Continuing the series of looking at potential draft selections at number four for the Cleveland Browns, the next option is the wide receiver from Oklahoma State, Justin Blackmon
The Case For (and Against) Justin Blackmon:
For: There are several reasons why the Browns should select the playmaker with their first pick.
First, let’s take a look at the Browns 2011 season offensive (and it was very offense) output. They only scored 218 points in total or just over 13 points per game. Unless you have the 1985 Chicago Bears’ or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens’ defense, it’s going to be difficult to win games that way. The team as a whole had 16 passing touchdowns – nine of those came from four different wide receivers. That is unacceptable for a NFL team, regardless of who the quarterback is; the Browns must find someone who can get into the endzone on a consistent basis. Justin Blackmon would be a great option, as he scored 38 touchdowns in past two collegiate seasons.
Watching film of Blackmon play, one can get very giddy at the possibility of him being a member of the Cleveland Browns. He can catch passes in tight spaces and has the quickness to elude defenders after the catch. It seemed, at times, the entire stadium knew where the ball was going to go, and Justin still caught it and made a huge play. On the largest stage (Fiesta Bowl) Blackmon came away with eight receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
Looking at the NFL now, teams are scoring and gaining most of their yardage through the air – thus proving that teams need more than one exceptional receiving option. After drafting Greg Little in the 2011 draft, many experts believe the team still needs a viable wideout that defenses must game plan for. Having Blackmon would open up the offense and give the quarterback more targets during each game. Additionally, early success can lead to double-teams which could lead to large stats for Little or other Browns receivers.
Being rated high on most scouting lists, it’s easy to see that Justin has the potential to compete and be effective in the NFL. At his pro day, his vertical distance (35 inches) and broad jumps (10 feet four inches) stood out as he impressed onlookers. These are two traits are needed for receivers to be successful in the league, as they will have to fight defenders for the ball on a regular basis. Having the measurable qualities gives him a leg up on his competition.
The talented wide receiver has a character issue that is a little more apparent than some of other top draft prospects. In 2010, Blackmon had a DUI and was suspended for a game. Some front offices may see this as a maturity issue that could lead to disruptions in the locker room. While interviewing with teams, Blackmon will be scrutinized heavily in order to prove he learned from his mistake and is willing to move on.
At six feet one inch, there have been some concerns about whether the Oklahoma State product is large enough to be a premier wide receiver in the NFL (even with his ability to get vertical at any point). Early in the draft, teams usually look for wide receivers whom are two to three inches taller. The other side of the equation is speed; franchises who take shorter receivers typically select extremely fast ones. While being speedy after the catch, Blackmon is not considered marginally faster than most defenders while running longer distances.
Another thing that could hurt Blackmon’s stock is his role in an offense. Wide receiver is definitely an important position in the National Football League. However, successful teams have many outlets – one player may not dominate the offense like a defensive end would control a team’s pass rushing. Therefore, while Justin would still be an excellent pick, he may not be as valuable at such an early selection.
Finally, in addition to the several quality receivers in the 2012 Draft, there is a belief by some that Michael Floyd is actually the best NFL prospect. This is not the case when looking at the other top candidates; all are considered to be vastly superior than others in the same position group. Teams could consider this when determining their draft pick’s value and whom to choose.
Blackmon was my favorite player to watch in college football in the 2011 season. He’s strong, flashy, and could score on any play. If the Browns draft him, I would be excited for the possibility of the offense improving greatly in the 2012 season. I am not certain the team’s front office values wide receivers that early (Heckert did draft Jeremy Maclin in the late first round and DeSean Jackson in the second, however). Nonetheless, he is definitely in the conversation at the fourth selection for the Cleveland Browns.