Speak some truth to us, Tony Grossi.
The ESPN Cleveland reporter was asked to put a percentage on the likelihood that we get a Trent Richardson sighting this week during the Browns’ regular-season finale. His response? The lowest percentage possible. As in no percentage. Zero.
Grossi has confirmed what we all know to be true: Richardson almost definitely won’t play against the Steelers, because there’s absolutely no point in Richardson playing against anyone this week. The rookie has been battling an ankle injury, and he’s taken a pounding this year while playing through several other various bruises and bumps and such.
This is another often overlooked reason why fantasy leagues need to avoid a Week 17 championship if it’s at all possible. If you’re in one of those leagues, your focus is undoubtedly on the players whose teams have sealed their playoff fate, and therefore valuable starters will be benched. And sure, that should be a central part of your strategy. Mike Smith can play all the verbal poker he wants, but it’s highly unlikely that Matt Ryan plays a full game. So you have to decide if, say, one half from Ryan is better than a full game from whatever mid-level QB2 is stashed on your bench. Yeah, good luck, kid.
But there are also the Richardsons of the fake football kingdom. Last April the Browns made the rare decision to select a running back with a top five pick, and Richardson is therefore set to be an offensive anchor for at minimum the next five years, and hopefully more. So if he’s even the least bit hobbled, there’s nothing to gain from trotting him out to play for a six-win team in a game devoid of any meaning.
Montario Hardesty is the next man up, and Richardson owners need to add him immediately. In a tough matchup against the Steelers he’s only a flex option.
Richardson will end his first year with 905 rushing yards, 367 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns. That scoring saved his fantasy value, with six of his touchdowns coming since Week 12. But he hit the rookie wall hard, recording only 123 rushing yards over his last three games, which lowered his per carry average on the season to a plodding 3.6. Still, he showed burst often, and a recovered and rejuvenated Richardson will be an early-round pick next August, and a low-end RB1.