2012 NFL Draft: Should the Cleveland Browns Trade Up for Robert Griffin III?

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2012 NFL Draft: Should the Cleveland Browns Trade Up for Robert Griffin III?
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With draft darling Andrew Luck almost certainly going to Indianapolis with the first overall pick, and teams like Washington and Miami reportedly desperate to trade up to nab a quarterback of their own in the 2012 NFL draft, if the Cleveland Browns want to get their hands on Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, they may have to trade up to the second overall pick from their current position at No. 4 overall.

While there are few guarantees in the NFL draft, and thus Griffin could still be around at the fourth slot, there aren't many first-round caliber quarterbacks declared for the draft this year, so if the Browns decide they're in the market for one, they may have to consider paying a high price. 

But whether they have to trade up or even spend their No. 4 pick to get him, the real question is, do the Browns really even want Griffin? Or perhaps more specifically, do they want him badly enough to spend a first-round pick on him when the team is fraught with so many other serious needs at other positions? 

Personally, I'm not in favor of the Browns taking Griffin at all. Not with the number four pick, and certainly not if they have to trade up to second to get him. However, there is a compelling enough argument both for and against the idea that it bears further examination from both perspectives. 

For the sake of argument, and because we've all discussed the idea of whether the Browns should spend their No. 4 pick on Griffin—should he fall to them there—ad nauseam, let's assume the Browns would have to move up to the No. 2 spot to get him. Should they pull the trigger?

 

 

 

 

 

The following are arguments for and against trading up for RGIII. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below on which side you're on!

 

The Argument in Favor

Regardless of needs at other positions, perhaps the best argument for the Browns to move up, if necessary to draft Griffin second overall, is that quarterback is indisputably the most important position on the field for a football team. 

While in many ways the role of quarterback has been romanticized over the years to such an extent that many have completely lost perspective on how his performance (and thus the team's) is affected by those around him (offensive linemen, receivers, his defense, etc.), there is certainly something to the stereotype that a good quarterback can take a mediocre team and turn it into a champion and that a mediocre quarterback can sink an otherwise championship-caliber outfit. 

For proof we need look no further than the Peyton Manning-less Colts of 2011 who, a perpetual playoff team with Manning at the helm, were a complete disaster without him. This is an oversimplification of the Colts' woes of course, but there is still a lot of truth in the assumption that Manning's neck injury made at least an eight win difference in their 2011 season. 

 

 

Such situations have caused some Browns fans to wonder if their own quarterback, Colt McCoy, suffered from the kind of inadequacies that could sink a season. 

No proof exists that this is the case, of course, as no matter what you think of McCoy, there's no denying the team had myriad other problems at other positions. But what we do have to wonder is if they would have been worlds better with a different guy leading their offense, and further, if next year, with an improved team on other fronts, if upgrading from McCoy would be the difference-maker in getting over the hump of mediocrity. 

Those who tout Griffin as a bona fide NFL-ready talent would argue that he could be that upgrade that would change the Browns more dramatically than any upgrade at another position. The biggest flaw in that argument is that no one knows if Griffin really will be that much of an upgrade, but that's an argument best saved for discussing the counterpoint later on in this article. 

But let's assume Griffin does turn out to be significantly better than McCoy. In that case, if the theory holds true that upgrading at quarterback is the biggest difference maker of all, then the Browns would be crazy not to trade up for Griffin. 

There are other arguments for trading up for him as well. Some of them are too small to be decision makers, such as his superior arm strength as compared to McCoy's. While that would be a lovely upgrade, that alone probably isn't worth the cost of moving up to number two if it's the only thing that really separates the two. 

 

 

More compelling is the argument that there really is no truly good option at the fourth overall pick, at quarterback or elsewhere position-wise.  

Both WR Justin Blackmon and RB Trent Richardson (Blackmon in particular) seem too risky in terms of the payoff to spend a No.4 pick on, and what is arguably the Browns' single greatest positional need—a right tackle—isn't really the kind of position you spend a No.4 pick on. 

Given the disaster that was the right side of the Browns' offensive line last season, I personally wouldn't be bothered by their going with a tackle with the fourth pick, but conventional wisdom says it's unnecessary to spend such a high pick at the position. Whether that's true or not is an argument for another time. 

Regardless, the Browns find themselves with the fourth overall pick and no clear-cut indication of who they should use it on. 

