Browns Punt 2013 Season Away

Nick Mensio
Nick Mensio checks in on Trent Richardson, the Browns' RB situation, Reggie Bush, and plenty of injury updates in Thursday's Dose

The Browns punted the 2013 season away by trading Trent Richardson to the Colts for a 2014 first-round pick Wednesday evening. There’s no denying it. However, it’s easy to see why both teams made the deal. The Colts are in win-now mode and just lost Vick Ballard to a season-ending knee injury, while the Browns started the season 0-2 and have turned their focus to the future under a new regime.

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Let’s look closer at the trade from the Browns’ perspective. Richardson started 17 games for Cleveland after Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur traded up and took him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. He rushed 298 times for 1,055 yards and 11 touchdowns in those 17 starts. That’s a meager 3.5 YPC average. Richardson also seemed to be battling some type of nagging injury for nearly all of his Browns tenure. New coach Rob Chudzinski and general manager Mike Lombardi felt the opportunity to acquire a second first-round pick for next year’s draft was too good to pass up. They know they need to find a quarterback after the previous regime wasted a 2012 first-rounder on a soon-to-be 30-year-old Brandon Weeden. Whatever their reasoning for trading Richardson, whether it be he didn’t fit the new offense, he was too injury-prone, or they simply didn’t believe Richardson was the stud back the previous regime thought he was, the Browns obviously felt a (likely) back-end first-round pick was of more use to them. Look for the Browns and Jaguars to duke it out for the worst record this season and put themselves in position to draft Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with the top pick in the draft. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd could also find his way into the conversation my early May.

We move on to Richardson’s new team and teammates in Indianapolis. As previously mentioned, the Colts lost Vick Ballard to a torn ACL last week. Although he was a middling talent, the coaching staff liked his ability to pick up the blitz and earn some tough yards. Ahmad Bradshaw was the next man up. The Colts like Bradshaw, but they clearly didn’t see his balky feet making it through a 16-game schedule. Under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, the Colts want to play smash-mouth football. They want to pound it on the ground to open up the passing game for Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and company. The Browns offensive line is a tad better than the one the Colts trot out every week, but defenses won’t be able to stack the box in an effort to stop the run like they did against Richardson in Cleveland. The talent gap between Weeden and Luck is enormous. Richardson gets a huge fantasy boost with the move to Indianapolis. He’ll soon become the every-down back once he learns the new offense. (It shouldn’t take more than a week or so. It’s the running back position.) Owners that didn’t sell low on Richardson after his slow start to the season are now dancing in the streets. He’s a legitimate RB1 for the rest of the season. Richardson, in all likelihood, will surpass 300 carries. He’s also going to catch passes out of the backfield in this West Coast offense. Also, in Indianapolis, Richardson is going to see plenty more goal-line looks than he did with the hapless Browns.

Back to the Browns really quick. Bobby Rainey sits atop the depth chart at running back. He’s the only running back the Browns list on the roster. (Cleveland lists Chris Ogbonnaya as its starting fullback.) Ogbonnaya is more running back than fullback, though. The Browns like him on passing downs and in pass protection. Willis McGahee is coming in for a Thursday physical. Chudzinski was his offensive coordinator way back in the day at the University of Miami. He’s going to take over as the lead back as long as everything checks out with his medical exam. McGahee battled a knee issue last season in Denver. He was cut by the Broncos is June. McGahee is the back to own here. In deeper leagues, we like Ogbonnaya more than Rainey. You can read more on this trade and the fantasy fallout from it here.

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News Nugget #2

Reggie Bush sat out practice Wednesday with his minor left knee injury, as expected. He’s shaping up as a game-time decision for Sunday’s juicy matchup in Washington, D.C. versus the Redskins. A report from Profootballtalk’s Mike Florio put Bush’s chances of suiting up at 50-50. That seems to be about right. We’re staring at a situation to track into the weekend. Though it would be tough to swallow as a Bush owner, we need to be prepared for him to sit out this week. Bush would be missing one of his best matchups of the season. If he indeed sits out, Joique Bell will carry the load in Bush’s absence. Intelligent, insightful fantasy owners should be penciling Bell into their lineups as a borderline RB1. He possesses the same skill set as Bush. Bell can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he also works well in space. We’d expect him to see 20-plus touches.

News Nugget #3

We’ll use this final news nugget as more of a check-in on star-studded players who failed to practice on Wednesday. There were a lot of them. I’ll hit on the top guys before rounding up the others in the “slants” below.

Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) was a no-go for the Cardinals on Wednesday. The expectation is that he’ll miss most, if not all, of the practice week before suiting up against the Saints on Sunday. We can confidently leave him plugged in fantasy lineups. Coach Bruce Arians even admitted Fitzgerald’s resume is great enough where he’s a guy who can play on Sundays without practicing at all during the week.

Roddy White remained out of practice with his high-ankle sprain. He’s been battling the injury since the second preseason game, and it’s only going to get better with rest. However, the Falcons aren’t resting him on game days. White has been playing around 50 percent of the snaps on game days, acting mainly as a decoy. We won’t be able to trust White in fantasy as much more than a high-risk WR3 until he gets back to practicing in full and plays his full lot of snaps on Sundays.

Andre Johnson is in the same boat as Fitzgerald. Johnson suffered a concussion in last weekend’s overtime win over the Titans. He didn’t practice Wednesday, and we wouldn’t expect him to do much leading up to Sunday’s game in Baltimore. He’s going to play, though. Johnson’s teammates are confident of that, and so are the people who cover the team daily. Treat Johnson as you normally would. He’s locked in as a WR1. Johnson leads the league in targets with 29 of them through two weeks.

Ray Rice sat out Wednesday with his banged-up hip. The Ravens have been pretty quiet on his status for the week. We’re not expecting to see him on the practice field. Bernard Pierce will likely carry the load against the Texans. Pierce will be a solid RB2 with potential to see 20-plus carries.

Eddie Lacy (concussion) was a spectator at practice. That, itself, is a good sign. It’s always a positive when a player dealing with concussion symptoms is on the field with his teammates instead of being holed up in a dark room. We still wouldn’t expect Lacy to play this week against the Bengals. Coach Mike McCarthy even confirmed that James Starks was going to get the start. Starks will carry the load, while rookie Johnathan Franklin mixes in. We can chalk Starks up for 15-plus carries. He’ll be a back-end RB2/flex option against a stout Cincinnati defense. Franklin may see a handful of touches.

Quarterback/Running Back Slants

Brandon Weeden (thumb) has been ruled out for Week 3. Brian Hoyer will get the start for the Browns. … Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) was limited in Dolphins practice. He’ll be fine for Sunday’s potential shootout versus the Falcons. … Colts GM Ryan Grigson confirmed he acquired Trent Richardson to key the team’s power running game. Ahmad Bradshaw is now the No. 2 and is purely a handcuff option. … Rashard Mendenhall (toe) missed practice Wednesday. It’s a new injury for him. … Mark Ingram (toe) sat out Wednesday. He’s off the fantasy radar. … Maurice Jones-Drew (ankle) didn’t practice. The Jaguars remain optimistic that he’ll play against the Seahawks. … Daryl Richardson’s foot is in a boot. He didn’t practice, but the Rams have given no inclination that he’ll miss this week.

Wide Receiver/Tight End Slants

Antonio Brown “confronted” OC Todd Haley in Monday night’s loss to the Bengals. He wants the ball more, and we can’t blame him. … Julio Jones (knee) was limited on Wednesday. He’s locked in as a top-three receiver this week. … T.Y. Hilton (groin) was limited in practice. He’ll be fine for Week 3 and is a weekly high-upside WR3 after last week’s return to rookie form. Darrius Heyward-Bey (shoulder) practiced. … Kendall Wright is dealing with a concussion. His status is up in the air. … Jeremy Kerley (concussion) practiced in full. … Dez Bryant (back) missed practice. He’s fully expected to play against the Rams. … Josh Gordon will start this week. He’s returning from a two-game suspension. Gordon may be auditioning for teams ahead of October’s trade deadline. Greg Little has been benched. … Kellen Winslow (knee) was limited in practice. It was a normal maintenance day for the veteran. … Heath Miller (knee) practiced in full. He may start this week. The Steelers need him. … Vernon Davis (hamstring) missed practice Wednesday. Keep an eye on him into the weekend. … Rob Gronkowski (back) says he’s seen “big time” progress. He’ll be a game-time decision this week. Zach Sudfeld (hamstring) practiced in full. The rookie isn’t a viable fantasy option. … Martellus Bennett (shoulder) was limited Wednesday. He’ll be all systems go against Pittsburgh. … Rob Housler (ankle) practiced for the first time this season. … Jermichael Finley (toe) sat out Wednesday. He’s fine and is locked in as a top-eight fantasy tight end. … Dwayne Allen (hip) was placed on season-ending injured reserve. It’s a big loss for the Colts both in the passing and running games. … Fred Davis was benched during last week’s loss. He’s going to continue to lose playing time to impressive rookie Jordan Reed.