This year, they did well with their first pick in the first round (trading up to No. 3 to ensure Trent Richardson would be there), but at No. 22, they made one of the biggest mistakes in years.
I’m not referring to who Cleveland took; I’m referring to who it didn't take.
Imagine the running lanes through which Richardson could run if the left side of the offensive line featured tackle Joe Thomas and guard David DeCastro. We’re talking about a top-five offensive line with just one pick.
It is understood that the Browns selected Jason Pinkston, originally a tackle, in the fifth round in last year’s draft—he started all 16 games at left guard.
But is he really worthy of the starting role?
Thomas, a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro selection, said midway through the 2011 season that Pinkston was improving, according to The News-Herald:
Jason has played well. He hasn’t made any more mistakes than any of the rest of us. He works hard in practice. He’s smart. He’s getting better every week.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Pinkston was by far the weakest link in Cleveland’s offensive line in 2011, earning a minus-19.5 overall rating. Where he lacks in run support, DeCastro excels.
One scouting report on DeCastro says he’s a technician. In the report, B/R’s own Matt Miller says of the now Browns rival:
DeCastro has the ideal size and strength for the position, combining excellent reach with the power at the point of attack to dominate defensive linemen when he fires off the line of scrimmage.
Miller goes on to say that the worst-case scenario for DeCastro is that he makes “four or five Pro Bowls.”
How can you pass that up in favor of a 28-year-old quarterback who threw 26 interceptions over his final two years at Oklahoma State?
What drafting DeCastro could have meant for Cleveland is that its new star running back would be protected, as well as its young QB, Colt McCoy. It also would have given Pinkston the opportunity to move back to his natural offensive tackle spot, perhaps helping him perform more like the Browns no doubt hope he can.
Instead, they have themselves a new rival, as the Pittsburgh Steelers scooped up DeCastro just two picks later—a pick that was expected to be middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower of Alabama.
Pittsburgh knows how to draft, while Cleveland is left sitting on an unproven QB with issues on the interior of its line.
Mark Podolski, the sports editor of Ohio's The News-Herald offers his assessment of the pick:
Only thing I will say about Weeden pick by #Browns is Stanford OL David DeCastro will be an All-Pro for years to come. Better be right on QB— Mark Podolski (@mpodo) April 27, 2012
Now, the Browns have all but named Weeden the starter and are looking to trade McCoy away, eliminating the chance for a quarterback competition—a bad situation is getting worse.
When asked by ESPN about McCoy's future with the team, Browns GM Tom Heckert said, "To be honest, we haven't thought about that. We really haven't. That's something we'll talk about tonight and tomorrow."
Fasten your seatbelts, Dawg Pound—this plane is going down, and there is nothing you can do to save it.