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Trent Richardson Aftermath: the Good and Bad of the Blockbuster Trade

I was sitting in my house yesterday, getting ready to for a bike ride. I'd caught up with the tweets, emails and what not for the afternoon (mostly dealing with Dwayne Allen's awful news), and was ready to take a few minutes to relax before settling in for my nightly writing. 

As I went out the door, I got a message from Greg about something Colts related.

I assumed that he was still depressed by the Allen news. So, I figured it could wait. 

About 25 minutes later I returned, and immediately was hit with news which I never would have guessed. 

The Colts had traded their first-round pick to Cleveland for running back Trent Richardson. 

I thought it was a joke. That kind of trade doesn't happen. Right? 

Well it did, for better or worse. And there are several parts of the better and the worse that we should discuss before either pre-ordering Richardson Colts jerseys or burning our Jim Irsay action figures. 

Side Note: I would definitely buy a Jim Irsay action figure. I imagine it would have him riding a rearing, fire-spitting black stallion while defiantly raising his Colts guitar. So something like this: 

Let's start with the negative, solely so we can end on a good note. 

Why Trading For Trent Richardson Is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea

The main reason why so many fans and analysts have railed against this trade for Indianapolis is because running back is an overrated position. 

You can get running backs that will produce from almost any place in the draft. You can get them on the street or the grocery store. How productive your running game is much more dependent on a team's offensive line and how much of a threat their quarterback is. Obviously, a better running back is better (and Richardson is certainly an upgrade), but the overall success, unless it's a transcendent talent, is moreso affected by other factors. 

I wouldn't spend a first-round pick on a running back ever, personally, unless it was a transcendent talent. 

Second, running back doesn't even get on my list of top ten biggest needs on the 2013 roster.

That list, in case you were wondering, goes a little something like this: 

1. Pass rusher on the outside

2. Right guard

3. Center

4. Interior defensive lineman that can rush the passer

5. Better cornerbacks

6. Future No. 1 receiver to replace Reggie Wayne

7. A fullback

7. Offensive line depth

8. Outside linebacker depth

9. A ball-hawking safety

10. Seriously you can never have enough fullbacks

10. OK maybe at this point you can upgrade the running back spot

My point is, the Colts have far bigger, more pressing issues than upgrading the running back position. So trading a first-round pick that would probably be in the 14-22 range is a bit irksome. No longer can the Colts take a top-notch pass rusher, stud defensive lineman or future No. 1 wide receiver with that pick. No, rather, it was used on a running back, which, in principle, I hate. 

A snippet from Greg and I's reactionary chat: 

But the biggest issue with this trade is the team's philosophy that it is both revealing and enabling: the power-run/#RunToWin philosophy. 

The Colts seemingly will do anything they can to be able to "impose their will" as a power-running team. Unfortunately, they simply don't have the personnel to do that. They don't have the offensive line and they don't have the defense to control the opposing team's offense. Our reader Heracleitus put it best yesterday: 

I couldn't put it better myself. 

The Colts want to win now. While their core is all very young (Luck, Richardson, Hilton, Fleener, Allen namely), their contracts are also all going to be up at the same time in three years, and the team will be forced to choose. So basically, you have a three year window that you want to take advantage of. 

The high-quality running back isn't going to be the step that puts you over the edge UNTIL YOU HAVE THE OFFENSIVE LINE TO GO WITH IT (both for run blocking and pass protection, which is a major drawback to this team right now). 

It will be at least one more year before the offensive line is "fixed," and assuming it will be fixed next season is probably a big assumption to make. 

The bottom line is, the Colts want to win, but I don't think that for 2013, Richardson really helps them in that regard. Long-term, it could be great, but the contracts are going to be an issue by then. 

Why Trading for Trent Richardson Makes Ryan Grigson the Smartest Person to Ever Reside in Indiana the World

All that being said, there definitely are benefits to having a guy like Richardson on the roster. 

When running the ball, the biggest reason, in my opinion, is short yardage situations. Richardson is a powerful back with a nose for the end zone, and the Colts have struggled recently in short yardage. 

Richardson has scored eight rushing touchdowns in goal-to-go situations in his NFL career, fifth-most since the start of last season.  The Colts best goal-to-go rusher during that time has been Luck, whose five touchdowns match the total from the Colts running backs combined. 

The Colts' inability to pick up the yard on third down has killed them over the last few weeks, so if Richardson can help them improve there, they may see their scoring totals raise. 

Richardson is also a pretty decent weapon in the passing game, something that will allow the Colts to have a lot of flexibility when using him as a three-down back. Richardson was graded at +3.8 by Pro Football Focus last year in the Pass category, 12th among 59 running backs. 

The most important area that Richardson can aid in, however, is play action. 

Even if the Colts' offensive line is bad, Richardson will get a bit more respect from defensive units than Ballard would have. In Cleveland, Richardson was the guy you game plan for. Ballard/Bradshaw/Brown are not. 

Luck was much better in play action than not last season, as his completion percentage rose by 11.5% and his YPA rose by 2.8 yards. If Richardson allows the Colts to run it even more effectively, great things could happen. 

Overall, Richardson does improve the Colts' offense. He's a big upgrade in terms of talent and potential, and he and Luck, Allen and Hilton (possibly Fleener) could be an elite group of skill players. The potential is there, but will it come soon enough? 

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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