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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The 2012 NFL Draft & The Browns - I Want Trent Richardson, But I Am Prepared For Morris Claiborne

At the onset, my love of the NFL Draft comes primarily from my love of college football, especially Ohio State and The Big Ten. I do watch the NFL, but it would be accurate to say that the majority of my NFL viewing takes place during preseason before college football starts, in December after college football's regular season concludes, and during the NFL playoffs. College football reigns supreme in my heart, mind, and soul.

Back in 2007, the Browns sat at number three overall in the first round, with debate raging if the Browns would take Wisconsin OT Joe Thomas, Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, or Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn. I vividly recall how excited I was when the Browns made a great value pick in Joe Thomas, who has emerged as arguably the best left tackle in the NFL since that selection.  Of course, I was at Great Lakes Brewery with friends, drinking my favorite beverages, so that may have also played a part in my happiness with the selection.

Picking fourth tonight, the Browns could be faced with another conundrum. Should the Browns take the best running back in Trent Richardson of Alabama, or the best defensive back in Morris Claiborne of LSU?

There are arguably five elite players in this draft: Stanford QB Andrew Luck (who will be picked by Indianapolis first), Baylor QB Robert Griffin III (who will be picked by Washington second), Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne, and USC OT Matt Kalil.

Why not fight for the Browns to take Matt Kalil? I will argue that Kalil is a better left tackle than right tackle. Kalil's run blocking is not on par with his pass blocking. Yes, the Browns would have strengthened their offensive line, but would have missed out on the other elite prospects such as Richardson or Claiborne who could have made an even bigger impact.

Trent Richardson should be the pick if he is available at number four. While I understand and respect the arguments that running backs can be found in later rounds, Richardson is a special player. Similar in stature to the Ravens' Ray Rice or the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew, Richardson could step right in and immediately upgrade the Browns' stagnant offense. Richardson is a three-down player, capable of playing in both running and passing situations. Richardson fumbled once in his college career - that's right - once.

Morris Claiborne is a physical defensive back who can also come in and make an immediate impact. The benefit for the Browns would be to play Claiborne at one corner, with Joe Haden at the other cornerback spot. Veteran Sheldon Brown could be moved to safety, thus strengthening the Browns' secondary. The big downside to this entire scenario is the Browns' offense has not been improved with these moves, and the Browns are desperate for improvement across the board offensively.

You may notice I did not include Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon in my elite player rankings. Quite frankly, Justin Blackmon is a good receiver, arguably the best in this year's draft, but I will argue that the difference between Justin Blackmon and other receivers in this draft is not as substantial as the difference between Trent Richardson and other running backs in this year's draft. The Browns can address their needs at wide receiver with their other picks over the course of the draft. The Browns also have the twenty-second selection in the first round, and can potentially take Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill or Baylor's Kendall Wright with this pick. Maybe the Browns can even address their need at right tackle with this selection.  LSU's Rueben Randle could be available in the second round at the wideout position.  I can easily picture players such as Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, Wisconsin WR Nick Toon, Iowa WR Marvin McNutt, or Ohio State WR DeVier Posey being picked among the Browns' remaining selections in the third through seventh rounds.

If a team trades up with Minnesota and takes Trent Richardson before the Browns pick at number four, look for the Browns to take Morris Claiborne. If Morris Claiborne goes to Minnesota, the Browns should sprint to the podium and take Trent Richardson. And if the Browns decide to take WR Justin Blackmon, even if Trent Richardson is available? Prepare for the fans to start gnashing their teeth. Worst case scenario? The Browns take Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill at number four, bypassing Richardson, Claiborne, and Blackmon, for a quarterback who will not be able to come in and make an immediate impact. If the Browns do this, I would suggest Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert, and Pat Shurmur prepare themselves for the onslaught of Browns fans with their torches and pitchforks attacking the football complex in Berea, Ohio.

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