Does Signing Trent Richardson Make Sense for the Oakland Raiders?

Trent Richardson has been one of the least efficient backs in the league for three seasons. Why did Oakland sign him?

By this point in NFL free agency, pickings are quite slim.

After the marquee running backs had been signed, the Oakland Raiders still felt the need to fill up the backfield. Maurice Jones-Drew retired after a very respectable career and Darren McFadden, who has been the least efficient runner in the past three years, joined the Cowboys.

After these moves, the Raiders must not have felt comfortable with Latavius Murray as the clear-cut, go-to running back, despite his potential in the new-look offense.

Is there reason to believe, though, that Richardson can give the Raiders a boost?

Not really, according to our analytics.

Richardson's Metrics

At numberFire, we deal with a metric called Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP works to quantify a player's production in terms of the number of points he adds or subtracts from his team's ultimate scoring chances.

For example, if Richardson converts a 3rd-and-2 for a first down, he helps extend a drive and, therefore, adds theoretical points to his team's scoring. If he rushes for the same two yards on 3rd-and-3 and his team has to punt, his impact gets limited despite rushing for the same yardage.

Here are his rushing metrics and ranks among backs with at least 150 carries in that given year.

YearRushesRush NEPRankRush NEP per RushRankSuccess RateRank
2012267-17.8025 of 29-0.0722 of 2940.45%21 of 29
2013188-27.1433 of 35-0.1433 of 3536.70%28 of 35
2014160-13.9525 of 32-0.0927 of 3236.88%24 of 32

Oof. Even in what was his "best" year in the NFL in 2012, he lost the Browns nearly 18 points with his rushing, and he moved the NEP sticks forward on just 40.45 percent of his carries.

What's even more startling is his Success Rate in 2013 and 2014 relative to his teammates.

In 2013, Donald Brown had a Success Rate of 50.00 percent on 102 carries, which ranked fourth among the 55 backs with at least 75 carries. Richardson's Success Rate of 36.70 percent ranked 46th.

Among the 60 running backs who saw at least 75 carries in 2014, Ahmad Bradshaw added NEP on his rushes 51.65 percent of the time, the second best score in the group. Boom Herron was successful on 50.00 percent of his carries, third best. Richardson ranked just 43rd out of 60.

Despite his teammates' successes on the ground, Richardson was unable to move the ball forward in Indianapolis, drastically limiting his Rushing NEP per carry marks.

If you pool all 96 seasons in which a running back saw at least 150 carries from 2012 to 2014 (i.e. combining all the seasons from the table above), Richardson owns the 69th, 81st, and 91st best seasons in terms of Rushing NEP per carry. By no measurement of ours has he bore any semblance of efficiency in his NFL career.

How Does He Fit With Oakland?

This is the key question, of course.

As our own Tyler Buecher pointed out, Bill Musgrave has had positive impacts on his offenses in his NFL career, but the extent to which Oakland -- and Richardson -- needs to improve is quite drastic.

Last year, the Raiders as a team ranked 30th in Adjusted NEP per play, losing 0.07 points per play when adjusted for schedule strength. They were one of just six teams to post an Adjusted NEP per play below zero. Their Adjusted Rushing NEP per play was -0.11, worst in the NFL.

Despite the worrisome overall metrics, Latavius Murray was able to flourish thanks to some big plays, posting a Rushing NEP per play of 0.05, which ranked sixth among the 30 backs with between 50 and 100 carries. Further, the team also brought in Roy Helu, who maintained a promising Rushing NEP per carry of 0.04 (albeit on just 40 carries) in Washington.

Helu also has promise out of the backfield, as his Reception NEP of 24.74 ranked ninth among all running backs last year, and his Reception NEP per target (0.50) ranked fifth among the 32 backs with at least 40 targets.

With this duo's ability to be efficient through the air and on the ground, it's hard to see how Richardson fits in or what he can actually add to the offense.

A Verdict

Prior to Oakland's league-worst rushing metrics in 2014, they were actually 13th in the league in 2013 with a Rushing NEP per carry of 0.01. In 2012, though, they were 31st at -0.15. Rushing efficiency hasn't been a sure thing in Oakland recently, so the biggest cog in the Richardson equation is how well Musgrave can revamp things.

Still, with Murray and Helu's promising efficiency -- especially when considering Richardson's efficiency woes relative to his teammates in 2013 and 2014 -- Richardson might again be the third (or even fourth wheel) on an NFL squad this year.

It's hard even to suggest that if Richardson returns to his 2012 form that the Raiders will benefit, as he's never had the efficiency to add positive points for his team on the ground.

It's hard to root against him at this point, but the metrics sure aren't promising for Richardson's impact in black and silver.