The NFL Draft is just over three weeks away and many names have been thrown around regarding who the Cleveland Browns should take with their #4 pick. Over that time, I’ll give you a few reasons why and why not the franchise should select a given player. First up is Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
The Case For (and Against) Trent Richardson:
For: There are several reasons why the Browns should select the Alabama running back with their first pick. First let’s take a look at his Junior year stats:
Season – 2011:
Attempts – 283; Rushing Yards – 1,679; Average – 5.90 YPC (yards per carry); Touchdowns – 21
Receptions – 29; Receiving Yards – 338; Average – 11.70 YPR (yards per reception); Touchdowns – 3
These are incredible numbers especially when realizing that Trent faced arguably the best conference (Southeastern Conference) in college football, which is perennially loaded with NFL talent. In 2011, Alabama won their second national championship in three years. Leading the way, Richardson not only gained a great amount of yardage and touchdowns on the ground, but he compiled a fair amount of receiving statistics. This will be important in the West Coast offense, which the Browns use.
Next, one has to look at what he brings to the table. From his pro day, he came in at 5’9” and 227 pounds – great size for a running back. We also know he can bench 475 pounds (and was advised not to go heavier by his coaches). His 40-yard dash time was in the 4.45 range (depending on who was timing). From the “eye test” Richardson is a bona-fide NFL star on physical traits.
Looking at his character, which has been scrutinized by many different scouting personnel from February thru April, one sees it as overwhelmingly positive. He has been known to have a terrific work ethic and has kept himself out of trouble’s way (which is something very important to a many NFL franchises).
Finally, someone has to fill the duty of Cleveland Browns running back after the departure of Peyton Hillis. Who else better to accomplish that than the guy whom many feel “is the most complete back since Adrian Peterson”. The Browns have not drafted a playmaker like him in the first round since 2002, and have as a result struggled to find a consistent rusher ever since. Using the fourth pick on the talented running back could potentially shore up the position for several seasons.
There is a question of how durable Trent is as a football player. Following the 2011 season, Richardson underwent surgery to injuries sustained on his knee. Browns fans could feel troubled by this, as he will face faster and stronger competition in the NFL; therefore his body will go through more contact and there will always be a possibility of him getting hurt (and missing time) on any given play.
Some people believe that the National Football League has morphed into a passing league over the past few seasons; this is supported by the fact there were three quarterbacks with over 5,000 yards passing and three with over 40 touchdowns in 2011 alone (neither of these things occurred at all in 2009 and 2010).
Therefore, the running back position appears to be not as valuable as it once was. People could see the fourth selection as one where the team needs to choose a dynamic player who will get ample opportunities to contribute; a running back may not fall into that category. Along these lines is the fact that a majority of teams nowadays use multiple players to carry the football for their respective team. In 2011, only fifteen players rushed over 1,000 yards, which represents the fewest number of players (in this category) over the past ten seasons.
Finally, this year’s draft is one that contains several solid NFL-caliber running backs. Teams may feel inclined to select one of these players later while filling other needs earlier in the draft (and consequently again devaluating the position). General managers may feel the drop-off in talent from Richardson to the next best running back may be worth taking another player who may be extremely better than the remainder in his position group.
There are compelling and strong points to both sides of the argument regarding drafting Trent Richardson at the fourth spot. Personally, I think he is a rare talent and would vastly improve the running game while providing a safety valve and strong blocker in passing situations. I’ll speculate later of what the team will do, but Richardson seems to be one of the front-runners for the Browns.