With so much cap space and nowhere to use it, the Raiders signed running back Trent Richardson to a two-year, $3.9 million deal. Many thought Oakland’s signing of third-down back Roy Helu would be their only foray into the free agent running back market, but, alas, they managed to surprise everybody. Richardson, the former third overall pick, will now move to his third team in less than two years.
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With Richardson, Oakland is getting a 24-year-old running back with 614 carries and a 3.3 yards per carry (YPC) who is expected to challenge Latavius Murray for the starting job. Richardson’s career started off well in 2012, when he rushed for 950 yards on 267 carries for a 3.6 YPC plus 11 touchdowns in his rookie year. He also added 51 catches for 367 receiving yards, which helped him finish as a top-10 fantasy running back that season. Most people were surprised when the Browns shipped him to Indianapolis two games into his sophomore season.
Since then, however, the Browns have been made to look like Nostradamus regarding Richardson’s production. In almost two full seasons with the Colts, Richardson managed just 977 yards on 316 carries for a measly 3.1 YPC, declining almost half a yard per carry since his peak/only year in Cleveland. He was routinely outplayed by reserves Daniel Herron and Donald Brown during his Colts career, which finally culminated in Richardson being benched in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. The Colts cut Richardson this offseason and now have nothing to show for the first-round pick they sacrificed.
The knock on Richardson has always been his ability to get past the line of scrimmage. Even as the Colts offensive line ranked 13th in run blocking last year, Richardson still ranked 49th out of 57 running backs in PFF’s run rating. Things shouldn’t get any easier in Oakland, where the Raiders offensive line ranked 24th last year. Even though they managed to sign PFF’s third-ranked center, Rodney Hudson, away from Kansas City, Richardson shouldn’t expect any more support from the offensive line in Oakland than he received in Indianapolis. In terms of fantasy relevance, he’s no better off in Oakland than he was in Indianapolis.
Of course, the biggest loser is Latavius Murray. The second-year running back burst on the scene with a 4/112/2 performance against Kansas City last year in what was Oakland’s first win of the season. Even taking out that insane Kansas City stat line, Murray still had a 4.0 YPC, a full yard per carry more than Richardson last year. Without veterans Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden around this year to vulture carries, it was widely assumed that Murray would be in line for the starting job and a bulk of the workload. There’s still plenty of time for Murray to beat out Richardson for the job, but it’s disheartening that the Raiders are again preventing their younger players from getting a chance. The silver lining could be Murray’s fantasy ADP dipping in light of recent events, making him more of a value in both re-draft and dynasty leagues.
The Richardson signing is similar to the signing of Maurice Jones-Drew last year when, seemingly, the Raiders saw something the rest of the NFL didn’t. However, there’s nothing to indicate this signing will turn out any better.
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