Only one top-five pick has been traded before being declared an outright bust in the past decade: Gaines Adams. Before passing away, Adams had played over two full seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before getting shipped to the Chicago Bears. Trent Richardson has played in only 17 games for the Browns.
There’s a reason top-five picks are so rarely traded. They were top-five picks in the first place. They have more physical talent than everyone else, and teams, particularly the rebuilding teams that have such players, don’t like giving up that kind of young talent.
There are two exceptions to that rule, both of which are fairly simple. The first is that the player is a lemon, and the team wants to dump him before the rest of the league figures it out.
In the case of Trent Richardson, you could make a convincing argument that Cleveland knows more than the rest of us and that he’ll never be a star in the NFL. It would explain his low YPC (3.5 in his career), and would be supporte...