Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 9/19/13
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 supported by his almost constant injuries. Cleveland’s offensive line, while not perfect, is easily suitable. Joe Thomas and Alex Mack are both arguably the best in the game at their position. The second explanation is pretty much the reason the team has that kind of player in the first place: they are stupid. You don’t have to argue that the Browns are stupid, Brandon Weeden will do it for you. Top-five talent, particularly in this age of rookie-scaled contracts, is probably the most valuable non-quarterback commodity in the NFL. It’s the potential for a Pro Bowler at far below market value, giving you space under the salary cap for other players. Indianapolis now has a three-year window before Richardson, Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton all earn new contracts. They have three potential stars making very little money, an enormous competitive advantage that pulls their Super Bowl window open for two full years. If Cleveland had complete and utter faith that Trent Richardson will become a star, they wouldn’t have traded him. This is not a question of a rebuilding team attempting to add picks, this is about either a lack of faith or a lack of intelligence. One of the two is the explanation here. Explanation 1: Trent Richardson is a lemon. If you think this is true, your best bet is Richardson’s rookie year. He only ran for 3.6 yards per carry in 2012. That could be attributed to Cleveland’s lack of other weapons, but remember, the expectation was that Richardson would be a superstar from the start. In a similar situation in his rookie year, Adrian Peterson ran for 5.8 yards per carry. Both the much-maligned Darren McFadden and the forgotten Ronnie Brown ran for 4.4 in their rookie years. When a running back is drafted in the top-10, they are expected to produce star-level numbers right away. If Cleveland thinks that what they got out of Richardson last year was as far as he was going to go, then getting a first round pick back for him was the right move. Richardson defenders point to his injuries as a rookie to explain his low production. Among other things, he was playing with broken ribs. But in two games this year, Richardson hasn’t improved. This could leave members of the Cleveland organization to believe that one of two things are true: Richardson will never be healthy, or Richardson is healthy and will never be great. The downside to the health argument is that Richardson had a clean bill of health at Alabama. There was never a reason to believe he was coming into the NFL with the same issues that say, Ryan Mathews had. But the fact that he played at Alabama should be a red flag. His coaching and surrounding talent, particularly on the offensive line, was so good that it might have made him look better than he really is. He might’ve looked like a great player rather than just a good one. Richardson wasn’t an outright bust. He produced enough to make him look enticing to another team. If Cleveland thinks that what they got out of Richardson last year was as far as he was going to go, then getting a first round pick back for him was the right move. Remember, Richardson is a sunk cost. They’re never getting that No. 3 overall pick back. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the organization to maximize the value of what they did get with that pick. If that means turning the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 into the No. 23 overall pick in 2014, then so be it. It’d be better than holding onto a running back who won’t help them win a Super Bowl. Explanation 2: Cleveland is stupid. This one isn’t hard to wrap your head around. The Browns have made the playoffs once in the last 15 years. The best quarterback this version of the team has ever had is either Jeff Garcia or Kelly Holcomb. Romeo Crennel was their coach for four full seasons. New regimes typically want to bring in their own players, often at the expense of even the best ones picked by the guys they replaced. Mike Lombardi didn’t pick Trent Richardson, and since he hasn’t proven himself as a superstar, it makes sense that he’d want to take a shot at someone who he has evaluated himself. It’s a matter of hubris over common sense. In this case, Cleveland is giving up on a running back that many called the next Adrian Peterson only 17 games into his career. Even if his performance hasn’t been stellar, there’s plenty of reason to believe that Richardson will improve before he hits his prime. If you have a chance to add anyone with potentially elite talent to your team, you do it. Cleveland has no passing game. Indianapolis has a good, young passing game. It’s only going to get better, and as defenses focus more and more attention on Andrew Luck, it’ll open up more opportunities for Richardson. Cleveland also plays in a division with defenses designed to stop the run over the pass because their opponents tend to favor the run more on offense. The AFC South features one very good defense (Houston) and two bad ones (Jacksonville and Indianapolis). Those factors alone should foster improvement, but most of all, Richardson still has plenty of time. Regardless of what you think about his past performance, his Alabama pedigree or his injuries, Trent Richardson is still only a second-year running back who has only played for a bad team. Richardson is supremely talented, even if we aren’t sure just how talented he is. At the end of the day, talent is going to win out. Great teams have a way of stealing that kind of talent and using it to make deep playoff runs. The Patriots have a made a living off of doing it; just look at Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. If you have a chance to add anyone with potentially elite talent to your team, you do it. That’s why Indianapolis won this trade and Cleveland lost. They added someone who might be a superstar for less than market value, while Cleveland lost that player. In this instance, as in many others, the Browns made a stupid mistake.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Who should perform at Super Bowl 51?
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

U.S. Soccer hands Solo six month suspension for Olympic comments

Report: Josh Gordon will be restricted free agent after 2016

Chargers release statement on Joey Bosa situation

Yoenis Cespedes says he will not opt out of Mets contract

Zach Johnson unloads on Olympic golf

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Drew Brees says players do not trust league office, Goodell

Lawsuit over Hall of Fame Game refiled after McAfee comments

Report: Griffin plans to re-sign with Clippers, won't be traded

Report: Wentz unlikely to see any playing time this season

Minnesota Wild names Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ official goal song

Gabby Douglas joining judges for Miss America pageant

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for our favorite football movies

Hard not to be cynical about LeBron's 'Cleveland Hustles'

Familiar faces that won't be seen in the NFL this year

24 quintessential moments of Kobe Bryant's career

Revisiting the 10 biggest mistakes of the NFL offseason

One Gotta Go: NFL legends (and Jose Canseco!) have no love for Captain America

Four WNBA teams to pay attention to post-Olympic break

Madden 17 shows how vital a fresh coat of paint can be

Why people just can't get behind the Washington Nationals

Washington's Josh Norman speaks candidly about multiple NFL talking points

Derrick Rose: Knicks have chance to win every game

Ranking the MLB divisional races

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for our favorite football movies

Hard not to be cynical about LeBron James' 'Cleveland Hustles'

Ranking the uniforms of the NFL from worst to best

Familiar faces that won't be seen in the NFL this year

24 quintessential moments of Kobe Bryant's career

One Gotta Go: NFL legends (and Jose Canseco!) have no love for Captain America

Four WNBA teams to pay attention to post-Olympic break

Madden 17 shows how vital a fresh coat of paint can be

Why people just can't get behind the Washington Nationals

QUIZ: Name every player to win a championship with Kobe Bryant

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker