Trent Richardson had a productive rookie season for the Cleveland Browns in 2012, with 950 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns along with 51 receptions for 367 yards and another touchdown. The Browns’ offense was fairly dismal last season (25th in the NFL in total offense; 24th in scoring offense), so any improvement they make in 2013 could help boost Richardson’s production.
Cleveland has some new offensive minds in the mix this year, with Rob Chudzinski taking over as head coach and Norv Turner being brought in as offensive coordinator. Chudzinski deserves credit for his work with Cam Newton as offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers over the last two seasons, and whatever shortcomings Turner has as a head coach don’t completely overshadow his ability to orchestrate offense.
Richardson missed the majority of training camp last season as he worked his way back from two offseason knee surgeries, and he suffered a severe rib injury in Week 6 that he played the rest of the season with. Add a left ankle issue that prevented him from playing in Week 17, and Richardson was rarely 100 percent healthy during his rookie season. He was held out of OTAs this year with a right shin injury, but that appears to have been mostly precautionary and all indications are he will be ready for training camp.
With even a modest improvement on his yards per carry from 2012 (3.6), I expect Richardson to get close to 1,200 rushing yards with double-digit touchdowns along with 40-50 receptions this season. He only had 20 or more carries in a game five times last season, so if he avoids any lingering injuries more than 300 carries and in the neighborhood of 350 total touches looks certain for Richardson as the centerpiece of the Browns’ offense.
Richardson’s health will be worth monitoring during training camp, and if his shin issue is in the rearview mirror he will remain a first-round pick in fantasy leagues. The possibility of nagging injuries continuing to be an issue will keep Richardson below other top tier running backs like Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster in pre-draft rankings, but owners that are not afraid to take a bit of a risk could be handsomely rewarded.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.