As I was leaving the gym today, multiple text messages—and a phone call—awaited me, all with the same primary intent: to talk about Trent Richardson.
Everyone asked if I had heard the news, rather than actually telling me what “the news” was. So, given that he was my No. 2 fantasy football running back coming into the season, I naturally assumed the worst: He had to have suffered a freak injury in practice and he must be heading to the IR.
The news I got instead was, of course, that T-Rich is the newest member of the Indianapolis Colts. I thought it was a joke—it was too good to be true—but, upon researching the topic, I found multiple reports supporting the story.
My reaction, in short: It is too good to be true! This guy is about to go off...right after Week 3.
Richardson’s usage over his first two games under Norv Turner, Rob Chudzinski and the Cleveland Browns offense was infuriating to many, and disappointing to all of Richardson’s fantasy football owners.
Through two weeks, Richardson took just 31 carries. That’s an average of 15.5 per game, down from his 17.8 per outing as a rookie. Playing through various injuries, he only missed one game, averaged 3.6 yards per carry and scored 11 rushing touchdowns.
As a sophomore, his yards per carry dipped to 3.4, and he’s yet to find the end zone.
By comparison, the lowest yards per carry average among Indianapolis Colts rushers is Ahmad Bradshaw’s 4.1. That’s not because all three Colts running backs (Donald Brown and Vick Ballard—who’s now on the IR—included) are better runners than Richardson.
It’s because Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown for three touchdowns, one interception and averages 7.6 yards per attempt. Browns QB Brandon Weeden has chucked one touchdown, three picks and 6.0 yards per toss.
Indianapolis’ passing offense is simply more feared than Cleveland’s, which means there will be more room for him to run.
That sounds like a crutch argument, until you consider that the Colts’ incumbent first-round running back—yes, they have two now—is averaging 4.3 yards per tote, and all three have already notched at least an 11-yard carry.
Brown has only rushed seven times this year.
Richardson’s longest run this season is 10 yards.
As a metric of the differences between the two teams’ abilities to keep drives alive, consider this: Colts RBs have run for 11 first downs on 42 carries, a conversion rate of 26.2 percent. Richardson has converted three first downs on 31 carries: a 9.7 percent conversion rate.
Trent is also a good enough pass-catcher to be a strong checkdown target for Luck. Luck has thrown only eight passes to running backs in 2013, and just 7.97 percent (50 of 627) of his throws went to halfbacks in his rookie year.
That may change with a new weapon in the backfield, but it is telling that Luck looks downfield as often as possible. Don’t expect seven or eight catches per game from Richardson in the Colts offense.
Instead of anticipating a philosophical shift to the dink-and-dunk for the Colts, look for Richardson’s yards per carry and his volume of attempts to experience an uptick. Despite the perception that Indianapolis' offense is essentially an air raid, there are at least 20 carries per game to go around.
Trent’s upside in his new offense affirms his status as a No. 1 fantasy RB.
Here’s the beautiful thing for his prospective owners: The initial hype of a change of scenery will subside once the San Francisco 49ers matchup is in the rear-view mirror. A wise fantasy owner would trade for him immediately following Week 3. San Francisco is allowing 3.5 yards per carry to running backs this year.
The 49ers have already surrendered three rushing touchdowns, so the wait could come back to bite you if Richardson puts up a pair of scores like Marshawn Lynch did in Week 2. However, Richardson’s post-Week 3 value will likely be the floor of his fantasy value this year, presuming his health.
That should be when you get him. The Colts get the Jacksonville Jaguars—they of the 5.8 yards per carry allowed to running backs fame—in Week 4.
Jamal Collier graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and is now a law student who covers fantasy football in his spare time. His work also appears on Yahoo!. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @JCollierD