It's time for the biggest event in the NFL's offseason—the draft
Welcome to your one-stop shop for all Cleveland Browns NFL draft pick updates and analysis.
Starting on Thursday night and all the way through the end of Round 7 on Saturday, you'll get instant updates on every pick and every trade, scouting reports and draft grades for each pick and for Cleveland's entire haul.
Bookmark this page, check back throughout the three-day event and enjoy the most comprehensive analysis of the Cleveland Browns' draft performance anywhere on the web.
The Browns' biggest Day 1 question is whether they can score RB Trent Richardson at pick No. 4
When the NFL Draft kicked off on Thursday night, the main question for the Browns in the first round was whether they'll be able to land Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the No. 4 overall pick.
Rumors flew about teams trying to trade up to the Minnesota Vikings' No. 3 spot to take him before Cleveland has a chance, sparking counter-rumors that the Browns themselves would be willing to move to No. 3 to make sure no one can grab their most-coveted target.
That's exactly what happened according to ESPN's Adam Schefter and Fox Sports' Jay Glazer who were the first to break the news that the Browns gave up a fourth, fifth and seventh round pick (of which they have a few to spend) to move from No. 4 to No. 3 to be assured they nab the running back.
Though the Browns could have had their pick of the offensive line litter at 22, they chose quarterback Brandon Weeden who seemed highly unlikely to go to the Browns—or any team—that high.
A quarterback was certainly in the Browns' plans this year, to provide a more viable backup to Colt McCoy than Seneca Wallace. But now that the Browns have done so in the first round, McCoy's starting job looks to be in jeopardy.
With a glut of picks and a number of holes to patch, this is a make-or-break draft for Cleveland's chances to be competitive in 2012 and beyond. More trades are possible, yes, but look for the Browns to try to make the most of the high number of picks they have available.
It was pretty much a given that right tackle and wide receiver would be the two positions the Browns would target in Rounds 2 and 3. They started Friday night on the right foot, selecting Cal offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz with their 37th overall pick.
Some may balk at this pick, saying the Browns should have gone receiver instead. But it's a deep receiver class, while it would have been hard for Cleveland to find a starting tackle in Rounds 3 or beyond.
Immediately upon LSU receiver Rueben Randle going off the board, the Browns agreed to trade all the way down to the 87th overall pick (from 67), swapping spots with the Denver Broncos and also getting their fourth-round, 120th overall selection.
The Browns didn't go wide receiver with this pick, as most had expected, instead opting for Cincinnati defensive tackle John Hughes, a widely unknown player. While this selection was met with the same dubiousness as the Schwartz pick, it makes sense—yes, Hughes is raw, but he's a run stopping specialist.
One must remember the Browns gave up 147 rushing yards per game on average last year, so any way they can rectify that situation, they must. Wide receiver can wait until Saturday.
Get used to seeing a lot of these, Cleveland, with Trent Richardson as your RB.
The Cleveland Browns, clearly spooked by the possibility that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to make a substantive offer with the Minnesota Vikings to take running back Trent Richardson out from under them, gave up a fourth, fifth and seventh round pick (Nos. 118, 139 and 211 overall) this year to jump up one spot to make sure they landed their man.
Richardson has been my perfect pick for the Browns for some time now. He's a one-man-army, able to break tackles when offensive line protection breaks down, catch passes, put up significant yards, pass protect and—most importantly—score touchdowns.
In the tough AFC North, one should not discount the importance of running well. Even when the passing game breaks down with Colt McCoy under center, the Browns offense will be able to build significant gains with Richardson carrying the ball. In a grind-it-out division, Richardson is a serious game-changer for the Browns.
Even the trade itself—giving up three picks—doesn't hurt the Browns much at all. The Browns went into this draft with two fourth-round, two fifth-round and three seventh-round picks. They still have picks in every round and still get the best player they could hope for this year. It's a win-win.
Yeah, that's one. For first round.
Well, the Cleveland Browns did it. They really did it. They used their 22nd overall pick on Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Now, don't get me wrong, I truly believe Weeden is a good fit for the Browns—as Colt McCoy's backup, at least this year. But now that they've used a first-round pick on him, they're sending a clear message: McCoy's officially on notice.
