2012 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Should Make Quinton Coples Part of Plan

Noah Poinar@@noah_poinarCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws to a receiver as Ramon Foster #73 blocks defensive lineman Phil Taylor #98 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

When you clicked on this story it’s probable that two things ran through your head.  One, a Cleveland Browns draft story that doesn’t have to do with Robert Griffin III, huh?  Two, Quinton Coples?  The defensive end out of North Carolina?  To the Browns? 

Not happening. 

I’ve made it known on B/R that I am “one of those people” in favor of trading up for RG3, but obviously I can’t put all my eggs into one basket.  That’s why Quinton Coples is my contingency plan. 

Is there any chance he’s the Browns plan B as well?       

Let’s say the Browns succumb to the reckless expenditures of the Washington Redskins—a team that looks every bit desperate enough to offer the St. Louis Rams their next five first-round picks for RG3.  If that’s the case, I believe the Browns would be very much inclined to take North Carolina defensive end, Quinton Coples.

Right off the bat, Coples doesn’t make sense for the Browns at four.  Actually, there are four reasons, in particular, as to why he wouldn’t make sense. 

No.1: This is Quinton Coples we’re talking about here. You probably haven’t paid all that much attention to him and never really considered him an option.  He might not even be the best defensive lineman in this draft class (as LSU DT Michael Brockers very well could be), let alone worth the fourth pick. 

Coples at four is horrible value.  They could realistically get him in the 10-15 range.  

In addition to that, Coples had a better 2010 season than he did 2011.  That’s never a good thing.  Lastly, we all know that unless you’re looking at an Ndamukong Suh type, you’re just playing roulette with these prospects on the defensive line.

No. 2: Justin Blackmon.  Have you seen the group of wide receivers the Browns have? 

In 2011, the Cleveland Browns became the first team in NFL history to lack one single wide receiver that was even worth a pickup on a fantasy football team.  That’s all that needs to be said.  At pick No. 4, the Browns cannot pass on a talent like Blackmon.    

No. 3: Trent Richardson.  People are saying he’s the best running back to come out since Adrian Peterson.  Maybe even better.  How can the Browns pass on that chance?  Odds are they aren’t re-signing Hillis, so what are they supposed to do?  Go into next season with the hope that a healthy Brandon Jackson, Montario Hardesty and some re-born version of Chris Ogbonnaya show up? 

Yeah, there are other backs available in the later part of the draft, but only one team gets Trent Richardson, and the Browns won’t be that team if they pass him up at No. 4.

No. 4: If the Browns are going to go defense, it’s LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne that they should, and probably would, take. 

He’s virtually the safest pick on the defensive side of the ball that we have seen in a while.   He’s a physical specimen at that position.  He is one of the few prospects that I have seen that has drawn comparisons to every sports fan's dream: an NBA player testing his worth in the NFL game.    

So here’s my rebuttal to everything just mentioned and my case for Quinton Coples.  

The Cleveland Browns have one of the youngest defensive fronts in the NFL.  Their front four—all things considered—happens to be a pretty talented group, too.  They are more talented than any of the other units on the team, the way it currently stands.  

With Jabal Sheard, Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor—three players who, by NFL standards, were actually a bit underrated at their respective positions this season because of how lousy the Browns run defense was—the Browns front four is one major addition away from becoming the only truly “complete unit” on the team.  

Does that knowledge and awareness factor into the decisions that the Browns' front office makes on draft day? 

Definitely.  But in what way?  

Knowing what they know about the existing defensive unit up front, are the team's decision makers more prone to shore up their other positional needs on offense?  Or are they more likely to take someone like Coples in order to finish what they started when they inherited Ahtyba Rubin, switched to the 4-3, traded down with Atlanta and used their first two picks in 2011 to hit on Phil Taylor and Jabal Sheard?

As mentioned, right now a player like Coples would be a major reach for the Browns at the No. 4 overall selection.  

Remember though, it is only February 20.  We still have the combine and various pro day workouts to let determine the final stock in these players.  If there were one player I could see improving his stock over the next couple of months, that player would be Quinton Coples.  But that’s nothing more than my opinion. 

(In a perfect world I’d have it play out where the Browns take Coples with the seventh pick by trading down with Jacksonville.  But even so, I wouldn’t be all that opposed to taking him at four.)

All in all, Coples is a well-rounded defensive end with the ability to both rush the passer and stop the run.

After his breakout season in 2010, college teams took notice in 2011—as what often happens in college—and made it a point of double teaming him.  Despite that, his numbers were still impressive (7.5 sacks, 55 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and whole bunch of QB hits).

Pair him next to Ahtyba Rubin and opposite of Jabal Sheard and you’re looking at a very solid pass rushing front. 

If Coples’ production at the NFL level plays out anywhere close to what we’re projecting, you could argue that, going forward, the Browns might have one of the best front fours in the rugged AFC North division.  Also, the starting unit would be the direct product of the Browns drafting department. 

Hasn’t that been the wish of Browns‘ fans‘ for years—to build through the draft, as opposed to free agency?  That’s a victory in and of itself.    

For years, hasn’t the conversation about the Browns been in regards to building the team to model and compete with their divisional foes?  Wouldn’t adding Coples to this current group go a long way toward that?  

Keep in mind how old the Ravens and Steelers are getting, as well as how hard it is to contain and take down Flacco and Roethlisberger.  Keep in mind also that the Cleveland Browns, in their long franchise history, have never really had any form of sustained dominance from this defensive unit. 

From a pseudo perspective, it might be just what they need.

