After managing only eight yards on eight carries against the Indianapolis Colts, Trent Richardson re-aggravated his nagging rib injury and watched the rest of the game from the sideline.
This provided an opportunity for backup running back Montario Hardesty to step onto the field and prove his worth. While not a breakout star, Hardesty was solid, gaining 28 yards on seven carries.
Let's break down his fantasy outlook and analysis:
When healthy, Richardson is going to demand each and every carry that the Browns offense has to offer, but right now he is clearly not 100 percent. Hardesty has seen an increased workload in each of the last two weeks.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals he had 15 carries for 56 yards, and against the Colts he gained the aforementioned 28 yards. These are obviously not the type of fantasy stats that demand putting him in your lineup. However, Richardson owners would be wise to keep Hardesty in reserve.
The Browns have shown they are committed to the ground game regardless of who is lined up in the backfield, and with Richardson's lingering rib troubles, Hardesty will undoubtedly see work moving forward.
Do not rush to use a waiver-wire transaction on the former Tennessee Volunteer, but he is a nice cushion for Richardson owners. Anyone else would be better served to look elsewhere.
Hardesty is a solid 6'0", 225 pounds and is not afraid to run hard between the tackles. He is not quite the bulldozer that Richardson is, but he provides a nice complimentary piece to the Browns offense.
He may never be able to shoulder a large offensive burden or be a stand-alone starter, but that will likely never be asked of him anyway. Hardesty is a strong downfield runner who can handle what is asked of him.
Cleveland's offense is dependant upon a balanced attack that features a strong reliance on the running game. Quarterback Brandon Weeden needs the benefit of having defenders close to the line and in the box shutting down the run game.
Having Hardesty in the backfield ensures that continues, even if he is not the lethal threat that a healthy Richardson is.