Thoughts on Trent Richardson to the Colts

Wow.

You don’t often get a trade just 2 weeks into a NFL season involving someone who was a real life 1st round draft choice and potentially also a 1st round fantasy draft choice.

For Indy they add a potentially elite talent at RB to go with an elite talent at QB.  And for Cleveland, well they get another 1st round pick for next season, but they open up another hole on their team to do it.

So for fantasy purposes you have the 2 teams affected, and then actually several players impacted by this move.

The Move For the Colts

RB Trent Richardson – Richardson is of course the main fantasy talent affected here (though far from the only one).  Initially this could be less than the win/win it appears for owners especially in redraft leagues.  Yes Trent is going to a better offensive team, and yes because they spent a 1st round pick to get him – he will slot right in as the starter ahead of Ahmad Bradshaw.   The questions here are twofold: 1.) Is Trent really an elite talent? His YPC average in Cleveland was 3.4 and he was heard questioning his role.   2.) He was to be the focal point of the Browns offense when drafted. In Indianapolis will he be behind Luck in priority? How much will he come off the field on 3rd downs with Bradshaw already in the mix?

I don’t doubt Richardson’s talent and in the long term I think this deal benefits him, but only because the Browns were so bad.  The reality is, I think this does both increase his output longterm, but also lower his ceiling.  It’s confusing, but the best way I can make sense of it is this: Richardson will score more, and may even have more yards in Indy than he would in Cleveland – but some of his appeal has worn off because his overall workload/opportunity will be reduced.  So we all maybe wanted to see him run for 330 times for the 1st 4-5 years of his career, but we’re not likely to get that now.

In redraft leagues, I suspect a few weeks of transition – where Richardson learns the offense – and the offense learns when to use Richardson – how many 3rd downs he gets, how many goalline runs they make (as opposed to Luck on the bootleg), and how quickly can Trent pick up the passing protection aspects of the offense.  But when you compare it to how badly Cleveland blocked for him, and how poorly the Cleveland offense performed – getting a few more subpar weeks from Richardson in the hopes of 2nd half success is probably a welcome tradeoff for Richardson owners.

In dynasty/keeper leagues – I would guess the reaction is even more positive.  His anticipated reduction in workload is balanced out by the years of potential goalline work with an elite QB and an offense on the up and up.  Plus, Bradshaw’s contract is up this year, and RB Vic Ballard is an underwhelming talent option who will be coming off a major knee injury in 2014 – so Richardson should be the unquestioned starter for many years with the Colts.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw – Bradshaw owners hoping to get Rb2 production out of him this season with Ballard’s injury are now out of luck.  Bradshaw is on a 1 year deal with Indy, and after a few transition weeks will probably be regulated to mostly 3rd down work.  Still Bradshaw can run hard at times, and sharing much of his workload may guarantee he plays 16 games this year – but he goes from being a weekly starter on your team to a bench guy, or a potential flex guy on bye weeks.

QB Andrew Luck – Luck should benefit from Richardson in real life, but what does it mean in fantasy?  I don’t think Richardson will steal much, if any, of Luck’s fantasy value – true the Colts may run a bit more with Richardson – and be more successful doing it, but I can’t see them becoming a run 1st team.  The league is moving away from that for one thing, and for another having a credible run threat may open things up even more for Luck and actually reduce his turnover rate and sacks against totals, both of which were way higher than normal in 2012.  So when you see Richardson score, try not to think – damn it Luck could’ve had that….think well, that could’ve been Bradshaw or Ballard, or anyone really. Luck will get his and still be a guy who flirts with 30 Td’s yearly.

RB Donald Brown – This is a real bummer for him.   And for me, a little.  I like Brown’s talent, but as I wrote just yesterday the Colts don’t.  He’s an Rb3 now, and even if Bradshaw is gone next season, he will probably be a RB3 next season behind a returning Vic Ballard – if he even makes the team at all.   In very deep, deep league’s you can hold him if you think Bradshaw gets hurt this season, and they’ll make a little room for Brown – but in 99% of leagues this guy is now a drop.  And I know that’s after some of you added him just this week!!

RB Vic Ballard – Ballard is out for the rest of 2013 so this is more a note to dynasty owners.  I would guess you have to hold Ballard through next offseason to see how his rehab goes and who Indy brings in at the backup RB competition.  The Colts will likely keep Ballard over Bradshaw for money reasons, and Brown for god knows what reason, but that’s not to say that they won’t bring in someone who’s a more traditional 3rd back player or give rookie (this season) RB Kerwynn Williams a chance to beat him out for a roster spot.  Needless to say Ballard’s future went from potential Rb2 in late 2012 to barely rosterable in 2014.

