Trent Richardson PFF 2012

The Trent Richardson Trade: A Closer Look

As we all know now, the Colts made a big time trade Wednesday, sending their 2014 first round draft pick to Cleveland for second year running back Trent Richardson.  Richardson is widely regarded as a player with long-term star potential.  While he certainly is a big name, the jury is still out on whether he can live up to his potential. 

Colts Nation is somewhat split over the move, with many fans very excited and still others concerned over giving up so much for a running back.  While the price seems a bit reckless to me, especially with other needs on the roster, I hope to end up liking this move in the end.  Browns fans…well, they are not remotely pleased.  Richardson, the third pick in the 2012 draft, was widely considered their best offensive player, and not by a slim margin. 

So, what did the Colts get for next year’s 1st rounder?  Was it enough?  We’ll take a closer look at Richardson – both conventionally and through the microscope of advanced stats, and let you decide. (more after the jump)

Conventional Statistics

Richardson’s rookie statistics weren’t exactly stellar: 267 rushes for 950 yards, 3.6 yards per carry.  He did run for 11 touchdowns, however and was a factor in the passing game, finishing with 51 receptions for 367 yards and another touchdown.  For most of the year, defenses loaded up against the run and dared Cleveland's quarterback to beat them (the Browns averaged just 214.7 passing yards per game), though one would expect a great running back to be able to overcome a poor passing offense (such as the Vikings in recent years) and still average above four yards per rush. 

Here is’s take on their newest running back’s statistics:

Richardson ranked 10th in AFC in rushing last season.  His rushing total and touchdowns eclipsed Jim Brown’s rookie records from 1957 (942, nine).  Richardson had three 100-yard outings (at Cincinnati 9/16; vs. San Diego 10/28; vs. Baltimore 11/4), and his 51 receptions were seventh among NFL backs.  Richardson’s 1,317 scrimmage yards were third among NFL rookies and set a franchise seasonal mark.

Before we delve into the advanced stats, let’s take a quick look at other running backs taken in the top half of the NFL Draft over the past few years.  Each running back’s name has a link to their player profile with their career stats.  It’s a mixed bag, but overall, Richardson is in some decent company, excluding 2011, when the first running back came off the board at number 28 (Mark Ingram, Saints). 


Trent Richardson


3rd overall


C.J. Spiller


9th overall


Ryan Matthews


12th overall


Knowshon Moreno


12th overall


Darren McFadden


4th overall


Jonathan Stewart


13th overall


Adrian Peterson


7th overall


Marshawn Lynch


12th overall

Bills (Now w/Seattle)


Advanced Stats

Richardson was ranked 34th in rushing success rate (43%) in 2012, according to Football Outsiders.  For comparison, the Colts’ Vick Ballard, also a rookie last year, had a moderately higher success rate of 48%, which bumped his rank to 18th.  Ballard, running with an offensive line that was well documented for its struggles, had a better (or less bad) overall DVOA than Richardson, though, -7.4% versus -13.3%. 

Does that mean Indy acquired a back who isn’t any better than Vick Ballard, or does it mean Richardson played on a team against which opponents had no respect for the passing game?  Will Richardson fare better with the Colts, against whom it is foolish to stack the box on every play?  Time will tell. 

For our second set of advanced statistics, we’ll turn to Pro Football Focus.  Below is a chart of Trent Richardson’s individual game grades from 2012.  You can click here for more on PFF’s grading system if you’re new to it.  Otherwise, zero is average, positive is good, negative is bad.   

Based on this, it would appear the newest Colt had more good games than bad as a rookie.  He wasn’t spectacular, but he showed the potential to be a game-changer early on, as well as three games in which he definitely looked like a rookie. 

It looks as though Richardson both settled in and hit a bit of a wall after the bye in week 10.  He didn’t have any outstanding performances by PFF’s standards in weeks 11-17, but he also didn’t have any games in which he noticeably hurt his team, as he had earlier in the year.  It’s possible he may have worn down a bit, as rookies often do, while still learning to avoid some of the types of plays that earned him those three exceptionally low grades before the bye. 

So, what did the Colts get here?  We know the hefty price they paid, and we know Richardson has potential.  It’s difficult to say, though, where Ryan Grigson’s 16th trade as the Colts’ GM is going to take the team with little more than Richardson’s rookie season to examine.  There has been plenty of debate – some of it heated, so we're going to take a more light-hearted approach to the best and worst-case scenarios for how this trade could play out. 

The worst-case scenario, or as they might say on NBC’s Community, the Darkest Timeline: Richardson never quite lives up to his billing, managing just 3.3 ypc in 2013.  The Colts force a power rushing offense upon themselves, attempting to grind out games in a 1950’s style cloud of dust, while the league’s elite teams break passing records and throw their way into the playoffs (including, ironically, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens).    

Cleveland drafts a future hall of famer with the pick acquired from Indy, and T-Rich and Vontae Davis, Ryan Grigson’s two biggest trade acquisitions, end up out of football, hosting Trent and Vontae in the Morning, a television show watched by no one.  The Colts’ beloved coaches and GM are run out of town after accidentally starting a fire with Mr. Irsay’s Serbian rum.  Okay, that last part is a little out there, even if you watch the referenced television series.  Remember, darkest timeline.  And now for the happy version. 

The best-case scenario, or, staying true to the Community theme, the "Prime Timeline:" Richardson becomes the next Edgerrin James, both in rushing and proper dreadlock-growing abilities.  Andrew Luck thrives with his new running back.  They quickly build up a rapport becoming one of the most deadly play action duos since Peyton and Edge lit up the scoreboards in the early 2000s (and Ol' Pep calls for the play action at all the right times).  The two players bring their offensive linemen along to the Pro Bowl, even though none of them received any actual Pro Bowl votes. 

Trent Richardson rushes for 1050 yards at 4.6 per carry with 12 touchdowns and catches 45 passes for 350 yards and three more touchdowns, all while occasionally splitting time with Ahmad Bradshaw or Donald Brown, whichever is healthy.  Andrew Luck throws for over 4000 yards again with 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing a veteran-like 67% of his passes. 
Teams have to pick their poison on defense when facing the Colts.  If they zero in on Luck and his receivers, Richardson and Bradshaw will make them pay; eventually opening up Indy’s potent passing attack.  If they focus on the run, Luck, Wayne, Hilton, DHB, and Fleener will shred them to bits, thus setting up the running game to close things out.  The team heads to the playoffs, and Jim Irsay tweets something epic. 

Reality, of course, is likely somewhere in between, although the hypothetical stats are meant to be somewhat realistic. 

In Indianapolis, Trent Richardson has to opportunity to be a dynamic rushing compliment to a very strong passing attack if all goes well.  The question is whether the Colts front office wants to build a dynamic passing attack.  What do all of you think?  Are we headed toward the 'darkest timeline,' or a truly fun 2013 season?  If you don’t normally comment, it’s actually quite easy to sign in.  So, please, fire away. 

Marcus Dugan

About Marcus Dugan

Marcus is a husband, dad, twitter geek, and all around average guy who covers news, game recaps, and additional material for The Colts Authority, while working even harder as an Indy area real estate broker. He's been known to overuse parentheses while editorializing (but who doesn't?)