BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns weren’t going to let anyone block them from Trent Richardson.
Desperate for a playmaker to ignite a sputtering offense, the Browns traded three later picks to the Minnesota Vikings and moved up one spot to select Richardson, Alabama’s explosive running back, with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
The dynamic Richardson should make an immediate impact on a Cleveland offense that scored just 218 points last season and had just four rushing touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 228-pound Richardson scored 21 for the national champion Crimson Tide.
He’s passionate. He’s productive. He’s durable and he’s the kind of runner we feel is going to help us get our offense together to score the points that we need to win the games that we’re going to win, said Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who went 4-12 in a tumultuous first season. He’s a terrific runner.
Shurmur said the Browns were convinced a team would leapfrog them to select Richardson.
We knew that as we went through the process that he was our guy, Shurmur said. We did what we had to do to secure it. We knew teams behind us wanted him as well. We’re thrilled.
Richardson was stunned to be taken by the Browns.
I didn’t expect to go this high, he said after donning a Browns No. 1 jersey and baseball cap on the stage of New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
Richardson seemed destined in most mock drafts to be going to the Browns at No. 4, but about an hour before the draft, Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert pulled off his trade with Minnesota. Heckert sent the Vikings picks in the fourth (No. 118), fifth (139) and seventh (211) rounds to move up and select Richardson, who rushed for 1,679 yards last season.
It was a bold move by Heckert, who entered the draft with 13 selections and planned to use some of them to move if he really liked a player. Last year, Heckert passed up taking Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones at No. 6 and acquired extra picks from the Falcons. He used one of those – No. 118 – in the package for Richardson.
During the offseason, the Browns fell short in their pursuit for quarterback Robert Griffin III. Cleveland was outbid by Washington, which selected the Heisman Trophy winner second overall.
They weren’t about to lose out on getting the best runner.
He’s a terrific player and he’s going to be a really fine addition, Shurmur said. He’s going to be one of those players who are fans will be able to watch run the ball for a lot of years.
The Browns also had the No. 22 pick and chose quarterback Brandon Weedon of Oklahoma State.
In New York, Richardson was joined on stage by his two young daughters.
To them, this means they never have to go through what their daddy went through, said Richardson, recalling his mother worked two and three jobs while battling cancer as she raised him.
Richardson is viewed as the most complete back in this year’s draft.
He can run inside the tackles for tough yards and bust outside for long gains. Richardson made a strong impression on the Browns during his pro day at Alabama when he flattened Cleveland running backs coach Gary Brown during a blocking drill.
I’m pretty sure I got their attention when I knocked him down, Richardson said in a conference call.