Quick answer, I say the Colts got the better of the Trent Richardson deal by addressing their most glaring need in order to win now.
Trent Richardson has not been the explosive playmaker the previous Cleveland regime was hoping for when it dealt four draft picks to move up one spot and take him at No. 3 in 2012. However, the Colts didn’t win the Richardson trade in a slam dunk by dealing a 2014 first-round draft choice for him. But on the other side, the Browns didn’t cream the Colts in the deal.
On draft day 2012, the Browns traded up one spot in the first round to draft Richardson, the Alabama running back, third overall. To make the move, Cleveland gave the Vikings first-, fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks. Since being drafted, Richardson has played 17 games for the Browns and, at 23, was traded to Indianapolis for a first-round pick in 2014. So, this back who was worth four picks and got chosen near the top of the 2012 draft, suddenly is worth a pick likely somewhere in the middle of the 2014 first round. Amazing how much the new regime in Cleveland has devalued Richardson in the span of a year. Plus, how does management tell a team and its players, with 14 games left in the season, that they’re playing for 2014? But the Browns have now stockpiled high picks (seven in the first four rounds) to be in position to pick a top quarterback, so it’s understandable from their point of view.
But I think the Colts got the better of the deal. They’ve fortified a need position on a playoff contender with a player who is better than he’s played in his 17 NFL games. Plus, when you have Andrew Luck, every year is a year to contend deep into January. New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to be able to use a power running game, and the Colts lost their top back, Vick Ballard, to an ACL tear. Lots of good teams have gaping needs right now. How many actually risk this much to do something about it?
I have seen many games that Richardson has played and believe me, I know the numbers — 3.5 yards a carry, a long run of 32 yards – but I also know stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story, it’s about what your eyes tell you. And they tell me this is a very special running back. He’s a 4.48-second 40 guy who defenders don’t want to tackle. He’s a down-hill runner, who runs angry – angry like Emmitt Smith or Adrian Peterson. He’s only 23 years old, and I still think he’s a great back.
Personally, I would want my general manager to have the courage of his convictions to make a deal like this one. I want my coach to know he’s got a GM who’s not going to wait until draft day to fix a big problem. And I want my players to not just think, but know that the front office is doing everything we can do to win now. That is the case in Indianapolis now. How do you think Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne, who might be in their last season or two, feel about their team? Pretty good, I bet.
Running backs have become devalued in the last few years, with good reason. You can find good ones down the line and as undrafted free agents. Trent Richardson has been just a guy for Cleveland. Had he been great early as a Brown, CEO Joe Banner never would have traded him. But he hasn’t been great. Grigson’s eyes tell him Richardson can be great, and will be great in the right environment. That environment includes a quarterback, Luck, who will make sure defenses aren’t laser-focused on stopping Richardson, the way they were when teams played the Brandon Weeden-piloted Browns. Last year I remember hearing Mike Mayock call Richardson the best back to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson in 2007. Seventeen games is not enough to judge Richardson a washout. The Colts did the right thing, because when Luck is the quarterback, the future is always now.
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JA Dukes is a NFL writer for footballandfutbol.com.
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