Cleveland Browns and the NFL Mock Draft: Why They Should Draft Trent Richardson
I've heard all the excuses in the book as to why the Cleveland Browns should not use their fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on running back Trent Richardson. From internet blogs of super fans to conversations with friends, there is plenty of talk out there that supports not drafting Richardson.
These are the most prominent excuses I've heard for not selecting the best running back in this year's draft, followed by the reasons they are wrong:
'Cleveland needs to focus on getting a franchise quarterback'
The draft position the Browns are in means that by the time they are on the clock, both of the best QB's in the draft will be gone. This leaves Ryan Tannehill as the best option at drafting a quarterback in the first round. Though he is a talented passer, without a good running game to take the pressure off him or a proven big time receiver, Tannehill will sputter in this offense.
Both Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace are the biggest QB running threats in the AFC North and with the proper weapons around them, either could be dangerous to opposing defenses. McCoy and Wallace both proved last year that they could get away from pass rushes and gain yards on the ground and Cleveland can't ignore this. I truly believe McCoy or Wallace could be an absolute stud with the right tools. There is nothing Tannehill can do that either of these two can't.
'Running backs don't win championships'
Most critics agree that quarterbacks and defenses are the keys to Super Bowl caliber teams. The past three champs have all had passing-focused offenses with no outstanding runner and great defenses. Those high-powered offenses, though, would be nothing without at least the threat that they could run the ball. The ability to run the ball allows a team to drain the clock during the most important times in the game. Running backs may not win championships but no team can do it on passing alone.
'Cleveland needs to focus on receivers for their west coast offense.'
Cleveland absolutely needs a big time receiver for their WCO to succeed. Greg Little is a real threat and all of his mistakes and dropped passes will go away with experience; remember he played last season after sitting out his senior year at North Carolina and was only a rookie. This year's draft class is wide receiver deep which allows Cleveland the opportunity to wait to draft the receiver who will go alongside Little.
To sum it up:
Cleveland needs to get away from its one-dimensional offensive attack. Their 193 passing yards per-game and 95 rush yards per-game last year both ranked them in the bottom third of the league. This was because defenses knew Cleveland's ability to run was next to nothing and they could focus on the pass. With a capable running game, the passing game could be blown wide open and the Browns could have the dual threat offense that would allow them to succeed.
Richardson's talent does not come around often, and even more rare is the ability for your team to get its hands on him. The Browns need to take him with their first pick, and subsequent picks should be as follows:
Round 1, No. 22 Overall
Trent Richardson will need some good blocking to propel him into NFL stardom. Not to mention the right side of the offensive line last year was atrocious. Mike Adams did not have an impressive combine workout, but the Browns see potential in the 6' 7" 323 lb tackle. Mary Kay Cabot from The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported that along with Adams, the Browns have also talked with offensive lineman Matt Kalil from USC, Cordy Glenn from Georgia, Jonathan Martin from Stanford and Mitchell Schwartz from Cal as possible solutions for their starting right tackle.
Kalil is likely to be gone in the top five picks and Martin in the top 15. That leaves Adams as the best tackle left from this group when they pick again at number 22 overall. Cordy Glenn is also a real possibility here as he is slightly bigger in weight and much quicker in the 40-yard dash. Glenn played guard for Georgia, and this might be the reason the Browns will go with Adams here who has experience at tackle. If Martin is still available here it could shake things up, but he too had a bad combine and pro day workout.
The questions surrounding Adams are about his strength to play the left side of the line where most teams send their best pass rusher because this is usually the QB's 'blind side'. Good news for the Browns is Pro Bowler Joe Thomas has that position locked down, and Adams could get acquainted with the NFL on the right side of the line where they need the most help.
Offensive lineman are unexciting picks, especially in the first round, but they are a necessity and there is plenty left to get excited about in this draft.
Round 2, No. 37 Overall
Cleveland desperately needs a down-field threat and Kendall Wright is just that. He is lightning fast and has obviously been working on his speed, lowering his 40-yard dash time from 4.61 at the NFL scouting combine to a 4.42 at Baylor's pro day. Wright would be a great match across the field from Greg Little, ensuring defenses devote attention to the both of them.
