Trent Richardson is the first running back selected in the top three picks of the NFL Draft since Reggie Bush in 2006. Unlike Bush, he is expected to carry the mail as the all-around feature tailback and should get a high percentage of his team’s carries (Bush split with Deuce McAllister as a rookie).
Optimism will be high at fantasy drafts for Richardson, while others will take the approach that he hasn’t proven anything yet, and will opt to let others take Richardson while going with more “proven” players.
So, where do we value Richardson for fantasy purposes? And do you dare go with a top 10 pick on him?
One thing we can do is look at similarly drafted players, and use that to gauge value. Going back to 1978, twenty-six other players have been selected in the first five picks in the draft. Bo Jackson played baseball, and the other 25 had a median performance of 1259 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns. The range was from Dickerson (2212 yards, 20 touchdowns) to Alonzo Highsmith (161 yards, 2 touchdowns).
Of course, we need to put that in some sort of perspective by comparing it to other potential draft selections. I haven’t sat down and formulated my full projections, but I can say that Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy will be the top three in some order. Maurice Jones-Drew, with over 1,600 yards from scrimmage each of the last three years, will likely be #4. After that, there is a large tier which includes Chris Johnson, Ryan Mathews, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson (as I discussed last weekend), Marshawn Lynch, and Darren McFadden. For now, I’ll have Peterson along with Forte and McFadden at the back end of that tier as we continue to get injury recovery information.
So, does Richardson reasonably belong in that tier based on history? Well, let’s look at two of the players, Marshawn Lynch and Ryan Mathews, and find similar players to them. Mathews was 24 last year and totaled 1,546 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns. Lynch was 25, and finished with 1,416 yards and 13 touchdowns. To match Richardson, I found the players at the same age to each who were most similar (based on rushing/receiving ratio and touchdowns) among those within 200 yards from scrimmage of each.
The Marshawn Lynch comps had a median of 1,478 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns at age 26.
The Ryan Mathews comps had a median of 926 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns at age 25.
Mathews fares worse as it turns out because a) there are more one hit wonders at age 24 than at 25, and b) injuries and random events conspired to pull it down (Robert Edwards’ blowing out his knee in a Spring beach flag football game, Wendell Tyler dislocating a hip in an offseason car accident, and Bobby Humphrey holding out almost all season). Removing those three cases, and the median rises to 1,129 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns, still below but in line with the Richardson comps.
Richardson is probably a better prospect than the average Top 5 pick, going 3rd overall in an environment where top picks at the position are de-emphasized (10 from 1978-1987, versus 5 in last decade), and also moving into a situation where he will be “the man.” The upper 40% of the Top 5 picks reached 1,498 yards from scrimmage and double digit touchdowns.
Here’s a breakdown of how frequently the comps from each group reached certain fantasy point milestones:
Forty percent of the Top 5 picks reached 200 or more fantasy points (think 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns). 36% reached elite status as rookies and finished in the top 5 in fantasy points–Earl Campbell, George Rogers, Billy Sims, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Edgerrin James, Curt Warner and Marshall Faulk.
I think it’s pretty clear that Richardson should be valued in that same large tier starting with #5 pick at running back and ending at about #11. If you are at the turn in a 12-team draft and he is still on the board, I’m not sure you will get more upside to get an elite fantasy running back than going with the rookie from Cleveland.
[photo via US Presswire]