Montario Hardesty: Browns RB Not a Surefire Fantasy Option in Muddled Backfield

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 16:  Montario Hardesty #20 of the Cleveland Browns runs against the Green Bay Packers during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 16, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Browns defeated the Packers 35-10. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty has some company in the backfield this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts.

Trent Richardson may have some hurt ribs, but that isn’t stopping him from playing in this Sunday’s matchup, as Browns beat reporter Nate Ulrich tweeted earlier:

#Browns notes from today's paper: Rookie RB Trent Richardson says he’s ready to rumble despite injury --…

— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) October 18, 2012

He will also take protective measure in his return to the field, tweets Ulrich:

#Browns RB Trent Richardson will wear flak jacket to protect ribs. "It's bullet proof," HC Pat Shurmur said. "He told me he already was."

— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) October 18, 2012

The flak jacket has done some good in helping NFL players stay upright. Michael Vick, one of the most fragile players in the league today, has worn a flak jacket since Week 1. He’s taken a ton of hits thus far and has not missed a play this season.

If Richardson takes some advice from the Eagles’ QB, he’ll wear the same Unequal Technologies product. The jacket-maker has stated Vick will not have any more rib injuries as long as he wears the vest.

Talk about a vote of confidence.

Those fantasy owners who thought Hardesty would have a healthy amount of carries will now have to tread cautiously. With Richardson in the fold, the Browns backup goes from a RB2 option to a Flex play at best.

Hardesty had not rushed all season until Richardson got injured against Cincinnati in Week 6. The lack of confidence in his abilities when Richardson was healthy insists that he may get the same treatment with him back in the lineup.

For those looking for a silver lining, however, Browns head coach Pat Shurmur hasn’t conceded the bulk of carries to Richardson just yet. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets:

#Browns HC Shurmur: "Trent (Richardson, ribs) wants to play (Sunday). Ideally you want him to be main guy. I trust other guys behind him.''

— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) October 18, 2012

Let me interpret Shurmur's "coachspeak" for fantasy dwellers: He will alternate Richardson and Hardesty on different drives, keeping a close eye on the former’s explosiveness early on.

The Indianapolis run defense has been bowled over this season, giving up 159 yards on the ground per contest. That’s good for 29th in the league. In addition, Hardesty did, in fact, prove his worth last week with 57 yards and a touchdown.

Both backs having solid rushing days isn’t out of the question, but it is a risky play considering the Browns’ inconsistent offense.

Cleveland will be cautious with its featured back, but not enough to warrant a green light to start Hardesty. The Browns backfield has turned into a shaky predicament for all fantasy purposes.