I Feel a Draft
by Drew Pelto aka *censored*
As a Cleveland native, I really don’t have a whole lot to live for in the sports world. The Browns are perennial cellar dwellers, the Indians don’t have the financial ability in MLB’s broken system to do much more than build for a big run every four years before blowing it up and starting again, and the Cavs are still a couple years away from contention with the additions of Irving, Thompson, and whoever they get in the next couple of drafts.
But the NFL Draft is our one Sports Christmas moment. It’s the one time where hope springs eternal before reality comes crashing down when we see how guys like Mike Junkin, Craig Powell, Gerard Warren, and Courtney Brown actually look in the NFL. But at least we have one day where the future looks bright. I guess that’s worth something. I guess.
This year, the Browns are in an interesting position. At fourth overall, they have the first real choice of this year’s draft. Let’s be honest here: the top three picks are already decided. Andrew Luck is going first, Robert Griffin is second, and Matt Kalil is third. Of course, the Vikings could pull off a total shocker and take Justin Blackmon or trade down, but I don’t see those happening with any degree of likelihood. The Vikings have good receivers, a running back, and a quarterback with potential. Give him some protection and see what he can do.
And I’m fine with not trading up for the Griffin pick. He won’t be successful in a cold weather, outdoor stadium. Washington is fine for him. If he had come to Cleveland, I feel he would have failed and the front office would have been crucified for giving up the present and future on one player. Discretion is the better part of valor, and I’d rather have a number of top picks to try to put together than a single boom or bust piece. Now if Cleveland Browns Stadium were the Lakefront Dome, then I’d be singing a different tune.
And so, here we sit with the first real choice of the draft. Not the first pick– the first choice. Let’s face it: The Browns have a lot of holes to fill. Their quarterback is a question mark, the running back does not exist, the receivers are stop-gaps, and they need run stoppers and pass rushers on the other side of the ball.
And so, here’s a look at who to take (or not to take) if I’m Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert.
QUARTERBACK – RYAN TANNEHILL
Pros: Tannehill is probably the top quarterback prospect in the draft not named Luck or Griffin. He has a ton of physical talent, and a good mind for the game, and he’ll be good working with his receivers, seeing as he’s been a receiver before this season.
Cons: He is extremely raw. As a wide receiver before this season, the biggest thing that stands out from that is a lack of experience as a signal caller. Sure, he’ll probably end up a starter wherever he goes, but he’s not going to be a great one. He’s a scrambler in an age of pocket passers. If your goal is to win a Super Bowl, you need a top of the line quarterback and he’s not it.
My thoughts: Avoid Tannehill at the 4 spot. But snap him up at 22 if he falls.
RUNNING BACK – TRENT RICHARDSON
Pros: Richardson is the top running back available in this draft. Many could call him an outright game changer. Explosive speed outside, power between the tackles, and he can block and catch the ball. Seriously, what’s not to like here?
Cons: He had a minor surgical process done on his knee recently. And Holmgren has never liked spending high picks on running backs. Heckert has done a good job of finding talent in the second and third rounds, and a guy like Doug Martin from Boise State would be a great pickup with the 37th pick. Aside from that, I can find very few cons on Richardson.
My thoughts: Definitely worth consideration. He won’t drop past the Buccanneers in the 5 slot.
WIDE RECEIVER – JUSTIN BLACKMON
Pros: In the West Coast offense, you need guys who can catch short balls, but also a deep threat to keep the defense honest. The Browns lack that, and Blackmon could be it. Once again, he’s the top receiving prospect in this draft and can pick up some good yards after the catch. You’ll need that with Noodle Arm McCoy lobbing the ball.
Cons: Perceived slowness. The knock on him was that his foot speed was limited, though he seems to have put those concerns to rest with nice 40 times at the Combine and on his Pro Day. Another knock is off-field issues via a 2010 DUI arrest. However, the Browns have enough “good guys” that they can afford to take on a character liability and hope he cleans up. The fact he does work with charities for cancer patients should be enough to knock out that concern.
My thoughts: This receiver class is a deep one, with nice additions to be found in the second and third rounds. Blackmon would be a nice addition, but it might be even better to use the threat of taking him as potential trade bait. The Rams have made no secret of the fact they coveteth thine receiver. Rams might want to move up to 4, so a trade down is a possibility. The Browns would lose out on Blackmon and Richardson that way, but there are still some excellent options left at the 6 spot that we’ll get to in a bit.
GUARD – DAVID DECASTRO
Pros: Best guard in the draft, extremely refined in all areas, strong as all hell.
Cons: He’s a guard. Who takes a guard in the Top 5 picks?
My thoughts: Would love to have him, but it would have to be a trade down scenario. I don’t see him going Top 5 just because no one takes guards that high. If the Browns trade down to 7 or 8, I could see it happening.
CORNERBACK – MORRIS CLAIBORNE
Pros: The best cornerback– no, the best defensive player in the draft, period. Speed, coverage, good in run support, what more can you ask for?
Cons: Not a major need. Sure, you could have the best corner pair in the NFL with him and Joe Haden, but what does that matter if you can’t stop the run?
My thoughts: The Browns don’t need him as badly as they need players in other positions. Give me Chase Minnifield in the third round and a stud offensive player at the fourth overall spot.
LINEBACKER – LUKE KUECHLY
Pros: The Browns need a run stopper, and Kuechly can do that, while also being effective in pass coverage.
Cons: Lacks size and speed. The Browns have no need for a middle linebacker– provided D’Qwell Jackson stays healthy. And he’s from Cincinnati, but I’ll try not to hold that against him.
My Thoughts: No way at four, maybe at 22. This is the top linebacker in the draft and he was slated to go to Philly at 15. With the Eagles getting DeMeco Ryans, they have no need for him. He could fall to 22 and I’d consider him if there’s any possibility he or D’Qwell Jackson could move outside. With DQ’s injuries, Kuechly could be a nice reserve in the middle while also possibly getting some time outside.
DEFENSIVE LINE – NO ONE, PLEASE!
Pros: The Browns seem pretty happy with the starting four they have as of now with Rucker and Sheard on the ends and Rubin and Taylor in the middle.
Cons: Frostee Rucker is a starter. Oh boy…
My Thoughts: Cautious optimism. Fact is, there are no defensive linemen I would consider in the Top 5 spots and only a few even worth consideration in the Top 10.
To me, the Browns have two options: Richardson or trade down. With a trade down, the front office has already said they wouldn’t move down past the 8th pick. This is a concern: I don’t see anyone who would be of any major help who would be available at the 7th or 8th pick. Claiborne would be the obvious selection, DeCastro would be alright, but overall, I’d rather see the Browns stay at 4 and take Richardson. There is no major need to trade down when you already have 13 picks to work with.
Take Richardson at 4, Claiborne goes 5 to Tampa, and the Rams still get Blackmon at 6. If you trade to the Rams, you miss out on both Blackmon and Richardson and are forced into reaching on Tannehill, DeCastro, or filling the least of all needs with Claiborne.
The 22nd pick can then be used on an offensive lineman, defensive lineman, receiver, or quarterback. Ditto on the 37th, 68th, and 101st picks. The Browns could get up to five of the top 100 players available in this draft. It’s time for Heckert to shine.
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