The St. Louis Rams quietly have a very valuable asset on their offense, but he may not be quiet for long.
Drafted just ahead of the last selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, running back Daryl Richardson has been proving he is more than just a notch ahead of Mr. Irrelevant.
While Steven Jackson hasn’t looked at full speed for parts of the season due to a groin injury, Richardson has stepped in and had some electric runs. Jackson has 380 rushing yards on 101 carries this season, while Richardson has 282 on 55 carries.
Richardson ranks seventh in the league in average rushing yards (5.1) to lead all rookie running backs. With quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton ahead of him in the category, the only running backs with a better average are C.J. Spiller, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and Jamaal Charles.
Not bad company for a player who came close to not being drafted.
The 22-year-old from Abilene Christian also has 10 receptions for 102 yards.
Richardson has yet to score a touchdown this season, but has shown some sensational runs, including a 53-yard dash against the Washington Redskins in Week Two, and a 44-yard run against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 14.
One ESPN analyst even went as far as to suggest that the best running back named “Richardson” was Daryl and not No.3 overall draft pick Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns. Trent has 66 more rushing yards than Daryl, but has reached that number with 48 more carries.
The Rams have proven that they own a solid running game. While the passing game ranks 24th in the league, the ground game is 15th. Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the Rams’ running backs an “A” grade in their last game against the Green Bay Packers, and used the phrase “thunder and lightning” to describe Jackson and Richardson.
Richardson is indeed a speedster. His 40-yard dash was clocked at 4.47 seconds.
It is difficult to understand how a player with such quickness and talent could have dropped so low in the draft, but Richardson’s effort appears to be paying off.
"I can't say that I imagined it," said Richardson, earlier this week. "But I always had that mind-frame that I would try to come in here, work hard, and whatever happened, happened.''
Richardson has played so well that there has been some speculation that he we will become the feature running back should St. Louis deal Jackson at the Oct. 30 trade deadline.
There are still 10 more games to be played this season and it’s possible that Richardson achieved some success in his rookie season because teams were under-estimating him.
They more than likely are not doing that now.