The biggest day of the year—at least for the past decade or so—is a little more than three weeks away and I'm ready to make my pick for the Browns.
With the Browns for all practical purpose having the second pick in the draft as quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are off the board. That means the Browns can hone in on the other top candidates. The consensus of those being: OL Ryan Kalil, CB Morris Claiborne, RB Trent Richardson, QB Ryan Tannehill and WR Justin Blackmon.
This past Thursday, GM Tom Heckert, Head Coach Pat Shurmur and running backs coach Gary Brown went down to check out running back Trent Richardson at Alabama. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Brad Childress and quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple went to watch quarterback Ryan Tannehill from Texas A & M.
I don't read a whole lot into that because the Browns are going to bring in and work out both of those players privately anyway. However, two prominent draft gurus came out and said the Browns should draft Tannehill with the fourth pick. ESPN's Todd McShay and NFL Network's Mike Mayock both inferred that Tannehill is going to be a franchise quarterback, but admitted he's not NFL ready because he's played just 19 college games at quarterback.
In my humble opinion, the Browns cannot take a ‘project' or ‘developmental' player with the fourth pick. If the trade to get Griffin III would've went through, Griffin III would've been the Browns' quarterback in 2012. All reports are saying that Tannehill isn't ready now and the Browns can't use that high of a pick on a player that won't start this season—even if he's going to be good in the future.
The crystal ball is becoming less cloudy and I favor the Browns keeping the pick and taking Richardson. I know that the Browns need receivers and they need a tackle, but they also need a running back. I really like Joe Thomas and admit he was a great pick, but I was a proponent to take Adrian Peterson that year.
After arthroscopic surgery, Richardson ran in the 4.45 range in the 40 yard dash in his Pro Day and he was estimated to be at less than 100 percent. The Browns could use that breakaway speed immediately.
Drafting Richardson would take some of the pressure off of letting Peyton Hillis leave in free agency. I don't see the Browns counting on Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya to be the feature backs.
It is assumed that the Vikings will take Kalil or someone other than Richardson because they have Peterson and Toby Gearhart. If they don't, that could leave the Browns with a decision to make.
If Richardson is the best running back to come out since Peterson I think the Browns need to grab him. I know, it's in vogue for draft experts to devalue the position and say that you can get a back lower in the draft. Yeah, I remember Travis Prentice, Madre Hill and a host of others.
If Colt McCoy is going to be the quarterback this year, why not take a lot of the pressure off of him by allowing him to hand off to a back who could gain 1,200 to 1,500 yards as a rookie? The Browns need playmakers and players who can get into the end zone.
Richardson will have the most impact of the rookies available to them on offense as he can not only touch the ball 20 plus times a game rushing, but can touch the ball several times a game as a passing threat coming out of the backfield.
Blackmon could be a great benefit, but I don't think the wide receiver can make as big an impact immediately to the offense than a game changing running back. I wouldn't be upset if they chose Blackmon, but they didn't take Julio Jones last year at six and Blackmon isn't rated as highly as Jones was and the Browns are drafting two spots higher.
If the Browns want Richardson, I don't think they can trade down at all because Tampa Bay is believed to be targeting him at No. 5 if the Browns don't take him.
If the Browns clearly feel that Richardson and Claiborne are equal they could still grab Claiborne at No. 6 if they choose to trade down and switch positions with the Rams.
Claiborne could be a compelling case to help move the Browns defense into an elite status, but unless the Browns have him clearly rated higher or equal to Richardson, they need to take Richardson and address right tackle or wide receiver with the next two picks (22 and 37).
I understand why the Browns have traded down in recent years, but I think it's time to get a blue-chip, game changing play maker. Trent Richardson would be a huge step in the right direction in starting to get weapons for the offense.