How the Minnesota Vikings quietly won the Trent Richardson NFL Draft disaster

Trent Richardson signed with the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday in what could be in his last chance to make it in the NFL.

Richardson was drafted No. 3 overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2012. If he doesn’t resurrect his career in Oakland, he risks ending up on the list of the all-time draft busts.

Richardson had a decent season as a rookie, got traded to the Indianapolis Colts two games into the 2013 season, struggled, got benched, struggled again in 2014, and got suspended before getting cut in early March. He’s expected to file a grievance to get back his $US3 million in voided 2015 salary.

The Browns have been rightly praised (by us!) for selling high on Richardson, getting a 1st-round pick from Indy right before his value collapsed. But when you look at the sum total of what all these different teams gave up to get Richardson on their teams, the Browns and Colts both lost, and there’s only one winner: the Minnesota Vikings.

Back in 2012 the Vikings had the No. 3 pick in the draft. The Browns had the No. 4 pick. Terrified that another team would trade up and pick Richardson, Cleveland traded a boatload of picks to move up a single spot in the draft.

Here’s what the Vikings got for the No. 3 pick:

  • 1st-round pick (4th overall)
  • 4th-round pick (118th overall)
  • 5th-round pick (139th overall)
  • 7th-round pick (211th overall)

Even before you factor in Richardson’s performance, the Vikings won this trade. According to Chase Stuart’s draft value chart, the Vikings swapped 27.6 points of draft value for 33.7 points of draft value. All for moving back one pick.

When you consider how Richardson’s career has gone, it’s an even better deal. Richardson is going to go down as a below-average No. 3 overall pick. The player the Vikings picked at No. 4, guard Matt Kalil, has been better than Richardson. The 4th-round pick Minnesota got turned into Jarius Wright, who was the team’s 3rd-leading receiver in 2014. The 5th-round pick was Robert Blanton, who started 13 games in 2014.

The Vikings didn’t hit home runs with all these picks, but they got starters at three different positions out of it. This is what smart teams do. They don’t chase individual players in the draft, like the Browns did with Richardson. Bill Belichick — who trades back in the draft more often than anyone — has created the value of “the first overall pick, the second overall pick, and the 19th overall pick” in trades over the years, according to research by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell.

Cleveland was able to recoup some of this lost value by flipping Richardson to Indianapolis for a 1st-round pick (26th overall) a year later. They used that pick as part of a deal to move up and draft Johnny Manziel in 2014.

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