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.
"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 the 5-foot-9, 228-pound Richardson.
"We knew that as we went through the process that he was our guy," Shurmur said.
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.
The Browns also have the No. 22 pick in the first round.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press