Running back Trent Richardson will be on a very short leash this season, and with backup Vick Ballard recently carted off the field in practice, the fantasy stock of Ahmad Bradshaw is on the rise.
The Indianapolis Colts have a very promising future with Andrew Luck, and adding Richardson seemed like a great move to help build a well-rounded offense. It appeared, however, that the Cleveland Browns were the winners of the Richardson trade. From not knowing the playbook to running straight into defenders instead of open holes, fantasy football analysts are still trying to determine if the 24-year-old back is a stud or a dud.
Heading into the 2014 NFL season, Richardson has a slight advantage over Ballard and Bradshaw because of his pass-catching ability, though Bradshaw can catch the ball as well. Richardson accumulated over 350 receiving yards in his rookie season, and the young back followed that performance with 316 receiving yards in 2013. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton recently stated that he is going to focus on a being a score-first team instead of a run-first offense, and that could affect the fantasy value of any Colts running back. With a more limited amount of rushing attempts, a back will need to produce if he wants to keep handling the ball.
Before his neck injury, Bradshaw scored 13 points in Week 2 and 16 points in Week 3 in standard scoring leagues. In the first three games of the season, the former back for the New York Giants totaled 186 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns. The Richardson trade was such a big move that many fantasy players have forgotten the pace Bradshaw was setting last season and may have also forgotten about his fantasy performances from years past. From 2009-2012, Bradshaw has scored a minimum of six rushing touchdowns, totaled 200 or more receiving yards and has played in 14 or more games in four out of seven seasons.
The Colts will not tolerate a slow start from Richardson, and Bradshaw has almost no competition in becoming a featured back. You can spend a fifth-round pick on Richardson, or you can draft Bradshaw near the end of your draft.
As of right now, Bradshaw could become the biggest sleeper in the 2014 fantasy football season.