My first reaction: Holy. Freaking. Crap.
My second reaction? Holy. Freaking. Crap.
My third reaction? Holy. Freaking. Crap.
But my fourth reaction was when the analyst in me started kicking in. And I really, really love this trade for the Colts. Like, a lot.
Typically, trading a first round pick for a running back (which the Colts did) isn't always the wisest use of the pick. But in this case, it's a better use of it than they were going to get in next year's draft and it also is a huge boost to this team both in the short and long term.
Richardson (5-9, 225 pounds) was drafted third overall by the Browns in the 2012 NFL draft and has started 17 games for the Browns since then. In his career, he has 298 carries for 1,055 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns, as well as catching 58 passes for 418 yards and a touchdown. And that was playing with the Browns' awful quarterbacking. Imagine him now with Andrew Luck.
Luck's passing skills should keep defenses honest and back off, leaving room for Richardson. It wouldn't make sense for a team to key in on Richardson instead of Luck, so it seems very likely that Richardson should see better opportunities in Indianapolis. Additiaonlly, although the line has struggled in pass blocking, they have been very solid in run blocking and the Colts actually have the league's fifth ranked rushing attack - and that was with Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Donald Brown. Nothing against any of them, but they pale in comparison to Richardson.
A star at Alabama, Richardson finished third in the 2011 Heisman voting behind Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. Entering the draft, I thought he was the real deal, and I still do. Now, the Colts have two of the top three Heisman finishers from 2011 and more significantly, two of the top three picks from the 2012 draft.
The Colts are building quite an offense right now, honestly. They have the league's best young quarterback in Luck, the league's best young running back in Richardson, and one of the league's best young receiver in T.Y. Hilton - not to mention two of the league's best young tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. And here's the thing about all of that - they are all in their second year in the league. This offense is looking CRAZY good right now and is totally built for the future.
I really can't stress enough how much this trade should help the Colts long-term. I was super excited for the future just because of Luck, but add in a running back like Richardson and I'm that much more excited.
That said, this move will make a huge impact this season as well. Let's look at just a few of the major ways that Richardson will help (in no particular order):
- First off, this will greatly help the passing game. You think that defenses were going to spend much time game planning for Vick Ballard or Ahmad Bradshaw when Andrew Luck is under center? No. But Richardson is good enough that teams will have to at least pay some attention to him, and that inevitably means less attention on Andrew Luck. Also, the more effective the run game, the more effective the passing game. Luck is tremendous off of play action attempts and it helps even more so when there's actually a legitimate running back to fake to. The comparison I immediately think of is with Peyton Manning. When he had Edgerrin James, his play action attempts were so much more effective than when he had other backs that defenses didn't consider to be that big of a threat.
- With the season-ending injuries to Ballard, Donald Thomas, and Dwayne Allen, many people (including myself) were talking about how the Colts might (and should) pass the ball more and go away from their run game emphasis. Well, I really doubt that happens now. I really doubt it. But here's the good news - the Colts aren't just committed to the run, but they're committed to getting the players to run the ball effectively. That's a positive sign and a step in the right direction. I'd still like the team to throw it more, but I highly doubt their run emphasis changes now and at least they have a running back who I feel comfortable with getting a lot of carries. Still, I think they do need to pass it more (like they did on Sunday, although perhaps not quite as much.)
- In writing this article, I really don't want to slight Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw, Donald Brown, or any of the other backs. I'm not trying to make them sound terrible. But it's impossible to ignore how much of an upgrade Richardson is over each of them. Also, going forward, it looks like Ballard will fit into the role that most people thought he was best suited for in the first place - as a very solid number two back who could get some carries and take advantage of them.
- Expectations. We have to talk about expectations. This team hasn't looked very good early on and this team has a real tough schedule coming up in the next few weeks. Season-ending injuries could have been blamed and Chuck Pagano and Pep Hamilton could have gotten somewhat of a pass. Not anymore. Not after General Manager Ryan Grigson makes the 16th and biggest trade of his short tenure. Not after the Colts gave up their first round pick next year (see bullet below for more on that). Nope. The pressure is back on this team, and the expectations are now going to be for the team to win a lot of ball games. If they trade for Richardson and then continue to play like crap, then there is no excuse for someone like Pagano or Hamilton. I'm not saying they're coaching for their jobs now or anything (they aren't), but now they won't have any excuses for a dismal year. Richardson won't fix all the problems the Colts have (as running back wasn't even at the top of the list), but it shows that Grigson means business and that Grigson fully expects the team to succeed this year.
- Regarding the first round draft pick, I fully understand fans not loving giving it up for a running back. I fully, fully get it. I'm not a fan of it either - it has to be a special back. I think that Richardson is a very bright young back with a ton of potential. And the draft pick shouldn't be that high of a pick - at least, not with the trade being made now. Grigson and everybody else clearly didn't make this trade just to have a bad year and give the Browns a top ten pick next year. It will probably be around the upper teens (twenty range) and at that point in the draft, you're not going to get a better player than Richardson. If the pick ends up being super high, the team has a lot more to worry about than just this trade.