"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's early edition, we take a look at the strategy the front office took during the three-day draft, what positions-of-need were left unaddressed, and more.
My top three positions that I wanted the Browns to address heading into the draft were wide receiver, offensive tackle, and outside linebacker. By the end of the draft, the front office really didn't emphasize improving those three positions, but that does not mean I came away terribly disappointed. As long as I looked at the picks and saw the front office following a clearly-defined vision, I would support it. The first three picks that were rattled off included running back, quarterback, and offensive tackle. Considering the revolving door at running back and departure of Peyton Hillis, the lack of star-power at quarterback last year, and the obvious need at right tackle, you can't argue with the needs the team addressed there.
Trent Richardson is going to be an every down running back who can "do it all." Brandon Weeden is going to be the team's Week 1 starting quarterback and offers a sharp contrast to McCoy when it comes to arm strength. Mitchell Schwartz is going to offer stability at the right tackle position with a "nasty" streak about him. I thought the front office might try to throw in an impact defensive player with one of those first three picks -- such as cornerback Morris Claiborne, outside linebacker Zach Brown, or defensive end Nick Perry -- but they decided to focus more on depth when it came to the defensive side of the ball. With the offense being as anemic as it was last year, they used all three of their "impact picks" (by my definition, the players in rounds 1-2) on offensive players.
Regarding the defense, it looked like Tom Heckert and company wanted to ensure there was depth behind some of their best defensive players. When you think about it, this was a major risk the Browns took last year. In 2011, who was behind Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin? Not anyone noteworthy. At linebacker, who was behind D'Qwell Jackson? Technically, Titus Brown was, but he was injured for a good portion of the year and was not retained this offseason. The fact that Taylor, Rubin, and Jackson played so many snaps last year is a great sign for their durability, but you need insurance policies behind them. Also, it is ideal to give them a rest if needed.
That is what defensive tackles John Hughes (3rd round) and Billy Winn (6th round), and linebackers James-Michael Johnson (4th round) and Emmanuel Acho (6th round). The arguments about reaching for Hughes in the 3rd round? Maybe this will appease you: Winn was projected to be a third-rounder possibly, and we got him in round six. We acquired an extra fourth-round pick, which was used to get Johnson. Does the thought of Winn (3rd round) and Hughes (6th round) make you feel any better? It should, because it literally ended up netting the same exact outcome.
It was definitely surprising to see the team's first receiver be selected at the beginning of the fourth round. To summarize, the front office explained their decision as follows: there were three receivers in this draft who they really felt could come in and start. They didn't name names, but you can assume those players were Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, and Kendall Wright. All three of them were off the board when Cleveland picked at No. 22 overall, so they took Weeden. Why not take Stephen Hill at No. 37 overall? They placed a higher priority on Schwartz, a guy who they thought, while he wouldn't be a "stud," he is not going to be a bust. In other words, he is consistently good.
In round four, the Browns took a flier on wide receiver Travis Benjamin. Benjamin definitely brings speed to our wide receiver corps. One reason the Browns waited back to get him? They knew he would be there, and Mark Whipple, the Browns' current quarterbacks coach, was Benjamin's offensive coordinator down in Miami. Whipple gave a vote of confidence for Benjamin, believing he can contribute to the offense with the right coaching.
The team's other three picks that I haven't mentioned yet include offensive guard Ryan Miller (5th round), cornerback Trevin Wade (7th round), and tight end Brad Smelley (7th round). Don't underestimate fifth-round guards this team drafts, because we saw the role that Jason Pinkston played last year. Wade fell down the draft boards and could offer some competition to Buster Skrine as a nickel back (I will have some absurdly premature positional projections in tonight's bonus edition of The Sunday Five). Smelley was Trent Richardson's blocking back at Alabama, and could be a fullback/H-Back type who threatens to diminish Owen Marecic's role. According to the ABJ, the Browns asked for Richardson's input on Smelley, and Richardson said to go get him.