Now that the job is his, the expectations are enormous.
Richardson signed with Alabama as one of the most highly touted prep prospects in the country. He's flashed a jaw-dropping combination of speed and power as the Tide's primary kick returner and as change of pace option, leading the team with 36 "explosive" plays of 15 yards or more last season. Despite only starting two games over his career (with Ingram sidelined with a knee sprain), he enters his junior season having already rushed for 1,451 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield, having caught 39 passes for 392 yards and four scores (all in 2011), as well.
As well-built as any player in the country, Richardson is an imposing opponent for defenders. Fast enough to beat linebackers to the edge or pull away when he breaks free, Richardson is also a bull to bring down.
It remains to be seen if he has the vision and low center of gravity that made Ingram special, but in terms of natural talent, he's actually a step up from the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.
Inside: Powerful runner well suited to running inside the tackles. Quickly presses the line of scrimmage, attacking the hole when it is there. Shows the patience to allow the hole to develop, however, and has the vision and burst to bounce outside should there be a better opportunity available there. Possesses an exciting combination of acceleration and agility to elude defenders. Seems to relish physical contact, lowering his shoulder into would-be tacklers and running through many of them. Rarely goes down with initial contact, showing a stiff-arm and the leg drive to bowl over defenders. Wraps the ball securely in tight quarters and has only one fumble (LSU, 2010) in 321 career touches (entering 2011 season).
Outside: Significantly faster than his relatively short, thick-frame would lead you to believe. Beats the linebackers to the edge and can plant either foot in the ground and spring forward quickly, showing surprising acceleration. Possesses very good vision for cutback lanes, showing a willingness to cut back against the grain inside or break it outside depending on where he sees the defense leaning. Has the speed to pull away from defenders when he enters the open field. Switches the ball to his outside arm to help protect it as he nears the sideline.
Breaking Tackles: Probably Richardson's most impressive trait. Often he is the one initiating the contact rather than the defenders, providing them little to target than his helmet, shoulder and knee pads. Keeps his legs driving through contact and literally runs over some opponents. Features a terrific stiff-arm, as well as a spin off of contact and the ability to leap over defenders attempting to cut his legs out from under him.
Blocking: Physical blocker whose intensity and power make him a potentially lethal weapon in the blocking game. Can be confused by exotic blitzes, sometimes technically picking up the wrong defender, but is willing to lay out to meet his assignment in the hole. Gets low and explodes into the defender, making the emphatic block. Would like to see him remain on his feet and square so as to protect his quarterback (and his own body) longer.
Receiving: Possesses soft, generally reliable hands out of the backfield. Is comfortable catching the ball outside of his frame, extending to pluck it and secure it quickly before worrying about oncoming defenders. Used on a variety of routes in this offense, showing the speed and fluidity to get open on wheel and quick screens, as well as traditional swing passes. Muffed a punt against Duke (2010) on a kickoff return, only to recover it and run 91 yards for a touchdown...
Intangibles: Signed with Alabama as a consensus five-star recruit and rated by some scouting services among the elite prospects at any position in the entire country. Possesses an almost unheard combination of size, strength and speed. Boasts a power clean of 365 pounds, a 600 pound squat and a bench press of 475 pounds. Has reportedly been timed by the Alabama coaching staff in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash. His work ethic in the weight-room has been characterized as "legendary." Underwent surgery following his sophomore season in high school to repair torn ligaments in his ankle... Has two daughters (Taliyah, age four and Elevera, age three)..."
--By Rob Rang
The guy breaks about as many tackles as I've seen at the college level since Adrian Peterson. Showcases a "plus" initial burst when asked to press the hole, reaches top end speed quickly and runs with good forward lean.
Exhibits natural bend in the knees when picking his way through traffic and showcases the foot quickness and fluidity to make sharp/sudden cuts at full speed and make defenders miss in tight areas.
Isn't a dynamic make you miss athlete from a standstill position. However, he's patient when asked to set up blocks, exhibits impressive power/balance in his lower half allowing him to step through would be tackles and create a ton of yards through contact.
Loves to create collisions and is the kind of guy who is going to shorten his shelf life in the NFL because of it. However, possesses the physical make-up to consistently run through arm tackles, run over defenders and keep the chains moving. Is also adept running from the gun.
Sells the misdirection well, but likes to get his legs churning quickly up the field. Is also a much better perimeter runner than given credit for, accelerating around the edge with good bend and sharply putting his foot in the ground when side stepping a defender.
Has really improved his patience and overall feel between the tackles from a year ago as well. Does a much better job picking his way through traffic, setting up blocks and than accelerating through daylight, as opposed to simply trying out sprit and run over any defender in his path.
Lacks elite top end speed and isn't a guy who can simply outpace angles at the second level. However, is still a big play threat because of his ability to make defenders miss and break tackles at the second level.
Is much more agile/sudden than given credit for and will catch the football out of the backfield as well. Has the frame and toughness to hold his own in blitz pick-up and is a guy who can play all three downs in the NFL.
Impression: The best running back prospect I've seen since Adrian Peterson. His running style might limit his shell life a bit in the NFL. However, he's the kind of back you can ride like a rented mule from day one and should become one of the NFL's top runners early on."
