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darylrichardson

Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Big Horn. What this book presupposes is . . . maybe he didn’t? – Eli Cash, The Royal Tenenbaums

OK. Everyone knows that D-Rich ran a 4.46 at his 2012 Pro Day. What this post presupposes is . . . maybe he’s faster? And even if he’s not, I don’t think it matters. I’ll tell you why in a while. But, first, a little background.

The Backstory

Before the 2013 NFL Draft I wrote a five-part series on the Rams backfield. In Part 2 and Part 3 I gave every reason I could think of as to why D-Rich—based on his small-school pedigree and the prior performances and profiles of small backs—was unlikely to be a top-30 RB in the future.

In the latter piece I particularly noted that since 2000 only 2 RBs to enter the NFL weighing under 200 lbs. received at least 200 carries as second-year runners: Chris Johnson and Ray Rice, who combined to finish the season with an average of 300 carries and a top-3 positional rank. And then I said that, since Richardson lacked CJ’s freakish athleticism and speed, his only real option to become a top-30 RB was to follow in Ray Rice’s footsteps and put on some serious muscle and weight—in effect to transform himself into a mid-sized back.

Now, I am reconsidering not my earlier logic but my earlier assumption regarding Richardson’s athleticism. As of a few days ago, I believe that he may possess not just adequate athleticism but elite athleticism. His skills may not be identical to Johnson’s, but they’re similar enough (and exceptional enough on their own) to make me believe that, even without becoming Ray Rice, D-Rich can still become a top-30 player.

In fact, I’ll go further. I closed (the highly pessimistic) Part 3 of the St. Louis series with this:

“Since 2000, NFL teams have not trusted a ‘small’ second-year RB to log 200 carries unless they were ready to make him a fulltime workhorse and trust him with 300 carries. In effect, small RBs have not recently become bona fide lead backs unless they possessed not top-30 potential but top-3 potential. Such RBs, highly drafted and owning a tenacity that belies their size, are not ordinary small RBs—as Johnson is not ordinary and Rice is no longer small. Does Richardson strike you as more than an ordinary small RB?—as a first-round player who slipped to the seventh round?”

I won’t say that D-Rich definitely has first-round talent or that he’s a lock to be a top-3 RB in the future—but I now realize that he has athleticism rivaling some of the most explosive RBs currently playing (most of whom were drafted in the top two rounds), and I expect Richardson to become an RB1 in the near future. And if he becomes a poor man’s Chris Johnson, eventually submitting a top-5 season, I won’t be surprised. I am 100% in on D-Rich. I am more in (“inner” just sounds wrong) than anyone else I know.

To tell the truth, I’ve actually been in on D-Rich for a long while. Even though I months ago wrote two long pieces painfully detailing all the reasons one should bet against his future success, I also said in Part 4 (my piece on Isaiah Pead) that Jeff Fisher’s historical RB-usage patterns strongly indicated that Richardson would be at worst a stop-gap starter in 2013.

Specifically, here’s what I said:

“And to become a stop-gap [starter], a non-starting rookie historically has to finish year one with at least 50 carries—and all Fisher rookies to finish with 50 carries have becomes starters in year two. Finally, those who don’t reach the requisite 50 rookie carries never have a top-30 season at all. [. . .] Richardson, like LenDale White and Chris Brown before him, is in line to become the future starter. He received well over 50 carries—in fact, he received the most carries ever for a non-starting Fisher rookie. [. . .] And Pead is like Chris J. Henry, who also was selected with pick 2.50—a highly-drafted rookie for whom Fisher found little use.”

And then in Part 5 (my piece on the draft strategy) I clearly indicated that Richardson, at his ADP, was a player to target, especially since Jeff Fisher’s starting RBs have always been usable fantasy assets, collectively averaging an RB1 performance each year for 17 seasons. (The lead runners besides Eddie George, Chris Johnson, and Steven Jackson have still averaged a top-20 performance each year across that timeframe.)

