Final Decision – picks #4 and #22: Handicapping who the Browns will select on Thursday
Pick #4 – Likely Candidates: Justin Blackmon, Morris Claiborne, Matt Kalil, Trent Richardson, Ryan Tannehill, or Trade down
This area has become the center of attention not only around northeast Ohio, but national outlets have been discussing and debating over whom the fourth pick will be. Fortunately there has been many different signals given off by the Browns front office, and no one is certain which athlete will be chosen. There might also be an opportunity to trade with another franchise and pick up additional picks.
I truly hope the Browns select a playmaker that can impact the team right now with their top five choice; past history reveals this has not been the case. Since choosing Braylon Edwards in 2005 (at the third selection), the Browns took offensive tackle Joe Thomas in 2007, traded down multiple times and took center Alex Mack in 2009, drafted cornerback Joe Haden in 2010, and traded down and took Phil Taylor in 2011. While Haden has been one of the better cornerbacks in the league, none of the picks taken in the first round are considered playmakers that can give a face to the franchise. This trend needs to cease in 2012; the Browns need an outstanding player that can give a much-needed face-lift to the team. Given the offensive troubles in 2011, a player who can directly put points on the board would be a great starting point for the 2012 NFL Draft.
Therefore, this would eliminate Kalil and Tannehill from my personal wish list at this spot. The remaining three players – Richardson, Claiborne, and Blackmon would instantly make the team better. However, Claiborne has little to no impact on the potential offensive improvement in the upcoming season. Both a dynamic running back and wide receiver are needed for an offense to become great over time. Looking at the candidates and realizing the team can still choose relatively strong wide receivers later in the draft, I feel the team should select Trent Richardson at the fourth pick. I feel the team is down to Richardson and Claiborne – Trent slightly edges out the cornerback. However, nothing will be set in stone until April 26th.
Reviewing Tom Heckert’s draft philosophy, he looks for value and best player available. This speaks more towards him leaning towards Morris Claiborne; the cornerback is extremely versatile and one of (if not the best) athlete in the draft. Also, he will likely have a longer career than Richardson, as running backs – after taking hard hits over several years – retire earlier than other positions. There will be backlash likely from fans and media if a defensive player is taken, but this regime has shown they do not succumb to pressure from others (outside of management). I believe Heckert’s number one goal is to trade back a few selections (two to four later) and still get Claiborne. However, he knows the best way to keep his boss happy is to have a more complete team in order to compete on a weekly basis.
I believe has to modify his draft process and take the running back from Alabama. He can improve the team by being a tremendous runner, catcher, and blocker. He’s smart, tough, and has an overall good character on and off the field; all the qualities the team needed in a top pick. Having said that, I have a sneaking suspicion that we could see Morris Claiborne (which I would support) holding up a Cleveland Browns jersey on Thursday.