The Only Problem With Trent Richardson is Trent Richardson
Trent Richardson in 2013 is easily our most famous blown call on the site. Last year I liked that he was a young, big, pass-catching RB. That turned out not to be enough and he was a team killer.
But I don’t hold grudges so if I thought Richardson was offering decent value this year, I would be on board with him. In fact I’ve even made arguments along those lines.
But I think there is one glaring problem with him in 2014 that will get in the way.
Most of the time when I see an RB that appears to be all a team has, I’m pretty willing to roll the dice and see what happens. This is somewhat similar to what you might call a “moat” in investing terms. Having a team’s only capable RB is kind of like owning a patent that protects you from competition.
But in Richardson’s case “all they have” might not be enough of a moat because his runs don’t just kill your fantasy team, they also kill real drives in the NFL. Unless Richardson can turn around his YPC he’s just a bunch of negative plays in every game, which means that Colts’ interests are not aligned with the interest of the fantasy teams he’s on.
The offshoot of that problem is that a running back picked at random might have a pretty good shot of being better than Richardson. In most cases of “blah” talent where the usage situation is good, you’re at least talking about an RB that can turn in four yards per carry. The league-wide average is 4.2 YPC, but lots of RBs are capable of turning in something close to that number. So if Richardson is plugging away at 3.5 or lower, he’s really at risk to be replaced by a random running back. It doesn’t even matter if that other RB is good. Like I said, the Colts could almost pick a RB at random.
So then it does become fair to wonder whether Richardson offers any discount to his upside. He certainly has the downside of a player that could be benched permanently at some point this season. And while his upside would seem to be high because he’s a good pass catcher, it’s only really high if he actually turns around his poor YPC. Otherwise the Colts can’t really run him very much lest they totally shoot themselves in the foot, and the offense also won’t be good enough for him to score easy TDs. You can play around with the Projection Machine to see why this is the case.
Unfortunately we really won’t know for sure whether Richardson has improved at all (compared to 2013) during the preseason. Some might say that they can watch him in preseason games and know. But remember that game watching also at one point assigned Richardson the distinction of being the best RB coming out of college since Adrian Peterson. That call was made on a larger sample size than we’re going to get in the preseason.
I’m actually really rooting for one of the other backs on the Colts to take the job at some point before my fantasy drafts. I think a few backs could be successful and I don’t think ADP would ever catch up with that opportunity either. Because I’m perpetually afraid of Ahmad Bradshaw’s feet, which have been an issue almost any time he’s tried to play a full season, I’d rather one of the other RBs end up getting the starting nod. Or better yet, the Colts could sign Stephen Houston, the former IU product who was just cut by the Patriots. Excuse me while I go create a Google Alert for “Stephen Houston Colts”.