Trent Richardson entered the NFL with high expectations after being selected with the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. The Cleveland Browns traded up, switching places with the Minnesota Vikings, to take Richardson in an attempt to revitalize an offense that had been futile for multiple seasons.
Richardson did not disappoint for Cleveland last season. He rushed for a Browns rookie record 950 yards on 267 attempts. “T-Rich” also found the end zone an impressive 12 times (11 rushing, 1 receiving) and was enough of a factor to be ranked 71st on the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2013.
Even though the numbers and accolades are impressive, it is important to remember that Richardson was significantly injured throughout most of last season. He missed quite a bit of time throughout training camp as he recovered from a scope on his surgically repaired knee, then suffered a significant rib injury near the midpoint of the season. Richardson played through this rib injury and actually did not reveal that his ribs were fractured until the season finale against Pittsburgh was in the books.
2013 seems like it will be a bright year for Cleveland’s sophomore back, and Richardson is expected to be one of the prized possessions of fantasy owners—if he can stay healthy. It was very obvious that the Browns ran their offense through Richardson last season and will likely continue to do the same while Brandon Weeden gets his feet wet in yet another new offense.
The Browns are going through another coaching change this season, but have brought in some great offensive minds in Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner. Cleveland had its best season in the past decade under “Chud” when he served as offensive coordinator during the Browns' 10-6 run in 2007.
Coaching changes are always tough, but Richardson’s fantasy value will likely be raised this season due to Cleveland giving him touches as its feature back.
The one factor that could hurt Richardson’s value, unfortunately, is that the Browns did very little to help their offensive line this offseason.
Cleveland’s new additions on the o-line include Braxston Cave, Rashad Butler, Chris Faulk and Garrett Gilkey. Butler is the only veteran in the group, but he is an NFL journeyman. Cleveland was unable to upgrade the current starting group of Joe Thomas, Jason Pinkston, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz.
2013 Statistical Prediction: CAR: 285, YDS: 1260, Rush TD: 13, Rec. TD: 4
2013 Fantasy Projection: Top-5 Pick