After a miserable second season in the NFL, Trent Richardson is a major risk for fantasy football owners. However, it is important to follow the status of teammate Ahmad Bradshaw before making a decision.
Richardson averaged just 2.9 yards per carry last season after being traded to the Indianapolis Colts, totaling 458 rushing yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. The talented running back was the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, but he has been a disappointment since entering the league.
The 23-year-old player started losing carries to Donald Brown as the 2013 season moved on, making him one of the biggest fantasy busts after being selected in the first round in most drafts.
Considering he has totaled just 34 yards on 14 carries so far in two preseason games in 2014, he appears to be someone with very little fantasy value. This makes it strange to see him have an average draft position of 54.4, according to ESPN.
The reason for this is opportunity and upside. With Brown leaving in free agency and Vick Ballard going down with an injury, Richardson is one of the only legitimate options in the Colts backfield. As currently assembled, he appears set to receive the majority of carries on an offense that should be wide open with an elite passing attack.
Conrad Brunner of 1070 The Fan notes he will have a long leash this season:
If Richardson can rediscover his talent that was on display throughout his career at Alabama, he has a chance to be the effective runner everyone has been expecting. The potential to get a fantasy starter in the fifth or sixth round is certainly appealing.
However, this theory only works if Richardson remains the only option in the Colts backfield. One person who can prevent this from happening is Bradshaw.
ESPN's Stephania Bell breaks down the running back's recovery:
Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw has been going all out, including contact, in camp. Had neck surgery (disc); same surgeon and PT as Peyton.— Stephania Bell (@Stephania_ESPN) July 28, 2014
While he has not competed in either of the first two preseason games, Kevin Bowen of Colts.com reported Bradshaw was taking part in contact drills leading up to the third game:
So Reggie Wayne will be the guy to watch on Saturday in terms of a veteran playing. Ahmad Bradshaw has practiced all week, full contact.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) August 21, 2014
The problem is this is not an ordinary injury for football players to recover from in such a short time. Peyton Manning went through the same process, but he was out an entire season before returning to the field. He also does not receive as many hits as a running back.
Despite the issues, Bradshaw feels good about his return, as he explained to George Bremer of The Herald Bulletin:
I am very confident, and I just want to heal as much as possible. There are not a lot of guys that have been through neck surgeries and a year later they are playing football again, especially at my position. Right now, as we speak, I am as confident as anything going in. I don't think about my neck at all playing, and I am just shooting forward from here on.
The Colts are hoping he will play in the upcoming preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. Whether he performs well or not, simply getting onto the field could make him one of the better fantasy values in the draft.
Bradshaw only played three games last season, but his last two were impressive with 160 rushing yards on 34 carries with a touchdown in each contest.
As long as he is healthy, he will have a role in this offense and still has the talent to be successful. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com believes the Colts will need him this season:
After Ballard’s injury, Colts will really be counting on Ahmad Bradshaw to stay healthy.— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) July 25, 2014
Considering he is only being selected at an average position of 147.6 in fantasy drafts, he could end up becoming a steal. On the other hand, this will cut into Richardson's touches, which takes away his already limited value.
With no alternatives in the backfield, Richardson could be worth a mid-round flier with the chance for a big year. However, adding Bradshaw into the mix makes the veteran a smarter play while his younger counterpart becomes almost undraftable.
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