Three and out: Is Richardson’s value over-hyped?

I’m already on record as saying that I think Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson will finish in the top 10 in fantasy points at his position this season. Some believe he’s being over-hyped, however. That’s due in large part to the negative statistical trend of the first runner taken in recent NFL drafts. And I’ll admit, it’s a pretty ugly trend.

In 2011, Mark Ingram finished just 45th among running backs. C.J. Spiller was a non-factor in 2010, but Knowshown Moreno did finish in the top 20 in fantasy points at his position in 2009. The first runner drafted in 2008 was Darren McFadden, and we all know how that turned out (not good). Adrian Peterson had a nice rookie year in 2007, rushing for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns. Clearly, at least for the most part, A.D. has been the exception to the rule.

Here’s my rebuttal to this trend:

Ingram was mired in a backfield committee and missed time due to injuries. Spiller flat-out failed to pass Fred Jackson on the depth chart in Buffalo. Moreno had a respectable rookie campaign, but he lost work to Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan. Last, McFadden dealt with injuries and the presence of both Justin Fargas and Michael Bush in his first pro season.

Tell me, if you can, who is going to take carries away from Richardson in Cleveland? Montario Hardesty? Brandon Jackson? Chris Ogbonnaya? I think not. And for those of you worried about Richardson playing in the formidable AFC North, well, there was a guy by the name of Peyton Hillis who absolutely shredded that entire division just two short years ago.

Also take into consideration that Richardson will be a true featured back. He’s not coming out of the game for a third-down replacement. He’ll be in the backfield on passing downs. Furthermore, he’s been called the best runner to come out of college since, you guessed it, Peterson in 2007.

Now I will admit, taking a rookie to be your top fantasy back is a risk. But in this case, and entering a season where the running back position is loaded with injuries and committees, I think Richardson is well-worth the gamble in the second round of seasonal leagues.

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