And then, almost a month before Davis Mattek declared it time to buy on D-Rich, I put my cards on the table and said that D-Rich would be the starter in 2013. And, yes, I also said that Zac Stacy had a strong chance of being the starter in 2014, but I am reconsidering that assessment now. Note that my reassessment is not a total retraction of what I said about D-Rich earlier. Rather, it’s the evolution of my thoughts. I’ve been saying since before the draft that Richardson’s a guy to roster. Now, instead of saying that he’s just a stop-gap starter, I’m saying that he’s at least a stop-gap and very possibly much more.

Why am I telling you all this? It’s my way of saying that few people have obsessed about the St. Louis RB situation as much as I have. After all, I’m the guy who said this before the draft: “And let’s assume that maybe Fisher takes a guy like Zac Stacy in the fifth round or so to replace Ganaway.” Pretty f-ing good.

So when I say that D-Rich has RB1 upside, I’m not some rando who’s just posting something. I’m inclined to think that small RBs suck, and I’ve been more than open about the hurdles D-Rich faces. I’ve researched Jeff Fisher and the way he’s used RBs for his entire coaching career, and I’ve researched the St. Louis RBs. In sum, I think that Jeff Fisher has probably found his next stud RB. Here’s why.

Daryl Richardson is an Athletic Freak

If I asked you to name the RB or WR who had the best combine in 2011, you’d probably say Julio Jones. For 2012, you’d probably say either Stephen Hill or David Wilson. Here’s how they did (I’ve used the information from the players’ combine profiles at NFL.com), with Daryl Richardson’s 2012 pro day performance included for comparison.

Name

Rookie Age

Ht

Wt

40T

Speed Score

BP Reps

Julio Jones

22

75

220

4.39

118.47

17

Stephen Hill

22

76

215

4.36

118.99

14

David Wilson

21

70

206

4.49

101.37

NA

Daryl Richardson

22

70

192

4.49

94.48

16

 

OK, this doesn’t look great. I admit it. Richardson is small, and he (seemingly) has a below-average Speed Score. But something in this next table might catch your eye.

Name

Long Shuttle

Short Shuttle

3 Cone

Agility Score

V Jump

B Jump

Explosion Score

Julio Jones

11.07

4.25

6.66

10.91

38.5

135

173.5

Stephen Hill

11.43

4.48

6.88

11.36

39.5

133

172.5

David Wilson

11.59

4.12

7.09

11.21

41

132

173

Daryl Richardson

11.24

4.29

7.03

11.32

40.5

135

175.5

 

Again, Richardson (seemingly) has a mediocre Agility Score—but he has the best Explosion Score, not only of the group, but of any running back I’ve been able to find for the last decade.

Do I have your attention now? According to MFL, David Wilson currently has an ADP of 36.04—and that’s based almost solely on his athleticism and the assumption that he’ll be the leader (if not the starter) in a timeshare. Meanwhile, Daryl Richardson has an ADP of 97.56 as the 34th RB off the board—right behind Andre Brown (96.47), the second-half of the NYG rushing timeshare and presumably the guy who’s going to be scoring NYG’s rushing TDs. Do you think there’s an opportunity here for some ADP arbitrage?

Based on how Fisher has used RBs in the past (he’s a seasonal monogamist), the St. Louis starter will be the main workhorse, and D-Rich looks like he’s going to win the job. As the lead back, he’s likely to get all of the carries that Wilson would get—plus the goal-line opportunities that Brown will take. Instead of drafting Wilson in the 4th round, fantasy players should seriously consider waiting for D-Rich in the 9th round. If you’re looking for the perfect RB to help you employ the Upside Down drafting strategy, D-Rich is it.

What’s that you say? You think that D-Rich really isn’t that athletic? OK. Here’s this info—in all of the RBs to enter the NFL from 2004 to 2013 with profiles at Mock Draftable, Wilson has the best Explosion Score, but only because D-Rich isn’t in the database. D-Rich’s explosion score—which I ignored when I wrote before, partly because I didn’t think that it mattered and partly because I didn’t comprehend how truly awesome it was—is utterly impressive. To me, it signals truly elite athleticism.

And what about his non-elite Speed and Agility Scores? I’m glad you asked. Get ready to have your f-ing mind blown. Here’s this from Gil Brandt, who reported on Abilene Christian’s 2012 pro day for NFL.com:

“Prospects ran outside on FieldTurf in wet and slippery conditions. Representatives from 16 NFL teams were there, and 28 players worked out.

