Most people around the league think the Cleveland Browns hold the swing pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. What should Cleveland with its No. 4 overall selection? Take Ryan Tannehill? Trent Richardson? Justin Blackmon? Morris Claiborne? Or trade down and stockpile picks?
Blackmon would fill glaring need for McCoy, BrownsThe Browns will steer the next few picks of the draft, which is why we'll probably hear about them falling in love with Ryan Tannehill, Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon. I don't see them trading back because I don't think the Miami Dolphins will panic on Tannehill, letting Cleveland take him at No. 4 should the Browns choose to do that. Personally, though, I don't think that will be the Browns' move. I spoke to a few GMs at the NFL Annual Meeting this week and all of them spoke highly of Tannehill, but most agreed that he's not quite ready to step in and start. That's not what you want out of a top-five pick these days.
With that in mind, the Browns would be best served to take Blackmon. He's a yards-after-catch receiver who could help a quarterback like Colt McCoy (not the most dangerous downfield passer). Blackmon can take the short pass and make things happen. Plus, with Greg Little, the receiving tandem could be in place for years, whether McCoy or someone else ends up being the long-term starter at quarterback.
Blackmon or Richardson? Browns' offensive philosophy will dictate pickI would not trade past No. 6. There are six elite players in this draft, and the Browns need to get one of them. Ryan Tannehill is not one of them, so I would make the decision between Trent Richardson and Justin Blackmon.
The Browns need playmakers on offense, and both of these excellent prospects fit the bill. Your style of offense should dictate your pick. If you want to emphasize the run, you take Richardson. If you favor the pass, you take Blackmon. I have Richardson rated higher.
Don't reach for Tannehill; Richardson's an ideal building blockI'm always suspicious of sudden QB risers, and Ryan Tannehill falls in that category. Why now? Why wasn't he hot during or immediately after the season? Only now, when he's the only other real QB prospect besides Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, is he being talked about. Why? Because we know those two are coming off the board with the first two picks, so someone has to fill that void. I'm not buying it. It's that rush to get the last quarterback available that caused the Jaguars to take Blaine Gabbert and the Vikings to snatch up Christian Ponder in the 2011 draft -- two picks that could result in do-overs in the 2013 draft. Resist that temptation to take a QB you have to sell yourself on.
That said, the Browns need a franchise-type player, so they can't afford to trade down. There's a serious dearth of weapons on offense, so they need to give Colt McCoy some help if he's ever going to succeed. The initial temptation would be to select top receiver Justin Blackmon. Pair him with Greg Little and things could open up a bit throwing the football. But is Blackmon as elite a talent as Trent Richardson? No. Richardson is an every-down back who has size and a great burst of speed and is by far the best back in the draft. The receiver position is deep enough where you can swing back early in the second round and get a pretty good pass catcher, but you're throwing a dart if you want an RB. Richardson can be a bell-cow runner and a great building block for the team.
Cleveland should snatch up Blackmon ... and then grab his college QB in Round 2Déjà vu! Wasn't it just two years ago that the Browns found their quarterback for the 20-teens at a Texas university? Alright, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill has a stronger arm than former Texas QB Colt McCoy, but otherwise the two fleet-footed signal callers cut very similar figures. The fact that the NFL is now a "Quarterback League" is undeniable, and it informs us why a team like Cleveland would consider reaching for a guy like Tannehill. Yes, the Browns -- like any NFL team that wants to be a perennial contender -- need a top-tier passer. Tannehill might be that guy. ... But then again, so might McCoy. The best way to find out the latter is to give Mr. Longhorn something he hasn't had since he got to Cleveland: a game-changing pass-catcher.
In other words: Take Justin Blackmon. And who knows? Maybe fate will reward Mike Holmgren & Co. by delivering Blackmon's pal Brandon Weeden in Round 2.
Give McCoy a chance by adding Richardson, an Adrian Peterson-type backContrary to what some will lead you to believe, Cleveland isn't that far away. So unless the Browns want to squeeze Tampa Bay for a pick or two to move up a spot for Trent Richardson, they should stick with the pick and use it on offense.
Sure, there is a temptation to draft top corner Morris Claiborne and combine him with Joe Haden for a dynamic secondary. But the Browns allowed the second-fewest passing yards in 2011, and the defense ranked 10th overall. So you don't want to invest too much in one position, as tempting as it might be. Especially when the offense is struggling.
So I would draft Richardson with the fourth overall pick. Featured running backs have become as relevant in the NFL as CDs in the music world -- Do those still exist? -- but Richardson projects as an Adrian Peterson-type of guy and packs the kind of punch the Browns need. I'd go with Richardson at No. 4 and then draft a guy like LSU WR Rueben Randle with the No. 22 pick.
Look, this is the make-or-break year for Colt McCoy, at least give him a fighting chance with some offensive weapons.
Blackmon would give Browns' offense best chance to succeedBlackmon. No one really knows if Colt McCoy can play because he's had no one to play with. Team Blackmon with last year's second-rounder, Greg Little, and give your young quarterback a chance.
Is Ryan Tannehill really worth the fourth overall pick? A top-five pick is so valuable I don't think Cleveland can afford to just take a quarterback to please its fan base. The Browns don't need a corner badly, as their secondary played very well last season. Trent Richardson would be a nice pick, but if he falls, perhaps Cleveland could move up from the 22nd pick to get him. A stretch? Maybe. But don't pass on Blackmon, Browns.