You can't say the Cleveland Browns didn't have an impact on the first round of the draft.
For the past few months, we knew that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III would be the first two picks of the draft. The Browns were sitting at No. 4 overall, but less than an hour before the draft, that changed. Cleveland struck a deal with the Minnesota Vikings to move up to No. 3 overall. As soon as the trade was announced, it was clear who the front office was going after. It wasn't Justin Blackmon, Matt Kalil, or Morris Claiborne: it was running back Trent Richardson (seen pictured above).
Richardson is considered an all-around back, and has been pegged by many as the best running back coming out of college since Adrian Peterson. Many people here at Dawgs By Nature had made it clear that we preferred that Richardson not be the pick, but it is what it is. I'm not disappointed that Richardson is a member of the Browns, as he definitely improves a position that previously featured Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, and Chris Ogbonnaya. Were any of those guys going to get it done against the Steelers' or Ravens' defense? A concern about Richardson is whether he can live up to the hype at the NFL level. We shall see.
This was a draft in which I thought we would see a ton of offensive linemen going off the board left and right. After Matt Kalil was taken by the Vikings at No. 4 overall, though, I was literally speechless that not a single offensive lineman had been taken prior to the Browns being on the clock again at No. 22 overall. Cleveland had their choice of OT Riley Reiff, OG David DeCastro, OG Cordy Glenn, and OT Jonathan Martin. It was like a dream come true -- after all, the team is definitely without a starting right tackle.
And then...the tweets came in. First it was Jay Glazer. Then it was Adam Schefter and the rest of the league insiders.
"The Browns are going to take Brandon Weeden," was all we heard. The instant reaction from fans? Echos of "noooooooooooooooo." I was thinking the same thing, too, and it's not because I am a huge Colt McCoy fan or a huge Weeden trasher. I was just eyeballing the team's right tackle situation and saw a great opportunity to fill an immediate need, particularly with Reiff. Fans were pleading for the tweets to be wrong, but as soon as Cleveland got on the clock, the pick was made. Sure enough, Roger Goodell came out and announced Weeden as the pick. The instant reaction was not positive at all from the majority of Browns fans, which doesn't come as a surprise to me. This is definitely a "wait-and-see" type of pick. What it tells me is this, though:
- They gave McCoy a full-year evaluation last year and were not pleased. How could you be, after the team had a putrid season offensively under a coach who was trying to install a West Coast Offense?
- Weeden is old for a "rookie." Who cares? If that fact alone drove down his value to the point where we got a "steal" at the end of the first round, this will be a great pick in the long run. He has a strong arm to get the ball to our receivers, even if we haven't added any yet.
- Despite what they said in the offseason, they must have felt McCoy reached his pick. The one thing about Weeden's age is that it makes more sense to start him this year, meaning there is no such thing as "giving McCoy a shot." They have more faith in Weeden's current upside as a rookie than they do in McCoy's upside in year three, and that includes Weeden's ability to make the team's current receivers better.
There are a lot of ifs in this pick, which will undoubtedly make it the most important pick of the Holmgren/Heckert regime. It will make or break their "legacy" in Cleveland. Here is to hoping that Weeden turns out to be the league's next kick-ass quarterback who makes mince meat out of our AFC North opponents for a change.
The rest of the first round was definitely full of surprises too, with there being a lot of surprise picks (Bruce Irvin, A.J. Jenkins) and trades. The first round also went by very quickly, finishing over 20 minutes sooner than the previous two years. A lot of that had to do with the Browns -- Heckert and company were so confident in their picks that they immediately turned in their draft cards.
I do have one lingering thought in my mind, though: would this draft have unfolded differently at No. 22 for the Browns if the Titans had taken someone else at No. 20 overall? The Titans had taken Kendall Wright, a receiver the Browns had reportedly been pretty interested in. I think they might have preferred to get Wright at No. 22 overall and then trade back up into round one again for Weeden. As it stands now, though, there are still some nice offensive linemen, receivers, or pass rushers who the Browns can grab at No. 37 overall.