Daryl Richardson, RB, Abilene Christian, (5-foot-10 3/8, 192 pounds) — Richardson ran the 40-yard dash on the slippery track, finishing in 4.49 and 4.50 seconds. He recorded a 40 1/2-inch vertical, an 11-foot-3 broad jump, a 4.29-second short shuttle and a 7.03-second three-cone, and did 16 strength lifts. Richardson was worked out as a hybrid back, doing running back and receiving drills. He had a successful workout and caught the ball well.”

Yeah, D-Rich ran the two most important sprints of his life while trying not to slip. Do you think that had any influence on how quickly he could run? With this knowledge, wouldn’t we now be justified in thinking that maybe a 4.49 is significantly slower than what D-Rich can actually run—especially given his explosion score?

Consider this: Slippery conditions are likely to affect one’s performance in the speed and agility drills, because one is in constant motion. Running on a wet surface, one would expect to submit a highly suboptimal performance. But with the vertical and broad jumps (in which one is still and then explodes one time through a simple motion), performance is not nearly as likely to be adversely affected. So what I’m saying is this—D-Rich’s world-class Explosion Score of 175.5 is legit. That’s the real D-Rich. The Speed and Agility Scores? Those aren’t representative of what Daryl Richardson can really do. In all probability, he’s capable of submitting scores much better than those from his 2012 slip-and-slide play pro day.

Now, I know that all prospects say they can run faster than they actually do, but in Richardson’s case (given his circumstances) I believe it. Here’s this, from the Abilene Reporter-News:

“I think I did OK (today),” Richardson said. “I ran a 4.35 last week during training, so I came in here expecting to go 4.3 seconds so I’m a little bit disappointed in my time.”

Reported by some sources (NFL Draft Scout, Abilene Reporter-News, and Pro Football Weekly) as having run his pro day 40 in the 4.45-4.47 range on a wet track, Richardson—and I hate to say this—may very well be a guy who can actually run his 40 in the 4.3s on a normal indoor surface. And, if so, then he may just be an early-round talent who slid to the last round.

Here’s a list of the successful smallish RBs from the last few years who are thought of as speedy, agile, and/or explosive, with their pre-draft measurables—and, just for the sake of hypothetical comparison, let’s place that group next to Richardson and his purported 4.35 40 time.

Name

Draft Year

Round

Pick

Rookie Age

Ht

Wt

40T

Speed Score

Reggie Bush

2006

1

2

21

71

201

4.37

110.2301

C.J. Spiller

2010

1

9

23

71

196

4.37

107.49

Chris Johnson

2008

1

24

23

71

195

4.24

120.67

Jahvid Best

2010

1

30

21

70

199

4.35

111.15

LeSean McCoy

2009

2

53

21

71

204

4.5

99.50

Ray Rice

2008

2

55

21

68

199

4.42

104.28

Maurice Jones-Drew

2006

2

60

21

67

207

4.39

111.47

Jamaal Charles

2008

3

73

22

71

200

4.38

108.68

Steve Slaton

2008

3

89

22

69

197

4.45

100.47

Avg

NA

1.78

43.89

21.67

69.89

199.78

4.39

108.01

Median

NA

2

53

21

71

199

4.38

108.1401

Daryl Richardson

2012

7

252

22

70

192

4.35

107.24

With a time of 4.35, Richardson certainly fits in with this group. He’s small—we know that—but his Speed Score is right in line with the group average. I know, I know . . . he didn’t actually run a 4.35 on his Pro Day. All I can really say to that is this—none of these other guys ran their 40s on a wet surface.

Here are the secondary scores for all the players, with Richardson’s numbers in this table unadjusted.

