Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
In the land of fantasy football, running backs are king, so it is no surprise that this list is headed by the highest drafted one of 2012.
Ever since Adrian Peterson tore the league apart as a rookie, first-round running backs have been going high in fantasy drafts as owners try to find the next ‘All Day’. Players like Ryan Mathews, Darren McFadden, Mark Ingram and Knowshon Moreno were highly regarded in fantasy circles before they’d played a single NFL down. All were disappointing as rookies.
However, if any man is capable of breaking this trend and replicating Peterson’s 2008 impact, it is Trent Richardson.
In an era when the positional value of running backs continues to slide in the NFL, it speaks volumes that the Cleveland Browns deemed Richardson worthy of the third overall pick.
It is hard to dispute their judgement. At 5’9” and 228 lbs, Richardson has the ideal build for a RB. He is short enough to have a low center of gravity and give tacklers a small target, but sturdy enough to both absorb and dish out physical punishment.
Richardson can beat defenders in a variety of ways. He has the agility to leave them tackling nothing but air and enough speed to beat them to the corner. His most impressive attribute, however, is his raw strength.
In college, Richardson could frequently be seen throwing defenders or dragging them behind him for several yards before finally being brought down. There is more to being a running back than carrying the ball, and Richardson excels in all phases of the game.
As well as being a tenacious pass protector, he is a polished receiver with nearly one-fifth of his scrimmage yards at Alabama coming on receptions—which boosts his value even further in PPR leagues.
The situation in Cleveland looks promising for Richardson’s owners.
The Browns have a strong offensive line led by perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas and road-grading center Alex Mack. The addition of Brandon Weeden and his ability to hit receivers downfield should make defenses think twice about packing the box against Cleveland as they did during Colt McCoy’s tenure.
There is an ideal fantasy handcuff for Richardson in the form of Montario Hardesty, who is good enough to fill in decently but unlikely to seriously cut into Richardson’s playing time.
Indeed, given Richardson’s abilities in the passing game it is likely he will stay on the field for all three downs, making him a rarity in today’s NFL: a true workhorse back. In fantasy, production happens when talent meets opportunity and Trent Richardson does not lack for either.