2012 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns GM Running a Misdirection for Matt Kalil?

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2012 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns GM Running a Misdirection for Matt Kalil?
Harry How/Getty Images

 

"All war is deception."—Sun Tzu

As the speculation preceding Thursday night's NFL draft culminates, the Minnesota Vikings' lock on USC tackle Matt Kalil at third overall grows more uncertain by the day.

Louisiana State's Morris Claiborne has developed into the fashionable prediction for the Vikes this week, lending itself to the question: will the Browns draft a tackle in the top five for the second time since 2007?

Naturally, one look at Joe Thomas—said offensive tackle, taken with the Browns' third overall selection in 2007—simultaneously invites encouragement and dismissal of the idea.

On the one hand, Thomas is a Pro Bowl left tackle and left tackle is really the only position on the offensive line that ever merits a top five pick.

GM Tom Heckert said it himself last week, "Obviously, if you can get a really good one, (right tackle) it's great. Now, if you look in the league, there are a lot teams playing with guys that you've never heard of...We think we have guys who can step in and play. Oniel [Cousins] played a little bit last year and we have [John] Greco who could play there..." 

The first words out of Heckert's mouth tell the whole story: "if you can get a really good one, it's great."

Former Texans right tackle Eric Winston commanded a four-year, $22 million deal with Kansas City after clearing the path for top rushing duo Arian Foster and Ben Tate. This case demonstrates two lessons: one, a backfield is only as good as its' line; two, even a backfield featuring a Pro Bowler requires multiple weapons.

 

Here's a list of 2011 NFL starting right tackles taken in the first round:

Marc Colombo, Miami Dolphins (29th Overall to Bears, 2002)
Jammal Brown, Washington Redskins (13th Overall to Redskins, 2005)
Jason Smith, St. Louis Rams (second Overall to Rams, 2009)
Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens (23rd Overall to Ravens, 2009)
Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals (sixth Overall to Bengals, 2009)
Anthony Davis, San Francisco 49ers (11th Overall to 49ers, 2010)
Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers (23rd Overall to Packers, 2010)
James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks (25th Overall to Seahawks, 2011)
Nate Solder, New England Patriots (17th Overall to Patriots, 2011) 
Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys (ninth Overall to Cowboys, 2011)
Gabe Carimi, Chicago Bears (29th Overall to Bears, 2011)

So, a third of the league starts a right tackle taken in the first round, including half of the playoff participants from last season. From that perspective, a right tackle in the first round appears downright sensible.

Finally, as the Browns have shopped their pick rather obviously, Minnesota has only let on in recent weeks that they might also look to trade out. If the Bucs or the Rams trade up to third and snag Trent Richardson, the Browns will lie at fourth with Kalil, Claiborne, Blackmon, one less suitor for a potential trade down. Interest for the Browns' fourth pick could drop precipitously in the event Richardson goes third overall to anyone.

With that in mind, Browns backers must consider the reality that while they may listen to Tom Heckert's every word with intense scrutiny, Heckert's job description includes choosing those words in a manner that could or will deceive even the most cynical, well-informed insiders.

It's about time someone in Berea convincingly faked left and ran right.

You can follow me on Twitter @StepanekButton

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