In one of the most shocking in-season trades in NFL history, sophomore running back Trent Richardson has been dealt from the Cleveland Browns to the Indianapolis Colts.
Only 16 months ago, Richardson entered the league as the most highly-touted rookie back since Adrian Peterson, but there's a new regime in Cleveland now — one that has zero ties to that Richardson selection and clearly doesn't believe he's worth turning down a first-round selection.
They might be bang-on. Running backs are becoming less and less valuable in this pass-heavy league. Their shelf lives are short and they're often replaceable. Richardson has already dealt with a slew of nagging injuries the last year and a half, and he's averaging an abysmal 3.5 yards per carry 17 starts into his career.
Vick Ballard, who was drafted in the fifth round last year and is already on the Indy roster, had a more productive rookie campaign than Richardson. He's on injured reserve now, but is the gap between Ahmad Bradshaw and Richardson enough to merit surrendering a first-round selection, especially with Ballard stashed away for 2014? Bradshaw and Donald Brown were averaging 4.2 yards per carry, which is respectable.
Indy is getting a lot of upside. Obviously, Richardson's ceiling is probably higher than any of those backs already on the Colts' roster. But again, a first-round pick? That's steep for a back nowadays.
To get a feel for if the Colts have pulled off a coup, we'll have to see what happens to the 23-year-old over the next couple seasons. He does suit their power system nicely, but the expectation level is sky-high.
It's possible this is a win-win. The Browns could been missing out on something special, but the pick they're getting from Indy means they now have two selections in three of the first round rounds. If they use those selections as ammunition on the trade board and finally land that franchise quarterback they've been searching for since the dark ages, they'll forget Richardson ever wore burnt orange.