As the resident, "No Running Back shall be taken in the first!" leader, this article was a tough one. After writing this article, even I may be slightly warming up to the idea of drafting the University of Alabama Running Back.
These are not my views per se, but the flip side of the coin.
1. We need a difference maker
The Browns have had an offensive difference maker once since '99 (2007 Braylon Edwards, and that was short-lived).
Other than that, we have never had an offensive playmaker. We have been missing that guy that has frightened the opposing team and has dictated how a defense plays us. We need that guy who takes attention from Greg Little and Josh Cribbs. The guy that makes everyone else better.
Richardson could do this.
Justin Blackmon would need a Quarterback to get him the ball. Richardson would walk through the door and get the ball 25 times on his own. Those were 25 carries that were going to Hardesty and Obi. That is a huge gain for us.
The difference between Blackmon catching 6 passes and Greg Little catching 6 passes? Not nearly as much as the gain we would be getting from Hardesty to Richardson.
Richardson makes the offense better by leaps and bounds.
2. The Value of Two First Round Picks
The biggest argument against Richardson is value. You don't "need" to use a first round draft pick on a Running Back. The difference for the Browns is that they have two first round picks.
My reasoning is simple: most years the Browns would only have the first round pick to use. The would need to use this "high-value" pick on a position is which the return would be greatest. To me that would be Defensive End, Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, Wide Reciever, Defensive Tackle and the biggest of all, the Quarterback.
With the two first rounders, the Browns can still use the 22nd pick on a "high-value" position. Suddenly, the first rounder on Richardson doesn't look like a "waste of value". We still leave the first round with a high-value first round selection.
A "high-value" pick to go with a top of the line Running Back? That's sweet.
3. 2nd and 3 is Better Than 2nd and 7
Captain Obvious statement of the day.
Trent Richardson carried the ball 120 times on 1st and 10 in 2011. One those carries, he had a 7.3 YPC.
Montario Hardesty carried the ball 54 times on 1st and 10 in 2011, in which he had a 3.6 YPC.
Chris Ogbonnaya carried the ball 37 times on 1st and 10 in 2011, in which he had a 3.0 YPC.
Peyton Hillis carried the ball 75 times on 1st and 10 in 2011, in which he had a 4.2 YPC.
I'm not expecting Richardson to replicate his college stats in the NFL, but I think Richardson can easily duplicate the YPC that we got out of Hillis last season. As poor as our offense is, we need to get in front of the sticks as often as possible. Everyone else remember those 4 yard crossing patterns last season on 3rd and 7? Well those 4 yard crossing patterns would be first downs with Richardson picking up 7 yards on first down.
I don't think Colt McCoy is the answer at Quarterback, but I do think he will be more successful with a weapon like Trent Richardson eating up yards on early downs.
3. A Dump Down Pass Will No Longer Be a Ho-hum Waste Before We Punt
Last year, Peyton Hillis caught 15 passes behind the Line of Scrimmage. On those passes he went for 2.9 Yards Per Catch. Some were screen passes, but those are usually dump down passes when McCoy was pressured.
We saw Hillis get checkdown after checkdown and do nothing with it.
Richardson would change that. He would allow McCoy, instead of forcing something downfield (which is 15 yards for him), to dump down to Richardson, and allow him to make a play. We pick up the first down, check down by check down. It isn't pretty, but it's effective.
When Steven Jackson played for Shurmur, he averaged 7.6 on passes behind the LOS, and he averaged 8.3 YPC on all of his catches. Shurmur knows how to get his Running Back's the ball where they can do damage (look at the years in Philly as well) if the Running Back is talented.
4. Who Cares If He Doesn't Last Until 30
Trent Richardson will be 21 in July. If you go by the "30 years old for a Running Back" rule (why wouldn't you?), you will get Richardson for 9 seasons. LaDainian Tomlinson gave the Chargers over 15,000 yards from scrimmage before he turned 30.
Over those 9 years, H&H will have plenty of time to figure out the other positions. Over those 9 seasons, Richardson will give us a player that will be feared. A guy that we can hang our hat on to move the ball.
Let's be real, the chances that this Head Coach is still here in 9 years, is slim. Sadly, we could say the same for the front office. So why do we care about 9 years from now?
We can debate whether or not to give Richardson the "big" contract later on, but that is a down-the-road problem. I'm worried about now.
5. If McCoy Doesn't Work Out, We Are Still Good
Let's say for giggles and tears that we will finish next season 4-12. We draft Matt Barkley.
Barkley walks in here with a big-time Running Back, the best Left Tackle in the history of man-kind leading a good offensive line, and Greg Little with (enter rookie WR's name here) on the outside. What a place for a rookie Quarterback to go.
If Barkley (or any rookie Quarterback) is legit, this is a dream scenario. Before anyone throws out the "can't you make the same case for Blackmon?" question, Richardson would touch the ball 30 times a game. Blackmon can't do that.
Conclusion: Richardson would allow us to hammer the opposition's defense, allowing our guys to stay fresh, and winning games in a low-scoring battle. It may not be pretty, but a win is a win.
So what do you think?