In one of the most shocking trades in the NFL in years, the Cleveland Browns have traded second year running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts.
In return the Browns will receive the Colts 1st round pick in the 2014 draft.
Just one year and two games after using the 3rd overall selection in the 2012 draft to acquire Richardson, the Browns chose to go in a different direction as first year general manager Mike Lombardi continued his remake of the team’s roster. Richardson had quickly emerged as a team leader and the face of the franchise and trading him away so early in the 2013 season is not going to viewed favorably by the team’s rabid fan base.
In Indianapolis, the acquisition of Richardson solidifies a shaky backfield that lost second year player Vick Ballard, the team’s leading rusher as a rookie in 2012, to a season-ending knee injury prior to Week 2. The trade signifies that the team’s management is convinced that a run deep into the playoffs is possible just one year into Andrew Luck‘s reign as the team’s starting quarterback.
The Colts entered the season envisioning a backfield led by Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard.
Two games into the season, it will be led by Richardson with Bradshaw in a supporting role.
Richardson proved to be a true workhorse back as a rookie in 2012, rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 51 passes for 367 yards and another touchdown despite playing much of the season with injured ribs. Simply put, he has the talent to emerge as a top-five fantasy running back playing in a solid offense and this trade affords him that opportunity.
Assuming the Colts are in the hunt for a playoff spot at season’s end, they will have acquired a franchise running back for a late 1st round pick. Stunning.
In just a week, Bradshaw goes from being in a timeshare with Ballard, to a starter with little proven depth behind him, to a pure handcuff to Richardson. Fantasy owners that acquired him are left with little value just two weeks into the season.
In Cleveland, quarterback Brandon Weeden has been put on notice that anything short of a spectacular finish to the season will cost him his job. It’s also possible, and maybe even likely, that nothing can save Weeden’s job as the team’s starter. Look for the Browns to use their bevy of draft picks to acquire a quarterback in the 2014 draft.
At running back, McGahee is the odds on favorite to assume the starting job but it is fair to question how much he has left to give as he approaches his 32nd birthday. Although he rushed for 731 yards with four touchdowns in just 10 games with Denver last season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury and remained unsigned throughout the preseason. With the Browns offense struggling and having lost its most dynamic playmaker, McGahee rates as low end RB3 or high end RB4 over the balance of the season.
Of course, that is based on his holding off Ogbonnaya and Rainey. Ogbonnaya is a fifth year veteran journeyman will little upside while Rainey is a second year player who has yet to register a carry. The running back situation in Cleveland has very little upside.