2012 NFL Draft: 7 Players the Cleveland Browns Must Target in April

Rich CastoContributor IIIDecember 30, 2011

2012 NFL Draft: 7 Players the Cleveland Browns Must Target in April

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    Long time no see. Welcome back to Browns NFL draft talk. We’ve missed you, but as a devout Cleveland Browns fan, we knew you’d be back. What’s in store for today? We'll look at seven players that could make a difference for the organization in 2012.

    Yes, there are many needs, but seven is a nice number. Like the seven rounds of the NFL draft, the seven different opening day Browns QBs since their last playoff appearance. Also, the number of head coaches the Browns will have had since their return in 1999, if Pat Shurmur flames out.

    Yes folks, the next would be the seventh.  

    Let’s get to it.

A No. 1 Wide Receiver

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    If the Browns brass could better utilize Evan Moore, maybe this wouldn't be as glaring a need, but it would still be a need. Greg Little shows much promise, but is he a No. 1? In 2009, the Eric Mangini-led Browns wasted all three of their second round selections, including two on wide receivers.

    Any players selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft are chosen to become starters immediately. The exception being QBs for grooming, but still even then. The Browns cut Brian Robiskie (36th overall) earlier this year, and Mohamed Massaquoi (50th overall) has yet to establish himself as anything more than a No. 3 WR.

    It is unlikely that Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma St. is available when the Browns pick, but if he is, snatch him up.


    BROWNS TARGET: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame 

    Floyd is a big receiver at 6'3" and almost 230lbs. He would be a nice complement to Greg Little as a possession receiver or stretching the field as a deep threat. Sounds like there are some character concerns, but would it hurt the Browns to have a little more edginess on the team?

    Other considerations: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina; Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

Starting Right Tackle

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    The Browns O-line has been horrendous with the exception of perennial Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, and Alex Mack. Tony Pashos should be sent packing after the season because he's very inconsistent.

    Jason Pinkston could fill in but has taken over the left guard spot vacated by Eric Steinbach. Oniel Cousins is average and just an insurance policy if needed in a pinch. After that, nothing.



    BROWNS TARGET: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

    Rated as one of the highest tackles in this year's draft, most likely to play on the right side. Adams was a mainstay on the Buckeyes line this year providing strength and consistency. He could do the same for the Browns.

    Other considerations: Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma St.; Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida St

Starting Right Defensive End

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    The Browns are on track when it comes to their D-line. Ahtyba Rubin paired with last year's No. 1 pick Phil Taylor is a great combo. Add Jabaal Sheard on the LE, and you have your pass-rusher off the edge.

    Jayme Mitchell was supposed to have potential, but if the Browns can get another Sheard type for the right side, they have to upgrade. Quinton Coples is the No. 1 rated DE, but with all the options, there are many other valuable DEs later as well. The position seems deep this year.


    BROWNS TARGET: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

    Mercilus was relentless this season and gave opposing tackles fits. Place him on the other side of Sheard, and the QB won't know which way to look. Mercilus just attacks and forces his will on the opposition. The Browns would love to keep him wearing orange.

    Other consideration: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Starting Right Guard & O-Line Depth

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    Continuing the trend on offensive line. Offensive guard has been a make-shift position, especially on the right side. Eric Steinbach went down with an injury early, and the right side has been a revolving door of stop-gap players. Artis Hicks, John Greco, Shawn Luvao, Floyd ‘Pork Chop’ Womack…c’mon! Luvao has been average at best. 

    On the left side, Jason Pinkston has done a commendable job in his first year filling in for Steinbach and provides depth. The Browns need to eliminate the stop-gap and get some consistency here. David DeCastro is the best OG but likely not a value pick when the Browns select.


    BROWNS TARGET: Kelechi Osemele, OL, Iowa State

    Osemele can play both guard and tackle, but likely a better fit at guard. He's got good size, is versatile and would provide depth for the O-line.

    Other considerations: Cordy Glenn, OL, Georgia; Brandon Washington, OL, Miami

Outside Linebacker-Starter/Depth

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    Scott Fujita, Chris Gocong, Titus Brown,  Kaluka Maiava…do any of those names scare you? Me neither. There is good leadership here, but there needs to be an infusion of youthful headhunters.

    Cleveland needs a mean linebacker or two. Unfortunately for the Browns, the class of 4-3 OLB isn’t a strong one. Zach Brown from North Carolina is one of the best this year, but the Browns have more important areas of need when his name will likely be called.


    BROWNS TARGET: Sean Spence, OLB, Miami

    Spence is always around the football, has a nose for it, and in on the tackle it seems. The Browns could use an energy player like him to help rush the passer, yet drop back to cover if needed.

    Other consideration: Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland

A No. 2 Starting Cornerback

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    Joe Haden is solid, and should continue to get better. He will eventually become one of the NFL’s best corners. On the other side is an aging Sheldon Brown, who definitely lost a step and more this past year. If the Browns want to lock up there secondary, some help on the other side is needed. 