Remember that Phil Taylor and Jabal Sheard have only played one year.  Rubin three years.  Considering everything—everything from how often teams ran on the Browns, how often the defense was on the field and how the offense made a habit of providing the defense with little to no help—you’d have to say the two rookies fared pretty well. 

The defensive line, in general, fared well—much better in the pass rush than they have in any recent years. Just not so much in the running game.  Coples would go a long way towards helping that.   

But what about the offense?   The Browns can’t continue to ignore it.

Yes, thankfully they have two first-round selections and a high-end second pick in the second round for that.     

As you may know, the success of a quarterback is very much dependent on the talent surrounding him.  Likewise, for the surrounding players on offense, their success is heavily dependent on the guy throwing the ball. 

It’s all very much interchangeable. 

Even the success of an offensive line (or at least the perceived success) is heavily dependent on the quarterback.  Is he easily flustered, and flushed, from the pocket?  How quick can he get rid of the ball?  How fast are his reads?  On and on and on. 

It’s all relative and accommodative to every facet of the offense in some way.

Here’s the problem: We don’t know whether Colt McCoy is the type of quarterback who can elevate those around him.  He could very well have the opposite effect: The Caleb Haney effect

Remembering that the Browns also have the 22nd pick in the first round, is it worth it to use the fourth pick on offense if Griffin and Luck are out of the equation? 

For some Browns fans, this is where Morris Claiborne comes into the picture.  

No doubt, it would be sexy to see Morris Claiborne and Joe Haden manning the two corner positions for the next 10 years, but in taking Claiborne, the Browns run defense would still be very suspect, and their pass rush would have no significant improvement.  Owning up to a cornerback tandem like that, really, isn’t all that much of an asset.  (Ask the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets.) 

Would Claiborne make the Browns better?  Yes. 

But would there be a sunk cost element that came with him?  Yes.   

Here’s where I’m getting at.  Adding Claiborne, as opposed to Coples, would be comparatively similar to adding Blackmon or Richardson (as the consolation prize for the RG3/Andrew Luck sweepstakes).  They’re all great in their own right, but when they come to Cleveland, how much of an impact will they have on the game relevant to the situation they find themselves in? 

To what extent can you expect them to best succeed?  Better yet, when?  Will we have to wait for “one of those years” like 2007? 

Justin Blackmon

When it comes to McCoy and the rest of this Browns offense, who knows if a player like Blackmon would produce anywhere close to what he’s expected to at the pro level.  I’d like to hope he would, and I’d definitely like to think he would, but I can’t say for sure. 

Sorry, that’s what little confidence Colt McCoy instilled in me this year.  

Do I still think McCoy can get the job done?  Do I think he can be the starting QB for the Browns going forward?    Yes.  But let’s me honest, I’m not exactly oozing with confidence at the possibility of it.  None of us are.  Are we?  

If McCoy is the starter in 2012, selecting Blackmon is every part as risky as taking RG3.  Blackmon’s less than desired size and style of play isn’t what this Browns offense ideally needs with Colt McCoy at quarterback.  He’s a physical “run after the catch” type who feasts on slant and in-routes—a bit like what we saw from Browns receivers all year long in 2011. 

That’s when QB accuracy really comes into play, and we didn’t see very much of that this year from McCoy. 

For as many drops as there were, there were just as many, if not more, balls thrown in the 5-10 yard range that were behind/below the intended target. 

Trent Richardson

It used to be that the run is what sets up the pass, but the league has heavily shifted to where the pass sets up the run.  Don’t get me wrong, the run definitely still affects what you’re able to do in the throwing game, but whatever the situation may be, McCoy’s arm strength becomes a considerable worry.  

If you don’t think opposing defenses had an advantage over the Browns this year in knowing the ball probably wasn’t going to travel more than 12.5 yards down the field, then you’re lying to yourself. 

That right there is a hindrance to any teams running game. 

When a defense is able to put 11 guys between the chains (not in the box) on a regular basis, you start feeling very uneasy about how much the quarterback’s velocity and overall arm strength is factoring in.

For purposes of clarity, I’ll repeat:  All I’m saying is if Andrew Luck and RG3 are out of the equation for the Browns and Colt McCoy is the guy in 2012 once again, the Browns  should be a little worried about investing that No. 4 pick in a player like Richardson or Blackmon.  

There’s no denying that Richardson and Blackmon (either or), in some form of degree, would make the Browns a better team.  But with Colt McCoy as the quarterback, does that player present more value to this team than a defensive end like Quinton Coples would?  

Your answer to that question depends heavily on your view of Colt McCoy.

When you’re a team drafting in the top part of the draft, the selection process should come down to this principle: If you’re investing that high of a pick on a player—something the Browns annually find themselves doing—you want to put that player in the best possible situation to succeed. 

You want to get your dollars worth for that player.  You want to limit the amount of setbacks that they could potentially face to best ensure that player contributes right off the bat.  

Why? Because not doing so is the easiest way to wind up with a “NFL Draft Bust.” Because despite our understanding of how building a winner takes time, we need to see yearly improvements and evidence of improvement.       

Quinton Coples isn’t the riskiest pick, nor is he a safest pick.  None of them are.  But if the Cleveland Browns face a situation where they’re staring down a number of options, none of which include Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, Quinton Coples would be the most ideal pick. 

And sometimes, those ideal picks at the top of the draft can go a long way.

But despite everything you just read, the Browns are very much in control of whether or not they will face an “RG3 contingency plan.”  If I had my guess, I’d say they aren’t giving an extreme amount of thought to it because, honestly, none of the contingent plans sound all the hot when the future of the quarterback position looks this bleak.


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