Cleveland Browns: Reviewing Their 2012 NFL Draft

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIMay 4, 2012

Cleveland Browns: Reviewing Their 2012 NFL Draft

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    Following the free-agency departure of running back Peyton Hillis, Alabama’s Trent Richardson became a clear target for the Cleveland Browns with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft.

    With the Minnesota Vikings shopping the No. 3 pick, the Browns decided that they could not afford the risk of a team moving ahead of them to select Richardson, and traded up one spot with the Vikings to secure the chance to draft him.

    This big deal secured the Browns’ opportunity to make their ideal selection, but how well did they take advantage of the rest of their draft? Read through the following slides to find out.

Evaluating the Picks

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    Round 1, Pick 3: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 7

    Very talented running back who dominated SEC defenses and possesses a tremendous combination of size, speed and power. Runs too upright, but is a physical back with the ability to beat defenders by running through them and making them miss.

    Round 1, Pick 22: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 47

    Skilled quarterback who is not a typical product of a spread offense. Strong arm and has consistently displayed ability to make NFL throws with downfield accuracy. Mature, intelligent and has good pocket presence. That said, he is not the franchise quarterback that the Browns have drafted him to be, but he could be a solid starter. Limited by his age, as he is already 28 years old.

    Round 2, Pick 37: Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 138

    Solid all-around right tackle prospect. Not dominant, and has limited positional versatility, but should emerge as a starter on the right side.

    Round 3, Pick 87: John Hughes, DT, Cincinnati

    Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400

    Big, strong defensive tackle, but very limited athletically. Hughes is not going to be a difference-maker at the next level, but could provide decent depth on the interior defensive line.

    Round 4, Pick 100: Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 238

    Benjamin has tremendous straight-line speed, but not polished as a receiver. Lacks size, has problems with drops and not a great route-runner. Developmental project who could bring value as a kick returner.

    Round 4, Pick 120: James-Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 140

    Johnson is an instinctive linebacker and sound tackler. Undersized and not a spectacular athlete. Should be a solid depth player and special teams contributor.

    Round 5, Pick 160: Ryan Miller, G/OT, Colorado

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 137

    Miller is a massive offensive lineman with a good combination of size and athleticism. Raw player who was not dominant, but has potential at both guard and right tackle. Could develop into a quality starter.

    Round 6, Pick 204 (compensatory selection): Emmanuel Acho, OLB, Texas

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 126

    Acho was very productive at Texas, but there is nothing special about his game. Solid all-around linebacker who tackles well and can cover. Should be a quality backup linebacker and special teams player for the Browns.

    Round 6, Pick 205 (compensatory selection): Billy Winn, DT/DE, Boise State

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 150

    Winn has the ability to be a disruptive force on the defensive line, but his game is much too inconsistent. He lacks strength and has a questionable motor. His stock really dropped over the course of a disappointing senior season.

    Round 7, Pick 245 (compensatory selection): Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 151

    Wade is a small cornerback with solid instincts and playmaking ability. Poor tackler and inconsistent in coverage. Has potential as a dime cornerback.

    Round 7, Pick 247 (compensatory selection): Brad Smelley, H-B, Alabama

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 322

    Smelley worked his way into the draft with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. Undersized tight end who lacks athleticism, but has the potential to line up at fullback as well. Strong run blocker with very reliable hands.

Evaluating the Trades

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    The Browns received Round 1, Pick 22 and Round 4, Pick 118 as part of a package from the Atlanta Falcons in the 2011 NFL Draft for the No. 6 overall selection in that draft.

    The Browns made the blockbuster trade of the 2011 draft by moving down 21 spots with the Atlanta Falcons, receiving a five-pick package over two years in return. The Browns got tremendous value out of that trade, and continued to utilize it in this draft.

    They used pick No. 22 to select Brandon Weeden, and used the fourth-round pick as part of their package to move up for Trent Richardson.

    The Browns traded Round 1, Pick 4, along with the No. 118, No. 139 and No. 211 overall selections, to the Minnesota Vikings for Round 1, Pick 3.

