Trent Richardson Injury: Fantasy Football Owners Must Be Wary of Browns' RB
The Cleveland Browns used the third overall pick in the NFL draft to select running back Trent Richardson, immediately making him an intriguing Fantasy Football prospect. A knee injury should raise a huge red flag for owners, however.
Richardson will undergo surgery on his left knee to remove a piece of cartilage, according to Browns' beat writer Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The report says the procedure is expected to cost him two to three weeks.
Some fantasy players might read that news and assume it's safe to keep Richardson in the same spot on their draft boards.
Wrong! Any time a rookie is already suffering from lingering injuries without taking a single NFL hit, it's cause for concern.
Don't forget that Richardson will be playing in the hardest-hitting division in the NFL. Going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens four times per season isn't exactly an ideal scenario for a running back to begin with, let alone one with knee problems.
Another reason for caution is Cleveland's current outlook. The Browns aren't ready to compete for a playoff spot after finishing 4-12 last season and not making the upgrades necessary to have a sudden turnaround in the AFC North.
In fantasy terms, that means you have to remain concerned about Richardson's availability for the stretch run and playoffs. If the Browns are clearly out of the playoff race, would they have Richardson touch the ball 20 or more times per game and risk his long-term health? Probably not.
The Alabama product is a dynamic talent capable of helping turn one of the league's worst offenses around–eventually.
At what level will Richardson produce in 2012?
His surgery timetable puts the entire preseason in question. If the Browns play it safe and hold him out of the exhibitions, it would mean he would go eight months in between meaningful snaps since the national title game.
It's going to take some time for him to adjust to the speed of the NFL. Trying to do it when the games actually matter instead of during the preseason will just make the transition even more difficult.
Finally, don't forget about Richardson's backup, Montario Hardesty. He has his own history of knee problems, but has looked healthy during training camp and will handle the load while Richardson is on the mend.
The Browns drafted Hardesty in the second round a couple years ago. A strong preseason would likely open the door to more playing time for him, as the Browns try to keep Richardson healthy.
Everything would have to fall perfectly in to place for Richardson to have the type of immediate fantasy impact owners were probably expecting when he was drafted. He falls squarely in to the high-risk category at this point.
Letting another owner take that risk is the smartest move right now.
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