The Cleveland Browns will enter the 2012 NFL Draft with many of the same problems that plagued their franchise throughout the 2011 football season. A weakened offensive line, depleted running back corps and an underachieving group of wide receivers all contributed to Cleveland’s demise last season and every position will have to be upgraded over the course of the draft.
If the majority of the NFL draft experts are correct, then the Browns are likely to select Trent Richardson and an offensive lineman with their two selections in the first round of the draft. Even though both picks would clearly improve the Browns offensive unit for next season, those draft choices would still leave a huge hole at the wide receiver position heading into the second round.
Wide receiver Rueben Randle is a player that could help the Browns address one of those needs for future seasons and possibly turn Cleveland into a top offensive contender next year. Randle is rated to be a late-first or early-second round selection and is seemingly interchangeable with Alshon Jeffery to be the fifth wide receiver off the board.
The Browns could use a player like Randle because of his ability to become a true No. 1 wideout in the NFL. Randle has the size and speed necessary to compete with some of the best corners in the AFC North and also has the college experience of a big-time program under his belt.
One of the best qualities about Randle’s game is that he showed the ability to learn and improve with every passing season at LSU. In 2011, Randle had his best season and turned eight of his 53 receptions into touchdowns. However, Randle also had games where he was a non-factor and posted less-than-stellar numbers during the BCS National Championship game against Alabama in January.
Many draft experts claim that Randle would have been more productive earlier in his career, but the Tigers offense was not designed to produce huge numbers for wide receivers. Teams that are interested in Randle will have to look closely to see if his skill set can fit what their offense is trying to accomplish.
In Cleveland’s case, the Browns are looking for a receiver that can stretch the field and can separate from coverage on crucial downs. Those types of qualities seem to play into Randle’s strengths and could make him a good fit in Cleveland.
Randle would also have a young supporting cast with Greg Little and Jordan Norwood beginning to find their places in the offense last season. Randle could also help the Browns move Josh Cribbs out of the wide receiver rotation and use No. 16 in a more specific role or on special teams.
The Browns are almost certain to select a wide receiver with one of their top three selections in the NFL draft. Randle is just one option for the team as they move forward in the draft process, but could become a very big topic of interest if Cleveland enters the second round without addressing the position.