2014 Fantasy Football: Can Trent Richardson Return To Form?

By Dustin Manko
Trent Richardson
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

This August during the draft for one of my fantasy football leagues I couldn’t believe my luck when Trent Richardson “fell” to me in the third round. He was coming off a rookie season that saw him finish 11th in running back scoring with 12 total touchdowns and he just missed rushing for 1,000 yards (950). After all, he was the uncontested back for a team that had a solid offensive line and had no competition for carries. Surely he was set up to get the goal line plunges and tons of carries leading to big yardage and fantasy production right?

Wrong. Richardson had a slow start to the season, going scoreless his first two games while averaging 78 total yards per game. When he was traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Indianapolis Colts prior to week three, I know I wasn’t the only fantasy writer to think that his value went through the roof. He was supposed to see softer fronts, had a passing game to alleviate some pressure and had a great schedule. While Richardson did manage to score in week three and again in week four, he wouldn’t find the end zone again until week 15. He lost snaps to Donald Brown, ran hesitant and never looked fully comfortable in the offense.

Will Richardson return to top 10 type numbers in 2014?

I think so, and keep in mind that over the course of the season I had him as a sure fire starter, a benchwarmer and ultimately droppable. So why do I think he could rebound next year? The first reason is the reason he struggled so heavily since joining the Colts, the playbook. From what I understand, an NFL playbook is a complex thing. It evidently isn’t something you can pick up and read over the weekend and have memorized and mastered. Richardson was forced into action and never really had a fair opportunity to learn the playbook and get the reps in. Keep in mind that NFL players go through the OTA’s, mini camps, and preseason in an attempt to get ready for the real season. Richardson didn’t have that luxury. Now with the majority of a season under his belt and the full summer to master it, I don’t see that as a concern for him in 2014.

Secondly, even though his total fantasy points per game on the season ended up at 6.74 (standard scoring) he ran the football better over the last month as he has all season. In the last four games, he earned 290 of his 870 total yards on the season (33 percent). He had two of his four total touchdowns during that span, and his fantasy points per game average was a flat 10 points over that span. It seemed that he was finally getting comfortable with the offense.

Richardson didn’t simply stop being a talented player capable of hitting 1,000 rushing yards and double digit touchdowns in a season. He didn’t lose his ability to power through defenders like a wrecking ball. What he did have in 2013 was a brand new city, team and playbook to learn on the fly. I’m not projecting him as a top tier RB1 for 2014, but with a full summer to master the nuances of the Colts playbook and to work through the timing of the plays, I believe Richardson can return to the form he displayed during his rookie campaign.

As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.

Dustin Manko is an author at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DustinManko, ”Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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