Cleveland Browns 2012 Draft: Ignore Trent Richardson's Mixed Messages

Michael SuddsCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2011

STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 12:  Running back Trent Richardson #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide stiff arms defensive back Wade Bonner #7 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs during a big first down run in the fourth quarter on November 12, 2011 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Butch Dill/Getty Images

On the eve of the 2011 Heisman Trophy presentation, Alabama’s dynamic running back Trent Richardson told ESPN’s Sage Steele that he would be returning to school for his senior season.

As the interview on SportsCenter continued, Richardson hedged his bets.

“I ain’t got nothing left but a few hours to graduate,” is how Richardson put it—in the vernacular of an SEC student athlete.

Richardson alluded to his desire to take care of his mother and two daughters as well. Even the diluted post-CBA millions look mighty attractive.

Richardson went on to say that he would seek the advice of the NFL draft advisory board for their evaluation of his draft value. If he’s evaluated as anything but a high first-round pick, an investigation should be launched.

Richardson has emerged from the shadow of last year’s Heisman winner and teammate, Mark Ingram, to have a remarkable season. In 2011, Richardson ran for 1,583 yards on 263 carries (6.0 avg) and 20 TDs. He caught 27 passes for 327 yards (12.1 avg) and three TDs.

Many draftniks (myself included) thought that Trent Richardson was the better Alabama running back last year.

There’s a lot of tread left on Richardson’s tires, unlike Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, who might end up being another John Clay in the NFL—used up.

Richardson, in this draft analyst’s opinion, would be the perfect fit for Browns head coach Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense. Richardson is a durable, versatile back who will see 20-25 carries a game and would be a productive target for QB Colt McCoy out of the backfield.

Now, there’s a lot of time between now and declaration day for NCAA underclassmen in January. The pressure will mount on Richardson from all quarters until a final, irrevocable decision is made.

Should Richardson stay in school, the Browns' 2012 draft should look to a policy of taking the best player available (BPA), as opposed to the best available that fills a need (BATFAN).

Talent trumps need when it comes to drafting players. Conversely, the opposite is usually true regarding NFL free agents. Think about that.

Posturing aside, Richardson will declare for the NFL’s millions. Even the most conservative analysts agree.

Fortunately for the Browns, there are several candidates that will become plug-and-play starters in 2012. I’ll break them down for your consideration as April approaches.

Obviously, the 2012 NFL draft is one that the Cleveland Browns have to nail. Trent Richardson in a Browns uniform will give fans plenty to cheer about.

Merry Christmas!