August 12, 2016 - Joe Mason
The Rise and Fall of Trent Richardson
As the 2012 NFL draft approached, Alabama running back Trent Richardson was viewed as a can’t miss prospect. Some said he was the best running back to come out of the college ranks in 15 years, while others were comparing him favorably to Adrian Peterson - who by then had run for more than 6,700 yards, 67 touchdowns and was about to embark on a campaign that would see him come close to breaking the single season rushing record - and why not…. in three years carrying the rock for the Tide, Richardson had amassed more than 3,000 yards rushing and scored 35 touchdowns, helping the program win two BCS National Championships. The first two picks of the draft were quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin, III, who went to Indianapolis and Washington respectively. After trading four draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings to move up from the fourth pick to the third, the Cleveland Browns selected Richardson with visions of building an offense around the strong running game he would provide. Richardson’s rookie season went fairly well. He played in 15 games, rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, but a 3.6 YPC average was cause for concern. After two subpar outings in the Browns first two games of the 2013 season, they traded him to the Colts for a first-round pick, but the new surroundings didn’t help. In his two years in Indy, Richardson barely managed to run for three yards per carry and was released after the 2014 season. The Oakland Raiders gave him a chance to earn a roster spot in 2015, but he could not. The Baltimore Ravens took a flier on him this offseason, but the results were the same. So how did a can’t miss prospect, with a stellar college resume go from first round pick to NFL draft bust lists? Three reasons: lack of ability in a key area for a running back, off-field distractions and injuries. Former Browns CEO Joe Banner (who did not join the team until October 2012, meaning he was not involved in the selection of Richardson) said the Browns traded him because he lacked vision. According to Banner, the inability to see where the running lane was going to be undermined the speed and power that Richardson possessed. Understanding blocking schemes and anticipating holes were not Richardson’s only problems. As the third overall pick in 2012, Richardson received a guaranteed $20.5 million contract and then the leeches moved in. Richardson was spending thousands of dollars a week for box seats for family and friends. He would also constantly get calls from those same people asking for money to bail them out of various financial issues and it clearly weighed on him. Finally, as is the case for many NFL players, the injury bug bit. Richardson had his knee scoped during the offseason, and even though he was in the Ravens camp, he spent the entire time on the physically unable to perform list until he was released. Despite the issues that have derailed his career, Richardson could still play in the NFL again at some point. It’s not inconceivable - or unfamiliar for that matter - to imagine a good team like the Patriots or Broncos taking a chance on a guy like Richardson. Even Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh recently said the Ravens may still have interest in him. Richardson certainly isn’t giving up on himself.