In one of the most stunning trades in recent NFL history, the Cleveland Browns sent running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2014 first round draft choice. This comes one year after Richardson was selected No. 3 overall in the 2013 NFL draft.
While Richardson may be the future at running back in Indianapolis, it's too soon to label him as a safe start in fantasy football leagues.
Through three games in 2013, Richardson has 44 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown, also catching seven passes for 51 yards. During his Colts debut, the former Alabama Crimson Tide star picked up 35 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
That includes a touchdown on his first attempt.
After that carry, Richardson managed 12 carries for 34 yards.
To be fair, Richardson was playing against a dominant 49ers defense and had been traded earlier that week. With that being said, there was a piece of information that no one had remembered to account for: Ahmad Bradshaw is still a Colt.
The Bradshaw Factor
During Week 3, Richardson ran the ball 13 times for 35 yards and a touchdown. The light work load was likely a result of the fact that Richardson had spent a limited amount of time with the team after being traded earlier in the week.
Unfortunately for Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw ran the ball 19 times for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Niners.
Bradshaw isn't just another player who experienced a breakout performance, but instead a player who topped 1,000 yards rushing in two of the past three seasons. Over the past two weeks, he's amassed 160 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 4.7 yards per carry.
Richardson may be the future, but for a Colts team hoping to win right now, there is reason to continue using a two-back system with Bradshaw healthy and running well.
Until it becomes clear which back has separated from the other, that makes both Bradshaw and Richardson risky fantasy football starts.
There's no question that Richardson has the upside to be one of the NFL's best, and he's already made rather significant strides. Not only has Richardson proven to be a premier pass-catcher, but he's one of the best goal line running backs in the league.
Until a No. 1 is established, however, Richardson isn't a safe start in fantasy football leagues.
Upside is Present
During his rookie season with the Browns, Richardson ran for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, also catching 51 passes for 367 yards and a score. At season's end, Richardson ranked third amongst all rookies in rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns, per NFL.com.
If that's not enough, Richardson was third amongst all rookies, regardless of position, with 51 receptions, per NFL.com. In other words, Richardson was an elite between-the-tackles runner and the best pass-catching running back to emerge from the stacked 2012 draft class.
Is anyone else still waiting on the reason he "doesn't fit the Browns' offense?"
With all of this being established, it's become quite clear that Richardson is one of the premier running backs in the NFL. As a result, the Colts have landed the type of player that can transform their offense, remaining on the field on every down that's played.
Unfortunately, it's too soon to determine whether or not Richardson will be Indianapolis' featured back this early in his tenure. Until that happens, beware of starting him.