Lessons Learned from Cleveland Browns', Heckert/Holmgren's 2012 Draft Strategy

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Lessons Learned from Cleveland Browns', Heckert/Holmgren's 2012 Draft Strategy

No team had more pressure on them entering the 2012 NFL draft than the Cleveland Browns.

After missing out on a trade-up for Robert Griffin III, the Browns were still sitting pretty with three of the first 37 picks, but they had no franchise quarterback to hang their hat on.

How would they deploy their considerable resources to keep up with the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals? And what would it tell us about the strategy general manager Tom Heckert and team president Mike Holmgren are using to make the team into a contender?

 

The Browns Are Not Good Poker Players

Yes, Trent Richardson is a rare running back prospect, and running back was a position of great, great need, but to give up an extra fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round pick to be assured of getting Richardson was a bit over the top.

Perhaps the Browns were prepared to do that because they had so many extra picks. Perhaps they felt snake-bitten after missing out on Griffin. No matter the reason, they blinked, and they did it before the pick was even on the clock.

This tendency was shown again in the supplemental draft, when the Browns bid a second-round pick despite being second in the order.

No other team bid a second, so a third was very likely to get it done. The Browns are not good at minimizing the price paid for a player that they are excited about.

 

Even When the Browns Don't Address Immediate Needs, They Address Immediate Needs

Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Mitchell Schwartz all look like Week 1 starters at positions that were huge holes for the team. Fourth-round pick Travis Benjamin might not start, but he also addressed the problem spot of wide receiver.

The Browns' third-round pick, John Hughes, and other fourth-rounder, James-Michael Johnson, play at defensive tackle and outside linebacker, positions that were adequately to strongly manned in the starting lineup going into the draft.

Then starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor tore a pectoral muscle and starting linebacker Scott Fujita got suspended three games for his role in Bountygate. Too bad that crystal ball didn't tell them no one would bid a second-round pick on Josh Gordon.

 

There Might Be Dissent Between Heckert and Holmgren

In addition to making the big move for Trent Richardson, Holmgren said they  really wanted Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright at the No. 22 pick. Of course, Wright went at No. 20 to the Tennessee Titans, and they took quarterback Brandon Weeden instead. 

When asked about this the day after the draft, Heckert said, "We liked Kendall and there were a couple of guys that we liked, but a quarterback is a quarterback, which I think that outweighs everything, at least in our opinion.''

Maybe Heckert was just trying to talk up Weeden, but his sentiment that Weeden's position (and by implication the scarcity and drop-off at the position after him) was the most important factor is consistent with an approach that would put him ahead of Wright, even if Wright was the superior overall prospect.

The Browns might have narrowly avoided a war-room fight while they were on the clock.

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