They could trade down of course, and many such as myself would argue that this would be the smart play, but there is also a good argument that the uselessness of the fourth spot for the Browns' purposes this year implies it might be worth moving up to No.2 so that they aren't squandering the opportunity to grab a top-notch player early in the draft to help improve their long-struggling franchise. 

 

 

The Argument Against

 

Let's start with the obvious here as well: the Browns have so many problems and so many depth issues that it just seems absurd to not only spend their first pick at a position where, while they don't have an ideal player, they are far from as bad as they are at other spots. 

Even worse would be to trade up to make such a move, resulting in the team not only spending its first pick on a player at a position that isn't among those where they are most desperately in need of an upgrade, but in spending additional later picks which they need badly for depth along with it to move up in the queue. 

Particularly with other teams also looking to trade up to nab Griffin as well, it's a sellers market for the No.2 pick, so you can bet St. Louis will be charging a premium for it. And should they be interested in trading down, they'll get that premium price for the pick too, whether from the Browns or from someone else. To me, the hefty price tag just isn't worth it. 

That's particularly true when looking at the second argument against, which is that, well, there are absolutely no guarantees that Griffin actually will be an upgrade over McCoy. 

Truthfully, it seems unlikely that he won't be at least to some degree. But will he be enough of an improvement?

 

Maybe, but these things are notoriously hard to predict. For every eventual Hall-of-Fame QB drafted early in the first round, there are 100 Ryan Leafs and David Carrs. Certainly we'd all like to believe Griffin's fate won't mirror those, but recall that they were both widely believed to be something truly special too when they were entering the draft. 

 

The Heisman has never been an accurate predictor of NFL success, and unfortunately, stats and wins at a college level aren't all that much better at forecasting a quarterback's future as a pro.

College football offenses are designed to make quarterbacks look better than they are, and the situations they are put in help that along. Defensive talent is thinner, thus receivers are always open, and quarterbacks face less pressure. 

Colleges can form highly-favorable schedules for themselves, allowing their quarterbacks to beat up on teams that aren't on their level and thus pad their stats and their draft status. The very offensive systems in which they play are designed to protect a quarterback, shelter him and often make him look better than he is. 

Is this absolutely what Baylor was able to do for Griffin? Of course not. He could easily be one of the many quarterbacks who looked good in college and has what it takes to succeed in the NFL. 

 

But are the chances of that great enough to warrant the Browns spending not only their first pick, but multiple other picks to trade up to second to get him? Perhaps, but the Akili Smiths, Art Schlichters, Heath Shulers and Andre Wares of the world would suggest that the Browns, or any other would-be coveters of that second overall pick, should proceed with caution.  

One last thing to heap on to the argument against this is that one of the most talked-about reasons given for the Browns needing an upgrade over Colt McCoy is his shortness of stature. 

 

I know, I know…6'1"? The man is a midget!

Not hardly, but by quarterback standards, at just over six feet, he might as well be a munchkin from Oz. 

Sure plenty of smaller QBs have succeeded in the NFL, but they all possessed elite skills that McCoy has not yet shown he has. 

A height-related upgrade at quarterback for the Browns is hard to argue against. The problem for our purposes here is that Griffin would provide no such thing. In fact, he's actually shorter than McCoy.

Sure, he could turn out to be one of those aforementioned mini-quarterbacks whose elite skills render their small size largely irrelevant to their success, but again, we find ourselves faced with that pesky problem that there are no guarantees when it comes to how draftees will perform in the NFL relative to how they're projected to according to their draft slot.

 

***

In the end, there are solid arguments for both sides, but I'd argue that the Browns would be smarter not to trade up to No.2 to get Griffin should that opportunity present itself, mostly due to the fact that the price is simply too high. 

The team has too many other needs and cannot afford to pay such a high price for one player, unless he turns out to be a one-man force to be reckoned with who can single-handedly turn the team around. 

I have very little doubt that Griffin will be a competent, if not notably good, NFL quarterback. But will he be a one-man franchise-changer? I doubt it. Not due to any lack of faith in Griffin specifically, but purely because so very, very few players are. 

Bottom line: Griffin is definitely a guy I'd like to see on my team, but not at the price he'll likely command. While the Browns do have an unusually high number of early draft picks in 2012, thanks to last year's draft's deal with the Falcons, compared to their laundry list of needs, the Browns really have precious few picks with which to address them. 

The Browns should be looking to spend smarter, not spend more, and unfortunately, trading up to the No.2 overall slot to acquire QB Robert Griffin III would not achieve that at all. 

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