Folks, I've looked carefully into my crystal ball, and it has revealed to me that next summer, Trent Richardson will be a first-round selection in fantasy football drafts.
Actually, it was a bottle of Crystal hot sauce—and I didn't look into the future so much as I got indigestion—but I hold to my prediction that Richardson will be a first-round pick in 2013.
It's a pretty logical projection. Richardson came into Sunday seventh among all running backs in fantasy points, and he's done so for a Cleveland Browns offense that has few other weapons to keep defenses honest. Plus, he's battled throughout injuries this season and has still produced for fantasy owners.
Richardson brings more to the table. He's one of the few players in the NFL that won't lose many carries in a timeshare, won't be taken out on third downs and won't have his goal-line touchdowns vultured.
In an NFL that is become more and more specialized, Richardson is a fairly rare commodity as a do-it-all back. That's incredibly valuable for fantasy owners because we're all looking to minimize risks and find players with maximum touches and snaps.
And let's think about which players will be first-round picks next season based upon what has happened early in 2012. We know that Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady are pretty safe bets to be first-round picks.
But who else?
If their current seasons hold, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson will probably move back up to the first round. Robert Griffin III could be the top overall pick if he keeps this pace up. LeSean McCoy hasn't been amazing this season, but I'd guess he'll be a first-round selection nonetheless.
That's nine players. Who else would you take over Richardson?
I don't think we'll see any wide receivers go in the first round next year. Players like Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Victor Cruz will all slide to the second round. And I don't think we'll see any other quarterbacks slide into the first round unless an owner gets a little jumpy and drafts Peyton Manning or Matt Ryan early.
And forget about any first-round tight ends.
That leaves the running backs. I like Matt Forte, but he loses carries at the goal line and is banged up just enough to slide into the second round. Maurice Jones-Drew isn't getting any younger. People will fear that Alfred Morris and Stevan Ridley are one-year wonders. Marshawn Lynch isn't quite consistent enough yet to warrant a first-round pick.
Nope, just like my bottle of Crystal hot sauce has predicted, it's going to be Trent Richardson that sneaks into the first round. He's so talented, versatile and relied upon in Cleveland, it makes total sense to select him with such a high pick next year.
Obviously, a lot will change between now and next summer. But as of now, Richardson's place among fantasy football's elite is nearly upon us.
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