This pick is a shocker for one main reason—there was a ton of offensive line talent still on the board. Stanford's David DeCastro, Iowa's Riley Reiff and Georgia's Cordy Glenn had yet to be spoken for, and the Browns certainly need a starting offensive tackle, so their choice of Weeden here is a bit baffling.
Clearly, the Browns' front office is very much enamored with the talents of Weeden, and considering he'll be 29 years old in October, they don't likely intend for him to sit on the bench for very long. They're sending a message by taking Weeden in round one, when they could have gotten him later. That message? Sorry, Colt.
Still, this is a confusing maneuver to me. I was under the impression that Cleveland was willing to give McCoy another full year to be their starter; now, he's likely to be traded away.
Weeden possesses first round talent, true, but they could have gotten him at a bargain and met more immediate-seeming needs before selecting him. This pick makes it seem like the old Browns' ways have yet to be truly vanquished, despite picking intelligently at No. 4.
Mitchell Schwartz, not in his game-day look
The Cleveland Browns met one of their most immediate needs at the top of the second round, taking Cal offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz with their 37th overall pick.
Schwartz replaces former starter Tony Pashos—in fact, he does so perfectly, with Schwartz viewed by most scouts as a prototypical right tackle and little else. The Browns would not be able to get a starter with Schwartz's skills in any later round, as compared to wide receiver, which is an extremely deep class this year.
The combination of Schwartz on the right, Brandon Weeden likely under center and Trent Richardson running the ball for Cleveland this year clearly shows that the Browns are committed to improving their offense. Expect a wide receiver in round three; they needed Schwartz here, it's as simple as that.
Hughes may be falling down here, but clearly, he popped the ball out. That's a start.
John who? Certainly, that's what a number of Cleveland Browns fans are saying about their 87th overall pick.
John Hughes is both huge and fast, able to scare quarterbacks by just breathing in their general direction. He's freakishly athletic, lettering in a number of sports in high school.
The Browns certainly need help on their defensive line, considering they gave up nearly 150 rush yards per game last season. He can read offenses very well, but he's raw and needs some coaching up. Clearly the Browns think they can do so; if successful, look for him to eat blockers for breakfast.
See? There's no one around WR Travis Benjamin. He's fast.
Finally the Browns get a new weapon for their quarterback (ostensibly Brandon Weeden), taking speedy Miami receiver Travis Benjamin in Round 4.
Benjamin is a smaller prospect but he's incredibly fast—he ran a 4.36 40 yard dash. The smaller size gives him trouble with physical defenders, but if he can get off the line of scrimmage, no one will be able to catch him.
Benjamin will also likely contribute in punt and kick returns, thanks to that elite speed. The key for his success will be dependent on how well he holds up in the far harder-hitting NFL, but if Weeden or Colt McCoy can get him the ball, he could be a serious open-field threat.
The Browns picked up an in-the-box linebacker who is all about stopping the run in the fourth round, taking Nevada's James-Michael Johnson.
Cleveland doesn't have too much of an issue with the pass rush right now, but clearly they need to give up far fewer than the 147 yards-per-game on the ground they did last season. Again, Johnson is a situational guy who will take the field on run plays, but he's certainly going to see starting action in his rookie season.
Stop the run, tackle better, eat up running backs—those are the three defensive priorities for the Browns this offseason, and they've clearly addressed them in this draft. This is another solid, if not flashy, pickup that will pay off big time in 2012 and beyond.
Ryan Miller is a beast of an offensive lineman who gives Cleveland much-needed depth
Colorado offensive guard Ryan Miller is huge—6'7", 321 pounds—and because of his size, he may be used as a tackle for the Browns.
The Browns certainly could use more offensive line depth, and Miller is extremely talented. Many had him graded as a late-first, early-second rounder, but he is raw and worth developing.
It's an excellent pickup—that Miller can be plugged in all over the line means they can find a formula that works in both pass protection and in the run game.
