Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert threw cold water Monday on the notion that the Browns would move up in the 2012 NFL draft, ostensibly to select Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. And, at this point, it appears that the likelihood of the Browns selecting Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon with the fourth overall pick in the April's draft is growing by the day.
Heckert told Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer that the Browns have no interest in moving up in the draft, but that the team might consider trading down a few spots if the right circumstances present themselves.
"We're not trading up, I guarantee that," Heckert said. "There's going to be five guys that we really like and we're going to get a really good player at number four. But we could still get a really good player at five, six, seven, eight too."
He stressed that the Browns won't make the same kind of blockbuster deal they did with Atlanta last season. The Browns moved from No. 6 to No. 27 and netted an extra first-round pick, two fourths and a second. The Falcons, in turn, selected wide receiver Julio Jones.
"We're not going to go way down and make the trade we did last year," he said. "When [president] Mike Holmgren said he'd discourage a trade down, I believe he meant one that far down."
Cabot then goes on to report that while Heckert hasn't ruled out the possibility of taking a defensive player such as LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, the Browns' need for offensive weaponry will likely take precedence in the first round this year.
"We don't think we're going to take a defensive guy, but it would tough to pass on him," said Heckert. "He's really, really good."
That would seemingly leave USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, Tannehill, Blackmon and running back Trent Richardson as the likeliest candidates to be targeted by the Browns with the fourth overall pick. However, there have also been rumors that the Miami Dolphins might try to leapfrog the Browns into the third overall spot in order to select Tannehill.
If that were the case and Kalil is still on the board, the Browns would likely receive a number of phone calls from teams interested in trading up to select the standout left tackle, Kalil. And considering the Browns are set at that position with Joe Thomas, Cleveland would almost certainly at least listen to offers given their multiple needs on both sides of the ball.
However, Cabot's comments in an earlier piece regarding the Browns' failed pursuit of wide receiver Pierre Garcon (who signed a five year, $42.5 million contract with the Washington Redskins) would seem to indicate that the Browns front office is serious about upgrading the receiving corps this season. That may be an indicator that the team is leaning towards choosing Blackmon, who is a two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, as college football's top wideout, after a ridiculously productive career in Stillwater. From Cabot:
Robert Griffin III isn't the only big-name player the Redskins beat the Browns to this offseason.
After topping the Browns' bid to move up to No. 2 to draft Griffin III, the Redskins snatched up Garcon and Morgan on the first day of free agency with huge contracts that would've broken the Browns' bank.
Regardless of which direction the Browns brain trust decides to go in in the draft, they had better get things in gear fairly quickly, because after a free-agency period highlighted by a whole lot of nothing, and with holes on the roster all over the place, the Cleveland Browns are going to need every one of their 13 picks in this year's draft.
In fact, it might not hurt to pick up a couple more.