By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
NEW YORK – In the end, this was the move that made the most sense.
The Browns desperately needed to land a difference-making player in the 2012 draft. They could not take the risk of sitting at No. 4 and hoping that Trent Richardson – the most dynamic force in this year’s college crop outside of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III – would be available for them to take.
Hope is not a strategy.
Making a trade with the Minnesota Vikings to move up one spot to assure themselves of getting Richardson was. And the Browns did the somewhat bold and extremely smart thing by pulling off that deal.
Now, the team has someone it can count on to make an enormous impact right away … and for years to come.
Yes, Richardson is a running back, and, yes, the NFL is a pass-first league. However, his presence in the Browns’ backfield should go a long way toward enhancing their passing game. He will force opposing defenses to put a safety in the box and, therefore, leave an extra hole to be exploited through the air.
Richardson also is a superb receiver out of the backfield and can also be split wide. In addition, he can help in pass protection.
Most of all, though, he is a highly effective ball-carrier. He can pound out the tough yards between the tackles. He can explode for long gains up the middle and outside. He is the multi-dimensional running back talent that the Browns haven’t had in a long time. As strong a season as Peyton Hillis had in 2010, he still wasn’t what you could call highly versatile. He did a nice job of catching the ball, but the bulk of his damage on the ground came through straight-ahead, power running. And he wasn’t able to sustain that high level of performance in 2011.
The majority of draft evaluators with whom I’ve spoken say Richardson has the talent to consistently produce at an elite level. And with Richardson running well, the Browns should be able to get much more from the passing game that Pat Shurmur installed last year and will have a full offseason, training camp, and preseason to enhance.
I have no problem whatsoever with the fact the Browns parted with fourth-, fifth-, and seventh-round choices to acquire the pick to land Richardson.
In the long run, those players are unlikely to make the individual or even collective impact that Richardson will make. When you have a conviction on a player, as the Browns did with Richardson, you have to do what you can (within reason) to get him. This transaction fell in the parameters of being “within reason.”
The Browns can do something they haven’t been able to do for much of this offseason, and that’s give their fans a reason to feel excited and hopeful.
That’s what dynamic players such as Trent Richardson do.
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