Tackling: Emmanuel Acho excells at it
The Cleveland Browns continued on having a very good draft with their first of two sixth-round compensatory picks, selecting Texas linebacker Emmanuel Acho 204th overall.
Acho is a versatile defensive player but his smaller size likely pushed him down to Round 6. He's good in zone coverage because he's a talented open-field tackler and he's also adept at blitzing.
He'll need some development—and some bulking up—but Acho could see some real time on the field this season, albeit situationally. He's yet another player who will specialize in stopping the run, which is the only area of the Browns defense that needs improving.
Billy Winn may or may not earn a starting spot this year, but he's as solid a depth DE as they come
The Browns have almost completed the transformation of their defensive front to be one far stronger at stopping the run than they were last season. They continued that work with their 205th overall pick, selecting Boise State defensive end Billy Winn, a player who could have gone as high as the third round.
Winn can play every position on the defensive line other than nose tackle, which makes him an excellent addition for a Browns team that's likely going to do some experimenting with their defensive front four in the months leading up to Week 1.
He lacks some strength and will struggle with double-teams, but if he is used to set the edge for Cleveland, he should have some success.
Trevin Wade is average at best, but it's the end of the seventh round
The Cleveland Browns selected Arizona cornerback Trevin Wade in the seventh round, but he lacks the speed and physicality to make an impact in the NFL.
He might be worth developing, but look for Wade to be a practice squad player unless he can make some significant contributions on special teams.
At best, Brad Smelley could be an Aaron Hernandez-type. At worst, he's a solid special teams tackler. A good seventh round pick.
The Cleveland Browns opted for a fullback with their final pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, selecting Alabama's Brad Smelley 247th overall.
Smelley spent most of his time in Alabama as an H-back, and he'll likely do the same for the Browns, being a short-yardage pass catcher on third downs. He's not going to be Trent Richardson's lead blocker—he simply lacks the power, though he's not afraid to get physical.
Smelley is also a great special teams kick and punt coverage player, and he'll get time on the field in this area for sure in his rookie season.
This is the reason for the season, Cleveland
Round 1: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama, A+
The Browns did everything they could to get their man and they succeeded. There's no better player for the Browns in this draft—he's a game-changer.
Round 1: QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, C
The grade is for where Weeden was picked and not Weeden himself; if he takes the starting job from Colt McCoy, he'll be a major upgrade.
Round 2: OT Mitchell Schwarts, California, B+
It's a home-run pickup as far as filling the hole at right tackle, but he loses a few points because there's no other position he can play on the offensive line.
Round 3: DT John Hughes, Cincinnati, C
A bit of an overdraft here, but he's a running back-eating defensive lineman, and that's what the Browns sorely needed.
Round 4: WR Travis Benjamin, Miami, B
The Browns may have needed to go with a receiver earlier, but Travis Benjamin is incredibly fast and is comparable in skill to DeSean Jackson.
Round 4: LB James-Michael Johnson, Nevada, A
Another run-stopper for the Browns here, James-Michael Johnson is a fabulous fourth round pick.
Round 5: OG Ryan Miller, Colorado, A-
Ryan Miller can play all around the line, which makes him a quintessential depth addition, and his talent rates far above his draft position.
Round 6: LB Emmanuel Acho, Texas, B+
Acho has some speed to penetrate through offensive linemen and hit the quarterback, but he's of best use to the Browns as another run-stopper. Great tackling is a plus.
Round 6: DE Billy Winn, Boise State, B
Winn is a crazy-versatile defensive lineman who, again, will boost the run defense. Remember: Cleveland gave up 147 yards per game on the ground last year but otherwise had a top 10 defense.
Round 7: CB Trevin Wade, Arizona, C
Trevin Wade is a developmental prospect who may have some value in the nickel. But if he does anything this year, it will be on special teams.
Round 7: FB Brad Smelley, Alabama, B
Brad Smelley is not a lead blocker for tailbacks. He's more of an h-back who the Browns are likely hoping to use as a tight end in the mold of the New England Patriots' Aaron Hernandez.
Overall Draft Grade: B