What are your views on Trent Richardson? That answer ultimately decides which side you think won the almost unprecedented Browns-Colts trade. How rare is it to trade a top five pick just 17 games played into his career? You have to go back to Big John Matuszak, the first overall pick in 1973, who was traded in 1974. That situation, though, involved Matuszak being unhappy with the coach, Sid Gillman, and signing a contract with the World Football League’s Houston Texans. This appears to be merely a new front office having a different opinion on a player.
Is Cleveland selling low, or selling while they can? Trent Richardson is averaging just over 3.5 yards for his career. That fact leads many to believe that Richardson is not very good. As Chase Stuart points out in his campaign against the importance of yards per carry, the 3.6 yards per carry is not necessarily a reason to dislike Richardson if you thought he was going to be good.
I’ll point out that LaDainian Tomlinson had a very similar rush yards per carry average as a rookie, and that Walter Payton averaged 3.46 yards per carry as a rookie, while Ricky Williams averaged 3.49 yards per carry. Of the top 13 guys in the career rushing leader chart, eight of them averaged 3.9 yards per carry or less in at least one of their first two years in the league. This doesn’t mean that having a below average yards per carry as a young player is a ticket to Canton. It just means that it doesn’t preclude it.
I’ll be breaking down Richardson in a later post, but for now, I will say that you can count me in the category of those that think Richardson will be pretty good in the future. Thus, I like the Colts end of this deal a lot more. They are getting a cheaper first round pick, at a position where you don’t want to overpay veterans. Using draft picks on running backs isn’t a bad idea, because free agency is far more dicey at the position. In this case, the Browns paid the bonus and take the cap hit on that, so Indianapolis is getting him on the cheap.
For Cleveland, this feels like selling low, but that new front office of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi probably also viewed it as he wasn’t going to make a difference, since he could only manage about 3.5 yards per carry behind that line, whatever the reason. If you have an elite talent, the difference between going from horrible offensive line to average is far more important than going from average to great. The former completely neutralizes any benefit. So I understand it, Richardson isn’t doing any good for the Browns, so cash in and build. It still has to be a tough sell to Browns fans who have suffered through a pretty miserable stretch since 1999. With Brian Hoyer starting this week, and Trent Richardson gone to Indianapolis, it is officially rebuild time, again. It’s hard to imagine this offense improving with some combination of Willis McGahee coming back from injury, and some other guys who have never been in my kitchen.
Do Browns fans trust this regime? Everybody salivates over draft picks, but teams that have had multiple picks in the first round have not performed any better than their counterparts in the five years after those picks are made. If you accumulate picks at the expense of creating holes, well, you just created another hole that you have to nail with a later pick. Everyone dreams of that 5% chance of landing the next Hall of Famer. If the Browns do merely average with the pick they are likely to get, they are looking at more like Ashley Lelie or Brian Simmons. That does not sound as exciting.
Still, I say good on both sides for having the balls to go for it on a trade like this. It’s a rarity that teams will put it on the line like this. There will be a winner, and in a few years we will get to assess who got it right.
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