Name

Long Shuttle

Short Shuttle

3 Cone

Agility Score

V Jump

B Jump

Explosion Score

BP Reps

Reggie Bush

NA

NA

NA

NA

40.5

128

168.5

24

C.J. Spiller

NA

NA

NA

NA

36

126

162

18

Chris Johnson

NA

NA

NA

NA

35

130

165

NA

Jahvid Best

NA

4.17

6.75

10.92

32.5

113

145.5

18

LeSean McCoy

NA

4.18

6.82

11

29

107

136

17

Ray Rice

NA

4.2

6.65

10.85

31.5

119

150.5

23

Maurice Jones-Drew

NA

4.41

7.08

11.49

36

116

152

18

Jamaal Charles

NA

4.22

6.8

11.02

30.5

122

152.5

NA

Steve Slaton

NA

4.27

6.74

11.01

33.5

118

151.5

19

Avg

NA

4.24

6.81

11.05

33.83

119.89

153.72

19.57

Median

NA

4.21

6.78

10.99

33.5

119

152.5

18

Daryl Richardson

11.24

4.29

7.03

11.32

40.5

135

175.5

16

 

Based on these numbers, Richardson is far more explosive than the composite player but also far less agile. Remember, though, that D-Rich’s Agility Score was far more likely to be diminished by his Pro Day’s conditions than his Explosion Score was.

So is D-Rich probably more agile than his Agility Score suggests? Let me put it like this: At the 2012 Combine, David Wilson ran the fastest long shuttle among the RBs, with a speed of 11.59 seconds. At his wet Pro Day, D-Rich destroyed Wilson’s long shuttle with a time of 11.24. He also ran the 3-cone drill in 7.03 seconds, compared to Wilson’s time of 7.09. I can’t explain exactly why D-Rich would be able to best Wilson in the long shuttle and 3-cone drill under wet conditions but not the short shuttle (I bet someone else probably could), but I think it’s safe to say that D-Rich’s Agility Score most likely is not representative of his true agility. He’s probably not as agile as most of the guys in the previous table, but he’s also probably agile enough.

And even if D-Rich is only “4.40 fast,” I still think that’s fast enough, especially considering how explosive he is and how productive he was last year. Stuck behind S-Jax, his situation mirrored those of Spiller, Rice, and Charles as rookies when they were stuck behind Fred Jackson, Willis McGahee, and Larry Johnson, and on a per-touch basis he looks pretty good in comparison to the larger cohort.

Name

G

GS

Att

Yds

TD

Lng

Y/A

Y/G

A/G

Reggie Bush

16

8

155

565

6

18

3.6

35.3

9.7

C.J. Spiller

14

1

74

283

0

20

3.8

20.2

5.3

Chris Johnson

15

14

251

1228

9

66

4.9

81.9

16.7

Jahvid Best

16

9

171

555

4

45

3.2

34.7

10.7

LeSean McCoy

16

4

155

637

4

66

4.1

39.8

9.7

Ray Rice

13

4

107

454

0

60

4.2

34.9

8.2

Maurice Jones-Drew

16

1

166

941

13

74

5.7

58.8

10.4

Jamaal Charles

16

2

67

357

0

30

5.3

22.3

4.2

Steve Slaton

16

15

268

1282

9

71

4.8

80.1

16.8

Avg

15.33

6.44

157.11

700.22

5

50

4.46

45.67

10.25

Median

16

4

155

565

4

60

3.65

35.31

9.69

Daryl Richardson

16

0

98

475

0

53

4.8

29.7

6.1

 

Remembering that D-Rich started no games, one can pretty easily see that the primary difference between him and the other guys as rookies is that most of them got more carries, some occasional starts, and more goal-line opportunities—D-Rich had very few opportunities to score TDs and was tackled near the end zone on a couple of long gains. As the starter next year opportunities should not be a problem, as Fisher has proven that he’s not averse to giving goal-line touches to backs who weigh fewer than 200 lbs. If Chris Johnson could finish drives for Fisher, then I bet that D-Rich can too. Pretty easily, D-Rich seems to fit in with this group. He’s on the lower-end of raw production, but that makes sense given that S-Jax was on the Rams. Next year, he could follow in the footsteps of Spiller, Rice, and Charles with the breakout that comes from replacing an established veteran.

In the end, I like best the way that Evan Silva put it in his profile on Daryl Richardson: “Richardson runs with an incredible amount of juice.” That he does. And given what we know about his Pro Day, he may run with even more juice than we thought.

