In one of the most shocking moves in recent NFL history, the Cleveland Browns have traded 22-year old running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a future first round pick. The entire ordeal began around 5:00 this afternoon when Colts owner Jim Irsay, as he is apt to do, began Tweeting out cryptic messages that drew the attention of the entire NFL world.
Here’s exactly what got NFL fans and fantasy owners riled up.
If you were around Twitter this afternoon, these Tweets drew much speculation, but most were in jest and ultimately laughing at Irsay, who had pulled similar stunts before less impressive transactions, like wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Nonetheless, just a few minutes later, we learned from NFL insider Jay Glazer that the Colts had indeed acquired Richardson from the Browns.
Let’s take a look at where the monster deal leaves the two teams and the key players involved.
The Browns had been one of the most talked about teams of the off-season with the hiring of new head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Both coaches were well known for the offensive prowess and with some of the young players already sporting Browns uniforms, expectations were high for the Browns. The season has not started off as most expected. The Browns have struggled in each of their first two games, going 0-2 and losing starting quarterback Brandon Weeden, at least for the short-term. Following the Browns week two loss to division rival Baltimore, criticism began to arise surrounding the usage of Richardson in the Cleveland offense. Richardson himself called it “a shocker” he wasn’t used more in the teams first two games. For a team that’s rebuilding, it’s obviously a surprising move to deal a young running back who had only a year ago been selected third overall. It seems like that would be a player you’d want to build around.
But, how does the move affect the players still with the Browns?
Josh Gordon, WR and Jordan Cameron, TE
Head coach Rob Chudzinski clearly wants to focus on passing the ball. That has been evident in the team’s first two games, when tight end Jordan Cameron has quickly established himself as a top ten tight end. With the team (and dynasty owners) excited about the return of wide receiver Josh Gordon this week, expect the Browns to keep airing it out. Defenders will clearly not focus as much attention on the running game, but with their offensive game plan displayed in the early season, the Browns weren’t demanding this anyway. Both young pass catchers will be fine and both still have top ten upside in this offense. It is clear a quarterback upgrade is necessary for the continued growth of these players, and all others, but that can be found in the 2014 NFL Draft. For now, they continue to be solid weekly starts and if an owner is concerned about how this might affect their value, pounce on either at a reduced price.
Willis McGahee, RB
Yes, I understand veteran running back Willis McGahee is not officially a Cleveland Brown, but rumors have him signing with the team soon and with the lack of depth at the running back position, it’s safe to assume he would quickly rise to the top of the depth chart. But, what can we expect? Let’s put it this way. In this offense and behind this offensive line, Richardson mightily struggled. So, we can’t expect anything more from an injury-riddled veteran like McGahee. My advice, and what I will be doing in my own leagues, is to leave McGahee to another owner. He’s just a waste of a roster spot in dynasty leagues.
Bobby Rainey, RB
Soon before the season began, the Browns claimed former Ravens backup running back Bobby Rainey on waivers and quickly released veteran Brandon Jackson. While Jackson was never a highly successful player, he’d been with the team several years and had been with the new coaching staff throughout the off-season and pre-season. It’s safe to say he was familiar with the system. That was not enough to keep him around, which is a good sign for Rainey, the young pro from Western Kentucky. Rainey has appeared in both games this season, but has yet to log a touch on offense. While I like Rainey’s long-term potential, he is not expected to rise to the starting running back position just yet. He is worthy of a stash in very deep leagues, but only because it is now nearly impossible to predict what Chudzinksi and Turner might do with the running back position.
Like the Browns, the Colts have been surprisingly disappointing through the season’s first two weeks, nearly losing to the Oakland Raiders before dropping a home game to the Miami Dolphins in week two. Also like the Browns, the Colts have dealt with early season injuries, losing one-half of their running back by committee, Vick Ballard, to a knee injury. The team also announced earlier today that tight end Dwayne Allen would undergo hip surgery that would cost him the remainder of the 2013 season. With two key players down and the offense struggling early, the Colts and general manager Ryan Grigson clearly felt a big move was in order.
What does this do to the value of Richardson and the rest of the Colts offense?
Trent Richardson, RB
This is a huge boost to the dynasty value of Richardson, who was stuck in a system that didn’t fit him and players that couldn’t help, namely quarterback Brandon Weeden. With the Colts, Richardson has a team intent on running the ball. The Colts have run the ball 26 times in each of the first two games – expect that number to rise and Richardson to get the large majority of those carries. With a crowded top tier of running backs, some owners were starting to doubt Richardson as a top dynasty option. This move should change all of that. If you already own Richardson, sit back and enjoy. If you don’t own him, it’s probably too late to change that now.
Andrew Luck, QB
While this acquisition might slightly affect quarterback Andrew Luck’s passing numbers for the worse, it is a huge move for him long-term. It will cause defenses to honor the run, truly opening up the offense for Luck and wide receivers TY Hilton and Reggie Wayne. Luck will obviously maintain his status as a top five dynasty quarterback, though again, his numbers could take a small hit. If this causes concern for the Luck owner in your league, take that as an invitation to make some offers for Luck.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
The dynasty value of running back Ahmad Bradshaw was all but gone this off-season. He was dealing with a recurring foot injury and had been let go by the Giants months earlier. There was seemingly little interest in the free agent running back until the Colts surprised everyone by signing him. Although official word never came from the coaching staff, most assumed Bradshaw would be the team’s starting back. He continued to deal with the injuries through much of training camp and when week one rolled around, Bradshaw carried the ball fewer times than Ballard, which led us to believe the two were in a full blown committee. When Ballard went down, fans began to speculate on the Colts next move. Some of the common names we’ve heard this pre-season were bandied about, including Willis McGahee, Beanie Wells and the like. Clearly, none of those strike fear into opposing defenses. Again, think about what the acquisition of Bradshaw by the Colts did for his fantasy value. Now, think about how much better Richardson is than Bradshaw. From a fantasy perspective, this is one of the biggest stories of the year, but it’s not good news for Bradshaw. He falls out of the committee and to the clear role as backup running back. His dynasty value is shot. If you own Bradshaw, go ahead and see what the Richardson owner will give you for him, but don’t expect much.
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