After a disappointing campaign in 2011, the Cleveland Browns head into the 2012 offseason hoping to make significant strides toward being more competitive in the AFC North. The Browns, however, have been relatively quiet during the initial free agent signing period, so it would appear that once again they will be looking to the Draft to fill their needs and add depth to a team that is looking to rebuild.
Fortunately for the Browns, they are in the enviable position of owning 13 picks in this year’s Draft, including multiple picks in five of the seven rounds. Thanks to the draft day trade they made last year with the Atlanta Falcons they have two first-round picks, No. 4 and No. 22 overall. If there was any draft in which they could add both talent and depth to their roster, this would be the year to do it.
The challenge for the Browns, then, will be addressing which needs are most pressing. Certainly with the departure of Peyton Hillis there is a void to be filled at running back, one which is guaranteed to have been discussed by General Manager Tom Heckert and Team President Mike Holmgren prior to now. Other areas of need would include wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback, linebacker and even quarterback. A list like this would make any GM a busy man, and there is no doubt that Heckert and Holmgren have logged many hours trying to come up with the perfect draft.
What then, will the Browns do once Draft Day finally descends upon them? No one knows for sure, as the Browns are usually tight lipped when it comes to the subject, but here is one man’s best educated guess:
Round 1 (Pick 4): Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
The Browns do what many expect here by selecting Richardson, the All-American and Doak Walker award winner, with the fourth overall pick. There are concerns by some that drafting a running back this high is somewhat of a risk for a team that has as many areas of need as the Browns do, but the upside that Richardson brings is undeniable. The Browns finished the 2011 campaign 28th
in rushing offense (averaging just above 95 yards per game), and 29 individual players had more rushing touchdowns themselves than Cleveland had as a team (4 total rushing TDs for the season).
Richardson should add some pop to the Browns' running attack, as he finished 2011 with almost 1,700 yards rushing and 21 rushing TDs. Those concerned that Richardson lacks big-play ability should take note that he did have at least 17 runs of 20 or more yards last season. In addition, his ability as a receiver out of the backfield (he caught 29 passes for 338 yards and 3 TDs in his final season at Alabama) should make him a good fit in Head Coach Pat Shurmur’s West Coast Offense. In addition, his freakish strength should make him an excellent blocker out of the backfield.
Round 1 (Pick 22): Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
This comes as a surprise to many who felt the Browns would choose to upgrade their offensive line instead, but it fills a hole that the organization has been neglecting to address thus far in the offseason. Coming from a run-first offense Hill might be one of the more unpolished receivers, but at 6’4”, 220 lbs the Browns like the upside that he brings. His athleticism(he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the Combine, along with a 41 inch vertical leap) combined with his college production (he amassed over 800 yards receiving last season on only 29 receptions) make him an option the Browns couldn’t pass up at this point.
Many fans and experts will argue that drafting him this high was a reach, but for Cleveland, this selection was a must. The Browns failed to address one of their biggest needs in free agency, as they let names like Garcon, Robinson, Morgan, Jackson, Marshall, and others get away from them. As such they could not afford to let the same thing happen to them in the Draft.
To further illustrate how desperate the Browns were to get a quality receiver in this Draft, one only needs to look at the fact that the last time they had a winning record (2007), they had two former first-round receivers on their roster (Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow). Hill adds the explosiveness that those former wideouts brought, but without the character concerns.
In his first season with the Browns, Hill may not be asked to do much more than run go routes. By his third or fourth season, however, with the right coaching he may become better than fellow Yellow Jacket Calvin Johnson. The Browns thanked their lucky stars that AFC North Rival Cincinnati passed on him, opting to select running back Doug Martin from Boise State instead.
Round 2 (Pick 37) Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
This pick here is not set in stone, as the Browns could instead opt to upgrade their offensive line, thus giving third-year quarterback Colt McCoy another season to prove why he should be the guy. Weeden, however, provides the best value at this point in the Draft, as he is a quarterback who is ready to start from day one, but, the Browns are lucky enough to land him in the beginning of the second round.
If the Browns do indeed draft Weeden here, they will ultimately bring him in with the idea that he will compete with McCoy for the starting position. They may jettison Seneca Wallace, as he seemed unwilling to be a team player anyway. This pick is not so much an indictment on Colt McCoy as it is a perceived bargain for the Browns. They get someone who is ready to play from day one that not only has the arm strength to throw the ball down the field but also played in an offense similar to the one coach Shurmur runs currently.
Round 3 (Pick 67) Antonio Allen, SS, South Carolina
The Browns certainly missed the presence of Mike Adams last season at the strong safety position, as he followed former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to Dallas last season. They tried to replace him by signing Usama Young from the New Orleans Saints, but at this point the jury is still out on him.
While originally a cornerback for the Gamecocks, Allen does not possess blazing speed (he ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at the Combine) but at 6’1” 210lbs, he should be a nice addition alongside FS TJ Ward. Allen finished the 2011 campaign with 89 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Round 4 (Pick 100) Bobbie Massie, OT, Mississippi
That the Browns would wait this late to address its need on the offensive line would be of concern to some; that Jason Pinkston was able to come in and contribute last season does not make this pick all that bad. There are many who believe that Massie will have trouble adjusting to the pro game, but there also those who believe he could be a steal. The Browns are banking that those people in the latter crowd are right.
Round 4 (Pick 118) Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor
The Browns look to add depth to the running back position at this point. Ganaway was largely overshadowed in Baylor’s offense by Heisman winner Robert Griffin and wide receiver Kendall Wright, but he is another back that fits very well into Pat Shurmur’s offense.
Round 5 (Pick 139) Eric Page, WR, Toledo
Another athlete that plays faster than his combine time would suggest, Page is a great value at this selection, as his game is ideally suited to the West Coast offense. If he can make the roster, he could become a valuable slot receiver.
Round 5 (Pick 160) Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
A defensive end in college, Lewis will be asked to convert to outside linebacker in the NFL. He won’t start right away, but with injury issues and age plaguing the Browns at their ‘backer corps as of late he should be able to contribute. They really like the strength he brings as well, having done 36 reps at the Combine.
Round 6 (Pick 204) Dominique Hamilton, DT, Missouri
The Browns hope here that Hamilton at the very least will push Taylor and Rubin to even greater heights.
Round 6 (Pick 205) Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois
The Browns continue to add depth to their offensive line with this selection. A four year starter for the Illini, he could be expected to contribute sooner rather than later.
Round 7 (211) Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton
Round 7(245) Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati
More than likely won’t be available at this slot but if he is the Browns would love to select him as he is a great value pick.
Round 7(247) Bryan Anger, P, California
Punters aren’t usually drafted, and the Browns have may have other needs, but, with Reggie Hodges going down last season they sign him to the practice squad as insurance