Last fall, the Indianapolis Colts traded their first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft for running back (and former No. 3 pick) Trent Richardson. So far, that trade has been graded as dubious at best, though it’s a little early to pass judgement. But on Thursday, the big picture will come a little more into focus when we see who that pick could have been.
Pick No. 26, which would have belonged to the Colts, now resides with the Cleveland Browns (unless they decide to trade it). Once the pick is in and Roger Goodell has announced the name (and given out the obligatory handshake-hug), two men’s career narratives will be joined in NFL lore forever.
Yes, it’s true that the Colts could have taken anyone left on the board, but that’s not how narrative typically works. If it’s a defender who one day tackles Richardson for a loss, the hit will be shown ad nauseam. If it’s an offensive player, the in-game graphic will compare their numbers any time they play against each other, not unlike Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning.
The Colts would never have looked at Johnny Manziel, since they have Luck. But what if the Browns take Manziel at pick No. 26 and he lives up to the hype? What if he swoops in Avengers-style and turns that long-beleaguered franchise around? What if, after years of pain and suffering, the currently anonymous Mr. 26 becomes Cleveland’s own “Chosen One” and the Colts are credited with laying the first piece of a championship puzzle? Or, what if Cleveland continues to play par for the course and Mr. 26 becomes a name lost to history?
None of those things are in Richardson’s control. All he can do is use the inevitable comparisons for motivation, as if he needed any more bulletin board material.
Regardless of who the Browns select Thursday night, the narrative of the Colts and Trent Richardson will take a step forward, fair or not. And then, hopefully, Paul George and Roy Hibbert will take Mr. Richardson fishing.