before...

280 - 1050 rushing, 50 - 350 receiving, 8 total TDs


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