The Move For the Browns

QB Brandon Weeden – This is a signal plain as day to me that Browns are getting ready to move on from Weeden.  Yes, the same organization that battered and perplexingly shit on Colt McCoy after about 2 weeks – has had the hots to move on from Weeden for some time.  GM Michael Lombardi has been quoted as doubting Weeden as a player (was not his draft choice) and it seems pretty clear the Browns are acquiring draft picks and cap space to be able to maneuver themselves for a 1st round QB in 2014’s NFL draft.  Remember they lost out on a package deal to move up for RG3 last year, and I doubt they will let history repeat itself – Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or someone similar will be donning the “orange” of the Browns next season.

RB Willis McGahee – So now with a hole at RB, the news is the Browns are bringing in 32 year old Willis McGahee for a look.  If he passes his physical he will be a Brown soon.  That’s a big “if” really – he’s coming off a late 2012 season knee injury and while he’s been brought in for tryouts by several teams – including the NY Giants recently – he remains unsigned.   I think something gets done, and I like McGahee – but the reality is he can’t be 100% healthy even if he passes the physical, he can’t be 100% in game shape, he can’t know 100% of the offense he’s coming into, and oh yeah….Cleveland’s offense is a mess at QB and OL right now.

I think if you make a move to acquire McGahee you are looking at – at best a flex player this season.  Yes, it’s nice that he runs hard and is a veteran – it’s nice that on paper he has little competition for the starting job, and it’s nice that he’ll be paired with Norv Turner – who was supposed to work wonders with Trent to take him to the rushing title.

But even if McGahee can overcome his injury, then get into game shape, then stay injury free – that offense will limit him to a few good weeks of Rb2 production, but mostly well under that.

The one positive thing I could say is that, if Cleveland gave up on Trent after just 2 weeks it must’ve looking at replacing Richardson all along.   This would theoretically mean preparation and thought went into this move – meaning that either the Browns really believe McGahee can shoulder the load for the season (by possibly monitoring his rehab progress) or that they can live with already in house answers (which we’ll get to).

I mean surely Lombardi wouldn’t just give up on a season in week 2, with no idea how to plug a starter’s spot on his offense…right?  hahahaha…right?  *gulp* right??

RB Bobby Rainey – I like Rainey a lot.  A lot.  So I’m hoping McGahee has a hitch in his giddy-up because I want to see him do more than just kick returns for the Browns.  Rainey was stuck as the RB3 in Baltimore last season behind Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce and then Cleveland snagged him as soon as they could off of waivers. Rainey has talent to be at minimum a great change of pace back – good speed and great strength for a guy his size.  He has about the same flex upside that McGahee has should he win the job, so if you make a move on him in redraft consider cutting him if he doesn’t start right away- I mean the Browns backup RB is just not valuable, unless you play in a huge league.  In dynasty/keeper leagues he’s a must add in my mind based  on potential.  Sure next season, Mcgahee (if he’s signed in the 1st place) will be gone  – but it’s tough to envision the Browns not drafting or trading for more RB competition for 2014.  So Rainey is sort of a long shot lottery ticket – the odds of him winning the job and doing well enough to make him a long term asset are slim.  But sometimes you gotta try, and heck like I said….maybe Bobby Rainey is the reason this deal happened.  Maybe he is the Browns plan behind being able to trade Richardson.

RB Chris Ogbonnya – Nope. Just nope.  I know he’s the other Browns RB – technically a starting FB.  And I know he’s been with the Browns longer than Rainey – I know he’s even started games for them in the past.  But we’ve seen him before – he’s best in very small doses – like so small they are no doses. Plus, he’s the team’s FB he has a roll already and you generally don’t move players to FB that you thing can be a main carry RB.  If the Browns end up rolling with Ogbonnya that means they have either been decimated by injuries, or they are insane neither of which means fantasy goodness.  You can take a lotto ticket on Rainey in medium size leagues…but your league would have to be about 32 deep before I’d consider Ogbonnya.

CONCLUSIONS
Like any trade, the full impact of Trent Richardson to the Colts won’t be felt for weeks or even seasons.  In fantasy you may have to wait and see on some of these players – but I certainly wouldn’t be selling Richardson like the Browns just did….and if I was interested in buying him I would wait a week or two and hope his transition is a little slow (as I anticipate) and that you can then lowball a disappointed Richardson owner.  Conversely if I owned Ahmad Bradshaw I would wait to sell him, if Richardson does transition slow and there is a roll for Bradshaw than you may get a few more weeks of passable production before selling him somewhere (maybe to the Richardson owner).
So patience with the established guys.
Lottery style waiver or Free Agent claims on RB Willis McGahee or RB Bobby Rainey are worth trying – but don’t drop quality depth for them in redraft leagues – because their 2013 value is likely “flex” player status at best.
It will be well wroth watching this trade and all its future ramifications – and the fantasy implications make it even more enjoyable.  Shocking, but fun – that’s all I can really say in the moment about the big deal.
:by Mike
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