    BROWNS TARGET:  Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

    Minnifield is probably one of the best defensive backs in this year's class, which has talent deep throughout. He may be a sentimental choice, but Cleveland missed out on Clay Matthews Jr., and we all know how that turned out. Frank's son would be an excellent addition and bring back some of the passion to the Dawg Pound.

    Other considerations:  Coryell Judie, CB, Texas A&M

Inside Linebacker-Starter/Depth

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    D’Qwell Jackson is back, and better than ever. As a result, he was nominated an All-Pro alternate this season, quite an honor after coming back from two torn pectoral injuries. He still has a number of good years left, but the depth behind him is thin. The Browns could use someone for Jackson to mentor, preferably someone with a high motor.


    BROWNS TARGET:  Vontaze Burfict, MLB, Arizona State

    Burfict has been an aggressive athlete that could be elite one day. He is another high motor guy, intense. He likes to hit. Could be better against the run however. Other needs could cause the Browns to pass in his draft range.

    Other considerations: Don’ta Hightower, MLB, Alabama; Emmanuel Acho, MLB, Texas

Bonus: Running Back Depth

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    The Cleveland Browns must resign Peyton Hillis. As tantalizing as Trent Richardson might be, they don't need to use a valuable first-round pick on a position that already has talent there. When healthy, Hillis provides the boost Cleveland needs to remain competitive in games. Look at the last two games against Arizona and Baltimore. The Browns were in those games not because of Seneca Wallace, but because of Hillis.

    When the Browns can run, they can win. The Browns rank in the bottom five for rushing this year. You can’t win in the AFC North with that kind of performance from your running backs. The Browns are more competitive and win more often with a healthy Hillis, than a combo of Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya. Hillis fills that spot just fine, and the Browns should use their first-round picks to select other areas of need.

    If the Browns do go with another running back, it is not in the first three rounds unless the value is staggering.


    BROWNS TARGET: Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati

    Pead can do a little bit of everything and would be a nice complement to Hillis. He can run, catch and block. He would provide more sturdy depth than Hardesty who is starting to develop into a bust due to injuries.

    Other Consideration: Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky

Off Target: Quarterback-Why Start over with a Rookie?

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    Colt McCoy has finished his second season and his first as the starter, officially. He’s listed at 6'1" tall. At the time he was drafted, Colt was the winningest NCAA quarterback at Texas. He was selected in the third round, a great value pick.

    What is his supporting cast? Besides Peyton Hillis, not much. Evan Moore was highly under-utilized. and the team has no clear cut No. 1 WR. Greg Little shows some promise, if he can decrease the drops. Bringing in another QB with a first-round pick is not going to change the fact they need more help on offense. The results will not change by simply changing the QB. 

    Prior to making his decision to return to school, Matt Barkley was mentioned as a target for the Browns. How is he a better option than McCoy?  Barkley is listed at 6’2”, 1 inch taller than McCoy. What did Barkley accomplish at USC that McCoy didn't at Texas?

    The price of a first-round pick makes it much more costly, and I don’t see the advantage. But, it doesn’t matter this year, since Barkley is returning to the Trojans. However, he very well could be back in Cleveland's sights in 2013. Let’s hope not.

    Robert Griffin III is obviously very intriguing as a potential QB for the Browns. He’s very talented, smart and an over-achiever. He has “it.” Similar to the Browns, it’s been noted that his supporting cast at Baylor isn’t all that. Yet RGIII still made them competitive, kept them in the games and orchestrated some very good wins against some top teams, including TCU and Oklahoma.

    Lastly, Griffin provided Baylor its first Heisman trophy. Again, the price of a first-round pick is costly. But if he’s a game-changer, the return could prove huge for the Cleveland Browns. But how long could he hold up in the AFC North? 

    Just keep in mind, for all the Cam Newtons, Peyton Mannings and Donovan McNabbs succeeding in the NFL today, there are Vince Youngs, Akili Smiths, Ryan Leafs, David Carrs, Joey Harringtons, JaMarcus Russells, and more.

    Lastly, remember the game against the New England Patriots in 2010? How about the Saints game? Colt McCoy can play QB for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns need to play to his strengths.


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    The Browns have a lot of needs. They also need depth. But so far, Tom Heckert has proven his worth, made some very good value picks and shown why he is one of the best. As fans, we need to let him do his job and enjoy what should be excellent additions to our beloved Cleveland Browns.

    As for Pat Shurmur, it does look as if he is in over his head. He needs an offensive coordinator. The offensive strategy needs to be crafted to best suit Colt's strengths.

    Lastly, the team as a whole needs to get on the same page. That is Mike Holmgren's responsibility, and why he was brought in. He needs to get control of the organization and get this train on track before it crashes in a fiery wreck.

    Enjoy the offseason, Browns fans! And unfortunately...bring on the draft!