As strong as the focus has been on this year’s rookie quarterback class, the rookie running backs have been just as sensational. Redskins sixth-round pick Alfred Morris finished second in the league in rushing yards (1,613) and rushing touchdowns (13). Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin had a gigantic 251-yard game, highlighting a season with 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
But lost in the conversation was 4th overall pick Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns. The Alabama product was the highest-drafted running back since Ronnie Brown went 2nd overall out of Auburn in 2005, and he went even higher than 2000-yard rusher Adrian Peterson (7th in 2007).
Richardson finished the year with 267 carries for 950 yards (3.56 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns, plus 367 yards and another touchdown on 51 receptions, which was the third-best total among running backs with at least 200 carries. Richardson also finished the year as the 7th ranked fantasy running back, after many deemed him a potential bust as a high fantasy draft pick. Turns out, he played most of this excellent rookie campaign with two broken ribs, as reported by David I. Anderson of The Plain Dealer.
As Richardson says in the interview, the knee injuries that plagued him during the offseason were not an issue throughout this season.
This guy is an extremely tough running back who could be a fixture of the league for many years to come. But for that to happen, the Browns are going to have to break their string of mediocrity and become a major competitor in the NFL. That could be much easier if the Browns hire a high-profile head coach, such as Nick Saban, Richardson’s coach at Alabama and an assistant coach in Cleveland under Bill Belichick.