NFL Draft 2012: Trent Richardson and 2 Other Studs Browns Must Target in April
Cleveland ranked 24th and 28th in the league last season in passing and rushing offense respectively, struggling to reach more than 289 yards of offense week in and week out. The result was a dismal 4-12 season for the Browns, which was capped off with six straight losses.
Cleveland's wide receiving corps is paper thin, and running back Peyton Hillis was MIA for most of 2011 (he signed with the Chiefs this free agency period). Quarterback Colt McCoy has fought hard to remain the starter, but the lack of talent around him has resulted in a banged-up body and decreased confidence.
There will be plenty of chances for the Browns to improve through the 2012 NFL Draft, however, as they own the No. 4, 22 and 37 picks in the draft's first two rounds.
Bottom line: the Cleveland Browns need to improve on the offensive side of the ball this offseason, and that starts with targeting these studs this April:
Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB
Which prospect should the Browns draft with the No. 4 pick in 2012?
With running back Peyton Hillis in Kansas City with the Chiefs, the Browns desperately need to replenish their back field. Alabama's Trent Richardson is a fierce, mean rusher who can demonstrate speed, strength and elusiveness when necessary.
Richardson will, without a doubt, be available for the Browns at No. 4, with the Colts and Redskins expected to draft the top two quarterbacks on the board, and the Vikings expected to draft USC's Matt Kalil to help pave lanes for their Pro Bowl rusher Adrian Peterson.
Richardson is the top back in the draft and scored 21 touchdowns last season with the Crimson Tide, helping lead them to their second National Championship in three years.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, WR
If the Browns believe their needs at wide receiver are more glaring than those in the back field, they may instead opt to draft Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon at No. 4. Blackmon would be a significant upgrade for Cleveland on the outside, and provide a legitimate deep threat for Colt McCoy or whoever the quarterback is in 2012.
Blackmon caught 18 touchdowns in 2011 with the Cowboys, and is one of the top 10 players on the draft board, as well as the No. 1 receiver available in 2012.
No Cleveland receiver caught more than 61 balls in 2011, nor more than four touchdown passes. The lack of production from Greg Little and company resulted in only 32 20-plus yard receiving plays for the Browns in 2011, compared to 42 by their regular-season opponents.
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M, QB
With supreme quarterback talents Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III set to go No. 1 and 2 overall to the Colts and Redskins respectively, the Browns would have to settle for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first round.
Tannehill threw for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns last season with the Aggies, and could perhaps still be on the board at No. 22 when the Browns pick again. If Cleveland is dead set on taking a signal caller in the first round, they may reach on Tannehill at No. 4 to ensure they get him.
Based on the lackluster play of Colt McCoy last season and for most of his short NFL career, the Browns likely have their sights set on a potential upgrade under center.
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