He’s the most measurably explosive back (that I’ve found) of the last decade—and he’s in line to be Jeff Fisher’s starting RB, which has been a good gig even for backs far less talented. He runs the 40 in at least the mid-4.4s—but he probably runs the 40 in the low-4.4s and maybe even the 4.3s. And in his first year in the league he, at worst, was one of the best change-of-pace options available.

He’s going to be at least a top-30 (and probably a top-20) RB in 2013—with upside for even more—and he’s going in the tenth round. He’s the perfect late-round RB.

Going RB/RB at the beginning of the draft is for losers. Daryl Richardson just made the Upside Down strategy cool again.

 

 

 

 

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10 comments
mjclarkmj
mjclarkmj

what league if DRich going in the 8th round (97 pick). I think Id be lucky to get him in the 5th

BlakeAtkins
BlakeAtkins

@mjclarkmjhe is indeed going around 97 on MFL, which is shocking.  RotoViz guys use fantasyfootballcalculator.com alot, where he's going 59th (5.10).  The overall point is still valid...he's behind notables Mathews, Ball, Lacy, etc.  Good article...i just don't think I'll be trusting MFL much.

mefreedman
mefreedman

@BlakeAtkins @mjclarkmj Good point. I totally should've used fantasyfootballcalculator.com. I will in the future.

dontyouhatepants
dontyouhatepants

@mefreedman @BlakeAtkins @mjclarkmj ESPN and Yahoo are still the most popular platforms, and Richardson's ADP is over 100 in both.  For what it's worth, I don't particularly like fantasyfootballcalculator.com, as it's built on mock drafts rather than real drafts.  There's certainly no objective reason to believe it's more reliable, just different.

mefreedman
mefreedman

@mjclarkmj Thanks for reading and commenting. Your comment raises a good point about ADP data. I was using current ADP data at MFL -- which could certainly be off. And without a question his ADP has been sneaking up, but I think the general idea stands, the general idea being that he is one of the last starting RBs drafted in most leagues, behind several backups, and he's likely to end up producing like a top-20 back. Regardless of ADP, D-Rich is usually one of the last starting RBs on the board. Wherever you have to draft him to get him, he's still likely to provide value. For me, the important thing is to have a rough idea of where he's being taken in the RB order. Then you can judge accordingly based on your league's rules, the drafting habits of your league mates, etc. 

Adam Eraky
Adam Eraky

You're killing me here lol. Just passed on Richardson in my dynasty league! Kidding aside, great article. What do you see Richardson doing this year? Assuming he gets starters touches, I have him about around 250 carries and between 1000-1050 yards rushing, with about 300 receiving yards thrown in. Is that reasonable, or have I over-projected him?

mefreedman
mefreedman

@Adam Eraky Adam, thanks for reading and responding. What can we expect from D-Rich? That's the real question, right? Given that he was just named the starter today (what a timely piece of news!), I think that we can expect somewhere around 250 carries on the low end (that's about what S-Jax managed last year, and that was the baseline for what Chris Johnson got), and I think that we can expect a minimum of 1000 yards (4.0 ypc) and perhaps a maximum of 1125 yards (4.5 ypc). Of course, if D-Rich is rocking a 4.5 ypc, I think it's likely that he'll get fed the ball more than 250 times, which will shoot his yardage up. From 2008-10, CJ had 43-50 catches per year, and last year S-Jax had 38 while D-Rich had 24. Since D-Rich is a fairly strong receiver, I think 40-50 receptions is a likely range with 250-450 yards (I know that's a wide range of receiving yards, but I think his ypr is hard to project. Finally, I think he'll get anywhere from 4 to 8 TDs, with 5-6 as the most likely outcome. That means D-Rich could score as few as 155 and as many as 205.5 pts in non-PPR formats, and as few as 195 and as many as 255.5 pts in PPR leagues. I think that the baseline probably makes him a solid (maybe low-end) RB2, while the upside projection make him an RB1, perhaps on the low-end side. But if he averages 4.5 ypc, I expect more than 250 carries, and if that happens he could perhaps approach 300 pts.

Adam Eraky
Adam Eraky

@mefreedman @Adam Eraky Thanks for your reply. I picked 250 to be on the low end as well, as I didn't want to get carried away. I happen to agree though, if he is running solidly, I expect him to receive more than that.