Trent Richardson's Updated Fantasy Outlook with Brian Hoyer Starting in Week 3

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2013

Aug 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson (33) during a preseason game against the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

As a first-round pick in most fantasy football leagues, Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson has been a massive disappointment through the first two weeks of the 2013 season. While a quarterback change may lead to Richardson receiving more touches in Week 3 and beyond, it won't significantly help his statistical output.

According to the Browns' official Twitter account, head coach Rob Chudzinski has decided to start third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings.

This is due to the fact that regular starter Brandon Weeden, who suffered a thumb injury in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens, will miss the game, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

The news of Hoyer earning the starting nod came as a surprise to many as the 27-year-old former New England Patriot has limited playing experience. Hoyer did see significant action in two games for the Arizona Cardinals last season when he passed for 330 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a pair of losses, but he is far from an ideal option.

Jason Campbell was thought to be Cleveland's primary option to step in for Weeden. He was listed as the No. 2 quarterback and saw some snaps when Weeden left last week's game. Campbell didn't look particularly good as he completed just one of the four passes he attempted for six yards, but Campbell has had some measure of success over the years.

With nearly 15,000 passing yards, 76 touchdowns and 52 interceptions on his career, Campbell could have at least kept the Vikings' defense honest. It's unlikely that Minnesota will be worried about Hoyer putting on an aerial display, so the Vikings won't hesitate to stack the box in an effort to eliminate Richardson from the game.

That has already been the case this season even with Weeden under center. Richardson has just 105 yards rushing in total, and he is averaging a paltry 3.4 yards per carry. He has been involved in the passing game with seven grabs for 51 yards, which increases his value in point-per-reception leagues, but he has yet to find pay dirt.

With just 38 touches through two games, Richardson hasn't been the workhorse that offensive coordinator Norv Turner led fantasy owners to believe he would be. There is plenty of frustration in Cleveland right now, including from Richardson, who reportedly wants the ball more, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Richardson will probably get all the touches he can handle on Sunday, but they won't do him any good if there is no room to run. That was the case in his first two games, and those were with Weeden handing him the ball rather than Hoyer.

Richardson has admittedly had to deal with two stout defenses in the form of the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, but a first-round fantasy selection should be a player than can produce regardless of the matchup. With the Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland's division, Richardson had better get used to grinding out tough yardage.

Minnesota has been fairly generous in terms of run defense through the first two weeks of the season. The Vikes are allowing better than 120 yards per game on the ground. Six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams returned from injury last week, though, and he is going to help immensely when it comes to stopping the run.

For as much talent as Richardson possesses, there is no question that he was severely overrated heading into the season. He's a player that some made sure to avoid in fantasy leagues because his 2012 output simply didn't warrant the lofty ranking he received. That much has been proven true thus far in 2013.

Perhaps fantasy owners were blinded by the 11 touchdowns that Richardson scored last season, but he doesn't provide much aside from that right now. He rushed for just 950 yards last year, and he averaged 3.6 yards per carry, which is well below what a supposedly elite back should be gaining on a per-tote basis. Though he did make some noise as a receiver with 367 receiving yards, that's about all he has going for him right now.

It isn't difficult to imagine Richardson catching his fair share of passes on Sunday since Hoyer is likely to utilize a short passing game, so he may be an advisable PPR play, but he simply isn't going to make many explosive plays on Sunday.

Richardson hasn't proven to be an explosive player at the NFL level, and Hoyer's presence won't help him in that regard. Owners pretty much have to start him in Week 3 since it is unlikely they have a better option on the bench, but he probably won't put up anything better than flex numbers.

Ultimately, Richardson is a fantasy RB2 who was drafted as an RB1 regardless of who the quarterback is. Cleveland's offense is slightly more competent with Weeden as the signal-caller, so Richardson is bound to improve as the season progresses, but he'll be nothing other than ordinary for as long as Hoyer is under center.  

Week 3 Projection: 58 rushing yards, six receptions for 35 receiving yards


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