Cleveland Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson struggled in his NFL debut. The former Alabama star gained just 39 yards on 19 carries. And while the long-term outlook for him remains promising, fantasy football owners should be concerned.
After all, in the world of fantasy sports an owner doesn't have time to think about the future (unless it's a keeper league). It's all about the current season and several things that happened on Sunday afternoon that make Richardson a risky player to count on in 2012.
Let's take a look at three reasons Richardson owners should already be worried even though only one game has been played.
Lack of Explosiveness
One month after undergoing a scope on his knee, Richardson didn't showcase the same burst he did as a member of the Crimson Tide. He looked a step behind the play, which isn't surprising for a running back getting his first taste of NFL action.
It's going to take some time before he's back to full strength and probably even longer before he acclimates himself to the highest level of football. The preseason games are important for rookies for that exact reason and Richardson missed out on the experience.
Richardson is nothing more than an average running back when he doesn't have the ability to get to the second level of the defense. He will eventually regain it, but it's going to take some time and fantasy owners can't afford to exercise patience like the Browns can.
Eagles' Defensive Game Plan
The Philadelphia Eagles made their intentions clear right away. They were going to force rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden to beat them instead of giving Richardson any chance to break loose. They stuffed the box and closed the rushing lanes.
It worked. The amount of running room for Richardson was extremely limited and he didn't have the burst necessary to find the few that were available. His longest rush of the game was a mere nine yards as the Eagles swarmed him each and every time.
Every opponent on Cleveland's schedule will use the game tape from Sunday as a blueprint on how to stop the Browns offense. And there's only so much Richardson can do when he is constantly facing eight- and nine-player fronts.
Can Richardson be trusted as a fantasy starter?
Even with the Eagles focused on stopping Richardson, Weeden was unable to generate any momentum in the passing game. He completed 34 percent of his passes for barely over 100 yards and four interceptions. The result was a league-low 5.1 quarterback rating.
Combined with Richardson's own struggles, a shaky group of receivers and a defense that allowed a 91-yard game-winning touchdown drive after three solid quarters, the Browns illustrated exactly how far they still have to go in the rebuild.
Not only does it mean the offense is likely to struggle for a majority of the season, but also that the Browns will likely be out of the playoff race relatively quick. It's unknown how much the coaching staff would be willing to push Richardson in meaningless games.
All things considered, the fantasy outlook for Richardson—at least for 2012—is quite gloomy right now.