NFL Draft 2012: Ranking Cleveland Browns' Top Options with No. 4 Pick
The Cleveland Browns have traded down two of the past three NFL drafts. Although that remains a possibility in 2012, it appears the organization has already made a decision regarding the No. 4 overall pick.
Tom Heckert said Thursday that the Cleveland Browns would like to keep the fourth pick in next week's first round of the NFL draft. If they do, they're sure of getting one of their top two prospects.
Well, Cleveland has a few different routes it can go with the selection and most—if not all—would be a great boost to the team. Here, let's take a look at the Browns' best options at No. 4 for the 2012 NFL draft.
4. Morris Claiborne: CB, LSU
The defense has a solid front seven with D'Qwell Jackson, Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor and Frostee Rucker. Other than Joe Haden, the secondary needs help, and Morris Claiborne is an excellent complement as the No. 2 corner.
Claiborne plays physical pressure coverage, reacts quickly to the run and has impressive ball skills. On 11 interceptions the past two seasons, Claiborne returned them for 274 yards.
Despite having an offense that averaged fewer than 14 points per game in 2011, the Browns have a field-position advantage when Claiborne forces turnovers. Not to mention, but his addition gives Cleveland a top-10 defense against the rush and pass.
3. Justin Blackmon: WR, Oklahoma State
In order to field a balanced offense, the Browns do need a stud No. 1 receiver for Colt McCoy. Well, Justin Blackmon is quite the target having accounted for over 3,300 yards and scoring 38 touchdowns on 232 receptions the past two seasons.
His quickness fits well in Cleveland's west-coast attack and Blackmon's also great at piling up yards after the catch.
None of Cleveland's current receivers can best single coverage on a consistent basis, so taking Blackmon creates mismatches elsewhere on the field. He can stretch a defense and draw double coverage, which ultimately helps set up the running game.
After all; doing solid work on the ground is how to succeed in the AFC North.
2. Matt Kalil: OT, USC
A franchise can never go wrong by adding talent to the offensive line. It is the most important unit of players to an offense, just like the defensive line is that role on the dark side.
Matt Kalil is an excellent option to play opposite of Joe Thomas and immediately creates a safe haven for McCoy to setup shop in. The Browns need to improve the pass protection anyway and Kalil was part of a line that allowed just eight sacks of quarterback Matt Barkley in 2011.
Kalil will also significantly improve the rushing attack, as he possesses the initial explosion to chip-block to the second level. Cleveland needs an improve ground game to make play-action more effective and upgrading the offensive line is the building block to fielding that balanced approach.
1. Trent Richardson: RB, Alabama
Easily the most complete running back in the draft, Alabama's Trent Richardson solves a lot of issues for the Cleveland offense.
He's a bruising ball-carrier that punishes every would-be tackler and gets great yards after first contact. Having compiled over 2,000 total yards last season, Richardson was consistent throughout his career and is quite the reliable back on screens and check downs (64 career receptions for 730 yards).
Richardson's acceleration, strength and presence as a ball-carrier also makes him a dominant pass-blocker. Picking up blitzes will obviously add additional protection, but it also opens up the playbook to delayed routes, screens and puts more emphasis on the play-action.
Cleveland hasn't had a franchise running back for quite a while and Richardson is the total package.
John Rozum onTwitter.
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