Trent Richardson's 2013 season started slow, only putting up 105 yards during his first two games in Cleveland. However, a saving grace happened for his fantasy owners--he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Going from an inconsistent offense in Cleveland to a high-powered offensive attack led by quarterback Andrew Luck was just what Richardson needed. The Colts gave the Browns a first round draft pick for Richardson, so it was clear that they intended to use him. This was Richardson's chance to break out and establish himself as one of the top running backs in the league. He started out well: his very first carry as a Colt was a touchdown run. Everything was looking great for Richardson. However, things only went downhill from there.
The rest of Richardson's season with the Colts was unimpressive to say the least. In his 14 games, Richardson managed only 458 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, with a disappointing average of 2.9 yards per carry. Richardson wasn't able to pad his stats with receptions either. The Colts had too much depth at receiver to ever really need Richardson's services in that part of the game. So Richardson only managed to add 265 yards and one touchdown to his pitiful stat line by playing receiver.
Fantasy owners were angered by the lack of performance, and Colts fans thought their team had just thrown away a first round pick. This offseason, things are looking up for Richardson in 2014. Part of the reason for Richardson's struggles this past season was that he was rushed into playing in an offense that he never really had a chance to learn. Richardson was traded to the Colts after Week Two. By Week Three, he was already taking snaps in the offense. Richardson never really had time to learn the basics of the offense, that's what the offseason is for. During the season itself, teams and coaches are too busy preparing for their next opponent to pause and show a new player the ropes. Because Richardson didn't really understand the offense he struggled in. Because of that, he struggled and lost a lot of carries to fellow running back Donald Brown Especially in the red zone. Brown had about 50 fewer carries than Richardson this past season, but he had twice as many rushing touchdowns as Richardson. Now that Brown is gone, an offseason to learn the playbook, and a healthy offense around him, Richardson will have a much more productive year in 2014.
The Colts offense as a whole is looking great for this coming season. They have a great young quarterback in Luck. And with Reggie Wayne coming back from his ACL injury, the Colts will have their veteran leadership back. The Colts also signed former New York Giants star receiver Hakeem Nicks during the offseason to replace former Oakland Raiders seventh overall draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, whose season with the Colts was very disappointing. This depth at receiver may eliminate some of Richardson's receptions, but at the same time it'll open up the running game for him. Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton loves a well balanced offensive rushing attack. With Brown out of the picture, Richardson is going to get nearly all of the carries this season.There are a lot of similarities between Marshawn Lynch and Trent Richardson
Richardson isn't the first running back to struggle after being traded. Leading rusher of the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks Marshawn Lynch had similar struggles when the Buffalo Bills traded him to Seattle in 2010. After a phenomenal first two years in Buffalo during which Lynch rushed for over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns, his productivity fell drastically in 2009. So, in 2010 the Bills traded Lynch to the Seahawks after Week Four. Lynch's 12 games in Seattle that season were rather disappointing. He managed only 573 yards and seemed to be struggling in the new system he was thrown into. However, we all know what has happened since then. The 2011 season was an amazing one for Lynch in Seattle, during which he rushed for over 1,200 yards, averaging 4.2 yard per carry, and finding the end zone 12 times. In 2012, Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns. And in 2013, he put up 1,257 yards and another 12 touchdowns. In other words, things really turned around for Lynch once he learned the offense. There's no reason the same won't happen for Richardson.
Richardson has the talent to bounce back from his poor performance and put up big numbers in 2014, but I still wouldn't draft him too early. Provided he stays healthy, Richardson should have no problem retaining the bulk of the carriers over Ahmad Bradshaw, who has had injury problems the last few seasons. All things considered, Richardson should do well enough to start on most fantasy teams. If Richardson drops to the late fifth round or early sixth round in your league, roll the dice and pick him up. Richardson should get most of the Colts goal-line carries this season. So even if the yardage isn't there, he should be able to manage between eight and ten touchdowns. Not bad for a fifth round selection. Expect a good season from Richardson in 2014.