If you look at the St. Louis Rams 2012 Draft class, the upper tier of selections may be a little disappointing at this point in the season. Michael Brockers just returned from injury a few weeks ago, Isaiah Pead is non-existent, Rok Watkins is on the IR, Trumaine Johnson only plays in relief or in the in dime package, and Brian Quick is only playing about 14-20 snaps per game.
However, the Rams truly hit gold in the later rounds, picking up Greg Zuerlein in the 6th Round and Daryl Richardson in the 7th Round. Aside from the game against Miami, Zuerlein has been the MVP in St. Louis, hitting on his first 15 field goal attempts, including 4 from 50+ yards. He is the leading scorer on the team on the season and contributed 12 point in a 19-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Daryl Richardson may not be making as large of a dent in the scoreboard, but he is contributing just as much on the field. Richardson did not get a touch in the opening game against Detroit, although he was the first running back in the game behind Steven Jackson. In Week 2 against the Washington Redskins, Richardson got his first real taste of the NFL, spelling Jackson who ended up manning the sideline with a groin injury. Richardson got 15 carries for 85 yards and 2 catches for 19 yards on way to the 31-28 win by the St. Louis Rams.
With Jackson “returning” from injury, Richardson saw fewer carries in the next three games, rushing a total of 19 times for 67 yards and catching 3 passes for 17 yards. After a long week off following the Thursday Night Football matchup against the Arizona Cardinals and with Jackson’s name not on the injury report heading down to Miami for the Week 6 matchup against the Dolphins, many projected Richardson to get even fewer carries.
That was not the case, Richardson and Jackson essentially split the carries down the middle, giving Richardson 11 rushes for 76 yards, good for 6.9 per carry. He led the team in rushing against the “top ranked Miami rushing defense,” contributing to a 462 yard offensive performance by the St. Louis Rams. Only one player this season has had more “success” against Miami running the football, and that was Arian Foster, who had 26 carries for 79 yards in Week 1.
|Trent Richardson||Daryl Richardson|
|Draft Selection||1st Round, 3rd Overall||7th Round, 252nd Overall|
|Salary||4yr / $20.5M||4yr / $2.1M|
|College||University of Alabama||Abliene Christian (D-II)|
|Weight||230 lbs.||205 lbs.|
|Rushing Attempts||95 (74% of total)||47 (30%)|
|First Downs||11 (11.5% of rushes)||9 (19.1%)|
|20+ Yard Rush||1||2 (both for 40+)|
|Targets||31 (13% of total)||12 (6%)|
|First Downs||9 (40.9% of catches)||3 (42.8%)|
Living in Cleveland, OH, I know exactly how much Trent Richardson means to the city. Richardson was drafted to reshape a Cleveland offense that has vastly underachieved over the past decade, racking up miss after miss after miss on grabbing a “franchise” quarterback to lead the offense. This season, they started from scratch, becoming the first team in NFL history to start a rookie quarterback, rookie running back, and rookie wide receiver in the opening week of the season, and rolled the dice by taking Josh Gordon early in the supplemental draft.
If you watch the games, Trent Richardson has spurts of greatness, playing much like he did while he was at the University of Alabama. However, his play on the field is not equating to production on the field or wins on the scoreboard. Richardson was lights out against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, amassing 109 yards on 19 carries including both a rushing and receiving touchdown. However, he has only broke 50 yards in 2 out of the 6 games this season, and averaged under 3.0 yards per carries in 3 of those 6 games. He has already had two knee surgeries in his young career, regardless of the severe of the procedures. He is now nursing a rib injury sustained in the Cleveland Browns only win of the season over the Bengals last Sunday. Coincidence or not, the win came in a game where Richardson “split” the carries with Montario Hardesty, who led the team in rushing with 15 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. According to the Plain Dealer, Richardson noted that ”in my mind I’m ready for Sunday. I’ll be ready to play whole game.” However, rib injuries can quickly become a lingering issue if rushed, just ask Michael Vick or Tony Romo.
Clearly, Trent Richardson is the better talent, the more powerful back, and has shown the ability to play on the big stage. However, Daryl Richarson has outplayed nearly any running back in the league when he gets the opportunity to touch the rock. He is a threat to break it open on any given play, can beat a defense to the edge, and demonstrated that he can punch it in up the gut by bulldozing his way for the pivotal 2-point conversion in the win over the Washington Redskins. With Jackson “healthy,” Daryl Richardson will not be the feature back for the St. Louis Rams, nor will he typically see a 50/50 split in carries like he did against the Miami Dolphins. However, the current running back situation in St. Louis is eerily similar to the one in 2004 when Jackson was drafted in the first round as the heir to the Marshall Faulk throne. Jackson averaged 6-7 per game rushes for the first 11 contests as a rookie, before getting handed the full-time role later in the year, while Richardson has average 7.5 rushes per game through the first 6 games of this season. Jackson’s was recently granted the void in his contract that makes him a free agent at the conclusion of the 2012 season, meaning that a new era of running back could be starting St. Louis.
No one is claiming that Daryl Richarson is the better back than Trent Richardson, but that does not mean that he isn’t outperforming him when given the opportunity. Trent is being asked to carry a huge load on offense this season, already rushing 95 times (13th) and catching 22 passes (2nd among rookies at any position, 4th among all running backs, 53rd among all players). With that amount of touches, health with inevitably become an issue, which it already has heading into Week 7 of the regular season. On the other hand, Daryl Richardson, while handling roughly 30% of the rushing attempting, is averaging 5.2 yards per carry (2nd among rookies with 40+ attempts, 5th among all players with 40+ attempts), has two rushes for 40+ yards (1st among rookies, 2nd among all players), and has 9 rushed for first downs (5th among rookies). Most importantly, he does not get injured, and does not have a history of injury in the past.
In all actuality, it is too early to jump to conclusion in either direction. Hopefully both backs can maintain their health and have long, productive careers in the NFL. Go Ram and Browns, cheers to the bottom rising to the top!