In a few years, he could be one of a few remaining workhorse backs in the NFL. A stretch of 1,400-yard seasons is very likely. He also catches the ball out of the backfield pretty well.
But he is not worth taking anywhere near the first few rounds in fantasy football this season. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Richardson is getting picked in the third round of 10-team standard scoring leagues.
For me, that is just way too high. I probably wouldn't take Richardson in the top 60 picks, and definitely not in the top 40.
There are a few reasons that I think Richardson is so overvalued right now.
First is the knee surgery he had last week. It was considered a small clean-up procedure, just to remove a "hang nail particle," whatever that means. I don't consider any knee surgery for a running back to be minor, especially when everyone seems to be forgetting that it's not his first knee surgery.
Six months ago, Richardson had a "minor" knee surgery that was apparently "no big deal at all." Well, maybe that first time it wasn't a big deal, but when you go under the knife again only six months later, that is not a good sign.
The second major thing I'm concerned about is the lack of practice he's getting. As talented as Richardson is, he's still a rookie. As ESPN's AJ Mass points out, over the past three seasons, no rookie running back has averaged 80 yards per game, and only 14 have done it since 1995.
Plus, with all the training camp and preseason games he's missing because of the knee surgery, Richardson is losing out on valuable learning time. He isn't getting work behind his offensive line, he isn't adjusting to the faster speed of the NFL, and he isn't getting critiqued by his coaches.
My third worry is the weak Browns offense surrounding Richardson. Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi aren't scaring any secondaries. Montario Hardesty doesn't exactly make a strong one-two punch out of the backfield, and Benjamin Watson is a solid TE but nothing special.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden might be 28 years old, but it's only his first year as an NFL signal-caller, and there are bound to be a lot of mistakes made. While the lack of talent surrounding Richardson means that he should get a lot of touches, opposing defenses will also put all of their effort into containing him.
This leads into my fourth and final concern, which is the stingy defenses that will be focusing on Richardson throughout this season. The Browns start the season against Philadelphia, a team with one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
The three other teams in their division—Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore—had the 10th-, eighth- and second-best rush defenses in the NFL last year. The Browns have to play each of those teams twice. They also face Dallas, last year's seventh-best defense against the run.
Knee injuries, inexperience, lack of surrounding talent and a tough schedule is not exactly a recipe for fantasy success. Richardson's talent makes him tempting, but this season, you're better off keeping your distance.
Take him if he somehow falls to you in the sixth or seventh round, but somebody will most likely grab him before the fifth. Just don't let it be you.
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