The trade that sent Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns to the Indianapolis Colts was shocking. Mid-season moves involving high-caliber players like Richardson are rare, and its repercussions were felt by fantasy owners who likely took him in the first round of their draft. Richardson’s production was less than stellar in his 14 games in Indy, averaging less than three yards per carry and totaling only four touchdowns. In fantasy terms, he only broke double digits (in standard scoring formats) in two of those 14 games. He was given four carries in the Colts’ two playoff games — four!
Richardson had virtually no time to get familiar with the Colts playbook before he was behind Andrew Luck instead of whomever it was playing QB for Cleveland in Weeks 1 and Week 2. Any and every NFL playbook is a detailed, extensive and top secret, and Indianapolis’ is no different. But the playbook is just the first piece of the puzzle. When learning a new NFL system a player also has to learn the lingo, which can only come through repetition in practice and drills. Getting familiar with one’s teammates is also something that takes time to develop. Arguably the most important factor for a RB is to feel comfortable and confident in his actions, and that sense of comfort is something Richardson was clearly lacking in his time in Indianapolis.
There is a difference between memorizing the playbook, and learning the system. Richardson can now go through all the off season training with his fellow Colts’ teammates and learn the ins-and-outs the way it was meant to be learned, through saturation and repetition.
Donald Brown took advantage of Richardson’s struggles throughout the year, and was relied upon heavily in the Colts’ postseason run. Brown was one of six running backs with at least 100 carries to average more than five yards per attempt during the regular season.
Fortunately for Richardson, it appears as if the Colts will allow Brown to test the free agent market, which would undoubtedly vault Richardson into the starting role. Other RBs on the Colts’ roster includes Vick Ballard, who is coming back from an injury that kept him sidelined for the entire year, and an aging Ahmad Bradshaw. Richardson was highly valued by fantasy owners coming into the 2013 season, and rightly so after his solid rookie season with a mediocre Cleveland squad surrounding him.
The Colts organization believed in this guy enough to give up their first round pick in this year’s draft to have him on their team. He will be given all the opportunities a starting RB gets with the Colts in 2014, and the amount of passes he will catch makes him even more enticing in PPR formats.
Richardson will be a much better value in 2014 fantasy drafts as compared to his first to second round average draft position from 2013. With an entire offseason to get acclimated and comfortable with the things the Colts like to do, there is no reason not to draft this guy as a solid RB2.