As the NFL has become more of a passing league, the running back position has gone from being one of paramount value to at times – seemingly almost unimportant. This year two teams faced off in the Super Bowl playing essentially with a running back by committee; however I’d say that the talent for the Giants is a bit more than the true meaning of that phrase.
The point of all of this breaks down to where Alabama running back Trent Richardson should be valued in the draft. Many will argue that having a franchise tailback has become pointless. Some will contest that players like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson have carried their teams for years.
The truth is somewhere in the middle and it really comes down to the philosophy of who is making the pick and just how good you think Trent Richardson is.
I happen to think Trent Richardson is the second best back I’ve seen come out of the draft since I’ve been scouting the game, right behind Adrian Peterson. Also, I don’t put any other player at their position in the same category as the aforementioned players. My belief is that Richardson is that good.
If I were currently running an organization, the only players in front of Richardson on my board would be Andrew Luck, Morris Claiborne and Matt Kalil. Honestly, I’m not even firm on that opinion yet. Claiborne is also a player I feel is the best I’ve seen at his position in a long, long time, however Luck and Kalil are not. That ranking may change for me personally. Still, in the end a franchise quarterback and left tackle almost will always prevail in my mind when of close to equal value.
People will often point to Mark Ingram’s fall to the Saints last year as an example of what could happen to Richardson. The problem is, they aren’t similar players.
What Richardson did to SEC defenses was not human in his time with the Crimson Tide. His combination of size, speed and strength are absolutely mind-boggling. The young man literally looks like he’s cut out of granite, I’ve seen him carry the majority of LSU’s defense for 10 yards and also watched him hit and extra gear and blow corners out of the water with his speed.
If Richardson was doing this in the Big Ten or Pac 12 (I can’t get used to saying 12), I’d caution myself. Trent was doing things that the legendary Bo Jackson did at Auburn (hip injuries be damned).
Imagine for a second what the Vikings would be like without Adrian Peterson. I am not talking about taking away Chris Johnson from the Titans (he did that himself this year) or Maurice Jones-Drew from the Jaguars. I’m talking about the best tailback in the NFL out of an offense built around him. It would be total horror show.
My opinion is that Trent Richardson will mean that much to whichever team selects him in April. He is a 300-carry back who has the ability to not only carry a team, but make special things happen on his own. I would not let him slip by me at No. 4 if I was the Browns and if I was the Buccaneers at No. 5, I would pounce as well. Greg Schiano does love his franchise running backs; at least he tried and tried to get one at Rutgers until he finally did in Savon Huggins before moving to the NFL a year later.
The only way I would pass on him is if I can get what my colleague Tommy Lawlor coined, the “mixed brand”. Can I pull Morris Claiborne with an early pick and then land Lamar Miller or David Wilson by trading into the late 1st or holding tight in the 2nd?
That is a consideration and one I’d have to mull over given Claiborne’s awesome talent.
With all of that said though, in my opinion you don’t let Richardson out of the Top 5 come April.