The Cleveland Browns, like many other teams, were looking into moving up in the 2012 NFL Draft to get Robert Griffin III. But the Washington Redskins put together a doomsday package to secure the second overall pick in the draft.
Cleveland did all they could do to move up to get RGIII, especially after his combine heroics and interviews. Since the Browns lost out on plan A, they are now looking into plans B and C.
All is not lost for the Browns...but they did need RGIII. Some options for a Robert Griffinless Browns team would still make them competitive in 2012. Staying at No. 4, the Browns have some questions to ask themselves.
The first question is who is more valuable: Trent Richardson (running back from Alabama) or Justin Blackmon (wide receiver from Oklahoma)? There is also a chance to have one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL if they pick up LSU cover corner Morris Claiborne and pair him with Joe Haden.
Cleveland not only wants a better receiving corps; it also wants to add a receiver that takes the top off the defense. Justin Blackmon is a competitive playmaker that will fight for the ball. He ran in the 4.4s at his pro day, and he could give the Browns' pedestrian offense at least one weapon to throw to. Pairing him with Greg Little in his second year would be a strong improvement to the weapons at their disposal.
Even with Justin Blackmon, the Browns should have added a veteran No. 1 and allowed Blackmon to grow into the position. As it stands now, Cleveland did not go after any free-agent. Not because the front office was not interested, but because what free-agent receiver would want to come to Cleveland?
How would they market to a top-flight receiver? Would they say, "Hey come to the Browns where we tried to replace our quarterback but failed miserably"? Cleveland knows that it will build its team through developing their own talent and identity through the draft.
The top offensive weapons in this draft are Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson and Justin Blackmon. Unfortunately for Cleveland, they have needs at all those positions.
When assessing the value to Cleveland and to their draft position, it becomes easier to ascertain where the team will need to go with their first pick. Luck and Griffin will be off the board, leaving the debate between Richardson and Blackmon. Blackmon would have been the third receiver off the board last year and Richardson would have been the first back taken. Blackmon is a great receiver, but Richardson is a rare running back talent.
Trent Richardson is a physical runner with quick feet that played in the best conference in college football. He has the combination of physicality and speed to be a perfect fit in the AFC North. The Browns decided the price of a box of athletic tape was too high to re-sign Peyton Hillis, so he is now in Kansas City, which may also make room for Richardson to join the Browns. If the Browns had kept Hillis and drafted Richardson, they would have had a powerful one-two punch. They still could with the addition of Richardson and a healthy Brandon Jackson.
Either Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech), Kendall Wright (Baylor) or Rueben Randle (LSU) could be there at the 22nd pick. If the Browns leave the first round with one of the aforementioned receivers and Trent Richardson, their offense will be dramatically better. The Browns' first round could go Trent Richardson at four and Kendall Wright at 22 in Round 1.
The good news for Browns fans is that they did not take a bite of the Matt Flynn poison apple. They already have Matt Flynn on the team in the form of Colt McCoy. The Browns will not overdraft Ryan Tannehill with the fourth pick in the draft as they can find comparable talent in later rounds. Just because Tannehill is the next best quarterback does not make him worthy of the fourth pick. The team of Heckert and Holmgren have been effective the past two drafts and look to continue that trend in 2012.
Cleveland usually surprises with a pick in their draft like they did with Jabaal Sheard. This year's surprise could very well be quarterback Brock Osweiler, the 6'7" QB from Arizona State. He is Ben Roethlisberger-like in his pocket mobility, with a huge arm that matches his stature.
His big drawback is that he, like Tannehill, has little experience. The biggest difference is his sheer size and arm strength. He has a big arm and shows deep accuracy like RG3. He can be had in a later round and still be competition for Colt McCoy.
Ultimately, the Browns would want to bring in a veteran arm and a developmental arm from the draft. Colt McCoy is not the long-term answer. Otherwise, as much as Heckert and Holmgren try and put lipstick on a pig, they would not have tried to give up a ton of picks for RG3.
Holmgren wants his quarterback of the future. He wants him on the team learning the system, and if not, they want a veteran that can be a two-to-three-year stop gap until they get their man. Holmgren expects to be competitive now, not a few years from now. He stated that he fully expects the team to be substantially better this year.
There are exceptional steals in later rounds for Cleveland to add layers to an improving defense and solidify the right side of the line. I have them taking Stephen Hill at the 22nd spot if he is there, but I think if Mike Adams is still on the board they may bookend him with Joe Thomas, giving Cleveland a very impressive O-line. With good moves in two drafts, Cleveland has put itself in a position to keep building its program.
My mock draft is as follows:
Mock Draft version 1.0
4. Trent Richardson RB Alabama (Beast)
22. Stephen Hill WR Georgia Tech (could be Kendall Wright if Hill ends up in Chicago)
37. Zach Brown OLB North Carolina (Physically gifted, and is a three-down LB, needs a little discipline)
68. Chase Minnifield CB Virginia (Bloodlines aside, can be a starter day one as a nickle corner)
100. Brock Osweiler QB Arizona State (6'7", strong-armed QB with a lot of upside, just needs reps)
118. Zebrie Sanders OT Florida State (Can play both tackle positions, but can be a starter on the right)
131. Keith Tandy CB West Virginia (Great zone cover corner and solid tackler, can attack the ball in the air and will be an instant contributor on special teams)
164. Tyrone Crawford DE Boise State(Strong and athletic with a toughness Cleveland will love)
195. Jaye Howard DT Florida (a good three technique and has quick hands, should be able to contribute in his first year in a rotation on passing downs)