The real victory here if Cleveland is lucky enough to snag the Baylor wide out is that defensive secondaries would now have to pay attention to Cleveland wide receivers. This means the talented slot-man Joshua Cribbs and TE's Evan Moore and Ben Watson can take advantage of being guarded by mismatched linebackers on underneath routes. Cribbs is a very capable slot receiver and everyone knows his potential after getting the ball. Moore also has great potential and is built just like star TE's Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten and Jimmy Graham.
Wright has real talent and would be an instant boost to a desperate offense. The fact that he is very talented means he might be taken before Cleveland can get to him when they want to. If Wright is gone by this point look for Cleveland to go after WR's Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina, Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech or Rueben Randle from LSU, respectively.
Round 3, No. 67 Overall
It is no secret Cleveland was snooping around for a quarterback this off season. Rumors were floating around about the interest in Matt Flynn and the obvious failed trade attempt with St. Louis to go after Robert Griffin III. I don't believe Ryan Tannehill is worth the fourth overall pick and the Browns should realize this too. By the the time Cleveland is ready to pick a quarterback, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins is the best left and barring a surprise, should still be available due to flying under the radar somewhat in the past couple of months.
Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller has labeled Michigan State's Kirk Cousins as this year's biggest sleeper at the QB position. Colt McCoy will be the starter at the beginning of the season, but in the event he does not begin to turn the offense around, they need backup talent. Cousins did have a pre-draft visit with Cleveland, which shows they are more than curious about the QB who had a career completion percentage of 64-percent at MSU. Seneca Wallace would replace McCoy first, but Wallace is in his early 30s and Cleveland is still looking for that franchise QB.
Round 4, No. 100 Overall
Sean Spence is not loved by all teams in the NFL, but his smaller frame could be a perfect fit for OLB in Cleveland's 4-3 defense. He makes up for being undersized by flying around the field to wherever the ball is. Especially when you think about Chris Gocong as being in his mid-30s and the possibility of losing Scott Fujita due to the 'Bounty-Gate' scandal, Cleveland will need some added depth at linebacker. Not to mention this defense gave up 147.4 rush yards per game last year, or third worst in the league, and should be welcoming to any help they can get.
Round 4, No. 118 Overall
The Browns are also on the hunt for a long-term solution at the CB position opposite Joe Haden this offseason. Leonard Johnson is a sure open-field tackler who accumulated 72 stops his senior season and showed improvement on his speed between the combine and Iowa State's pro day. He was also a huge part in the Cyclone's upset victory over Oklahoma State, holding Justin Blackmon to under 100 yards receiving—no small feat.
Rounds 5-7, Nos. 139, 160, 205, 211, 245, 247
This is the point where most fans (and writers) lose interest. Not only is it almost impossible to predict but not really necessary. Cleveland will most likely pick the best remaining talent available at this point for the positions they still need to fill. Not that they haven't done any scouting this deep, but the homework done for who you want it in these rounds usually lines up with what scouts say is the best available talent remaining.
Cleveland will still want to add some depth to their struggling defense at the linebacker and defensive line positions. Players to watch include DT Jaye Howard from Florida, DE Oliver Vernon from Miami, DE/DT Trevor Guyton from Cal and DE Julian Miller from West Virginia.
Cleveland actually invited a punter on a pre-draft day visit this year and why shouldn't the team with the lowest average punt distance from last season be searching? Punter Brian Stahovich from San Diego State has met with the Browns and looks to be their replacement when 37-year-old Brian Maynard decides to retire. Not to mention when you have a league-high 13 picks, you can afford to look at this position.
The offensive line is always a place to add depth when you can due to injuries and the Browns have had their fair share. G Ryan Miller from Colorado looks to be a decent late round pick-up to add depth to the O-Line. OT Josh Oglesby from Wisconsin may be looked at here as well, although he has not impressed with pre-draft workouts like was originally expected.
SS Winston Guy from Kentucky and FS Justin Bethel from Presbyterian will also be looked at to add depth to a secondary that has also battled injuries recently.
The Browns will lastly be looking to add depth to a receiving corps that by this point should have a stud on it to go along with Greg Little. Watch out for WR's Junior Hemingway from Michigan, Jermaine Kearse from Washington and Keshawn Martin from Michigan State.
If Cleveland has a smart draft, they could be real AFC North contenders in the 2013 season.