Outside Running: The most surprising feature about Richardson is his speed. Everyone is aware of his power but Richardson is equally dangerous when he gets to the edge. His excellent vision allows him to quickly hit the hole and his speed gets him to the outside. Reports have Richardson running in the low 4.4 range for someone that tips the scales at almost 230 pounds. He’s not going to win matchups on just shear speed but his blend of power and speed are overwhelming.
Vision: Richardson’s vision and patience put him over the top from being a very good back to elite company in terms of NFL runners. Richardson has a way of making himself small to fit through tiny creases in the defense. His ability to spot the cutback lane is second to none in this draft class.
Hands: Richardson isn’t called on to catch the ball out of the backfield often but has pass catching abilities. He won’t be a guy that needs to come off the field in passing situations but is not suited in a pass happy offense that requires the RB to catch a ton of swing passes. I don’t think he’s a two down back in the NFL but he’s not going to make his living off catching passes.
Blocking/Durability: Richardson is the best blocking running backs to come out of college. This is usually a skill RB’s pick up at the NFL level. Richardson is a more than willing blocker with solid eyes and feel for pass rushers. Despite being dinged in 2010, he has carried the load for all of the 2011 season. Richardson is a workout warrior that reportedly bench presses 465 pounds
Bottom Line: While it may seem the NFL is devaluing the RB position, Trent Richardson is sure to challenge that assessment. A top 5 talent that is as complete as any RB in recent history. Richardson is set to make an NFL team very happy and challenge the thought process of anyone that says it’s a passing league.
Draft Projection: A top 5 pack is a rarity because of the prevalence of two back systems and the short shelf life but Richardson is that good. If he falls past 5 in this draft, someone is getting a bargain."
Elusiveness: If a zone-blocking team wanted a one-cut runner, Richardson could fit the ball. That's not to say he's limited to that scheme, however. It's a testament to his vision and footwork. He's agile enough to juke even the quickest of defenders. Was used as a sophomore on kick returns, where he took one 91 yards for a touchdown.
Pass Blocking/Catching: Richardson is adequate as a pass receiver. He was used more on swing plays as a junior, and is a good check-down option in the short-to-middle area. Still coming along as a pass blocker. The tools will there, the repetitions are not.
Power: Arguably the strongest running back in the nation, which makes him hard to take down on first contact. Easily works through lazy tackles and often requires more than one player to take him down. When Richardson is running down hill with his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, he's strong enough to just power over defenders. Richardson is a workout warrior who's weight room ethic translates to the field. According to reports, Richardson can bench press 465 pounds and "easily" squat 600 pounds.
Speed: According to some timed reports at Alabama, Richardson runs in the 4.4 range. More importantly, he plays up to that speed. Most fast running backs need an open lane to get up to speed. Not Richardson. His high-end speed comes as immediately as any running back the past few years.
Vision: Displays good patience behind the line of scrimmage to wait on a hole to develop. When there isn't one, Richardson is smart enough to try and get to the outside. Consistently keeps his legs moving after contact and has the power to extend plays a few yards. Because of that, Richardson will be able to take the ball in short-yardage situations. Likes to engage contact. That served Richardson well in college, but may not in the NFL.
Final Word: When reviewing Richardson's game, it's hard to find negatives. He's a complete running back in every sense and would be the rare running back worth an early first-round pick. He finished his junior season with 1,679 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns. He also caught 29 passes for 338 yard and three more scores.
One concern that could be made against Richardson is that he split carries throughout his career at Alabama. Following this year's national title game, Tide head coach Nick Saban also admitted Richardson wore down in some games during the year. He also struggled through a knee injury and other small injuries as a sophomore."
Stoutly built back with a thick lower body and excellent leg drive; keeps pads low and feet moving after contact and is tough to bring down; known as a weight-room workout warrior with exceptional strength; also has track speed with a personal best of 10.5 seconds in the 100M;
Has good vision and can explode upfield, but can be indecisive at times and will dance in the hole; dangerous runner after the catch, although he only has average hands;
Also a very good KO returner who averaged over 26 yards a try last fall; still has to prove that he can handle 20 carries every game especially after missing a couple of games last fall with a minor knee injury."
Does a good job of always heading up the field, doesn't dance much... Breaks a ton of tackles, will run through arm tackles as if they aren't even there, he just continues moving and seems to always pick up that extra half yard... Relishes contact, often lowers his shoulder and bulls through defenders... Impressive leg drive, doesn't give up...
Thick lower body, huge thighs and is very tough to bring down... Great vision, does a good job of finding the hole and finds his cut back lanes... Good ability as a pass blocker, played in a pro-style offense at Alabama that prepared him well for blitz pickups...
Good hands and runs good routes out of the backfield, will be able to contribute on all three downs at the next level... His workout numbers should be similar to those of Adrian Peterson to give you an idea of how much of a freak athlete he is... No major injuries during his time in college... Played at the highest level of competition in the SEC...
Doesn't have much tread on his tires, he was able to play behind Mark Ingram for his first two years... Put up huge numbers as a junior with 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground... Known as a gym rat and a workout warrior, constantly in the weight room...
Reportedly has a 600 pound squat and can bench 475 pounds while only weighing roughly 220 pounds... Incredible work ethic... Extremely high upside, has all the makings of a future Pro Bowler.
Negatives -- Doesn't have a ton of open field moves, relies more on sheer strength and power... Has great initial quickness but doesn't have elite long-speed, can get chased from behind at the second level... Underwent ankle surgery in high school."