    In actuality, the Browns may have unnecessarily given up three Day 3 draft selections to move up only one spot. That said, Richardson really was the perfect selection for the Browns, and this move was worth making to assure the opportunity to draft him.

    The Browns came into the draft with a league-high 13 draft picks, so they could afford to give up a few picks. The Browns really need to add a premier offensive playmaker in this draft, and they did that by selecting Richardson.

    The Browns traded Round 3, Pick 67 to the Denver Broncos for Round 3, Pick 87 and Round 4, Pick 120.

    The Browns got a good return value for their early third-round pick by picking up a third- and fourth-round pick. The Browns did not fully utilize their acquired selections, by using the No. 87 overall selection to reach heavily on Cincinnati defensive tackle John Hughes, but the trade value of this deal was very good.

    The Browns received Round 5, Pick 160 from the Broncos in March 2010 as part of a package in exchange for quarterback Brady Quinn.

    That package also included running back Peyton Hillis, who had a very productive season for the Browns they acquired him, so they definitely won that trade. This late Round 5 selection was a good bonus acquisition, and they used it well by selecting Ryan Miller.

    The Browns traded Round 6, Pick 175 to the Vikings in October 2010 for defensive end Jayme Mitchell.

    Mitchell started 13 games for the Browns last season, but his performance was subpar and he was released in March. For only a Round 6 selection, however, they got solid return value.

Assessing Value

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    Trent Richardson was worth a top-3 draft choice, but the rest of the Browns’ early draft selections were mostly reaches.

    Drafting Brandon Weeden in the second round to compete for the starting quarterback position with Colt McCoy would have made sense. Investing a first-round pick in him was a big reach. Weeden is not a franchise quarterback prospect, and the Browns should have given McCoy another year to prove himself rather than drafting a first-round signal-caller.

    Mitchell Schwartz should end up as a solid right tackle, but the Browns could have selected a top prospect, Jonathan Martin, to play the same position and would have been great second-round value.

    Travis Benjamin is a dynamic athlete at wide receiver with great speed, but the Browns could have gone with a more polished receiver with similar speed in Jarius Wright.

    The biggest reach of all, however, was Cincinnati defensive tackle John Hughes. There is nothing particularly special about Hughes’s game, while one of the top defensive line prospects in the draft class, Brandon Thompson, was still available.

    The Browns’ scouting department did not display a very good knowledge of value in the first four rounds of the 2012 draft.

    The Browns got quality value with all of their picks in Rounds 5 through 7. It came as a surprise that Ryan Miller was still available in the fifth round, while Emmanuel Acho, Billy Winn and Trevin Wade were all great choices in the late rounds.

Addressing Needs

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    The Browns came into the draft with many needs to fill across the board.

    The Browns addressed their biggest need at running back right away by moving up to select Richardson, and filled their second-biggest need with the selection of California right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

    Instead of drafting Weeden at No. 22, the Browns should have used that pick on a better talent at a position of greater need, such as Stanford guard David DeCastro or Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill. Defensive tackle was also not among the Browns’ need, giving even less sense to the selection of Hughes.

    The Browns drafted one wide receiver, but Benjamin is unlikely to be the answer to their need at that position. Overall, the Browns did a solid job of adding players at their needs, including Miller at guard, but could have been more efficient with some of their early selections.


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    Trading up for Trent Richardson made sense, as any draft class for the Browns would have been a disappointment had they missed out on the chance to select him. However, the Browns did not do a very good job with the rest of their early draft selections.

    The Browns missed out on value consistently, and did not select the best players to fill their needs.

    By selecting Brandon Weeden in Round 1, they committed to a 28-year-old questionable starter to be their franchise quarterback, rather than bringing in a player on a more competitive basis and leaving the door open to searching for another quarterback if neither Weeden nor Colt McCoy performed up to par this season.

    The Browns made up for some of their early draft mistakes with quality late-round selections, but their poor early choices made this draft an overall miss for the Browns.

    Grade: C

    Thanks for reading!

    Throughout the month of May, I will be reviewing one team’s draft each day, in the order of the original 2012 NFL draft order.

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