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Thread: Plain Dealer: Blackmon makes sense for Browns, but team has plenty of options

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    Plain Dealer: Blackmon makes sense for Browns, but team has plenty of options

    Justin Blackmon makes sense for Cleveland Browns, but team has plenty of draft options
    Published: Sunday, March 25, 2012, 1:55 AM
    Updated: Sunday, March 25, 2012, 2:03 AM
    By Mary Kay Cabot
    The Plain Dealer

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- With the NFL draft about a month away and Robert Griffin III bound for Washington, the Browns are zeroing in on their remaining options at No. 4 and their strategy for their three first picks in the draft, including No. 22 and No. 37.

    If they stay at No. 4 -- and Browns President Mike Holmgren has said he'll discourage a trade down -- they're likely to draft one of the following players: Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill or LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

    Holmgren also said last week that he's leaning toward sticking with Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace, and adding weapons to help them. If you can believe him during this lying season, that would seem to eliminate Tannehill, who's started only 19 games at quarterback after starting at receiver and leading the Aggies in receptions his first two years.

    The Browns have also made it clear their priority is to score more points, which would seem to scratch Claiborne. That brings us to Blackmon and Richardson, and as NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly observed on Friday, "it depends on if you want to be a pass-oriented team or a run-oriented team."

    So by process of elimination, we're going to keep it simple and take Blackmon at No. 4 in our first top-10 mock, which will be updated periodically before the draft April 26-28. Last season, Blackmon caught 18 touchdown passes, which was two more than all Browns combined. In the past two seasons, he's caught 38, which makes him the scoring machine and red-zone threat the points-starved Browns truly crave.

    Granted, Blackmon measured a shade under 6-1 at the NFL Combine, which didn't help his case. But he peeled off a stellar 4.46 at his Pro Day on March 9, which proved to teams he's got the speed they need.

    "He's got a nice little buzz going about him right now because of that 40 time," said analyst Rob Rang. "He'd be a logical pick for the Browns at No. 4."

    But wait -- that's almost too easy, right? Of course, the Browns have plenty of other options at No. 4, and here's a quick look at some of them:

    1. Trade up: If the Browns have fallen madly in love with one of their Fab Four, they might actually have to trade up to No. 3 with Minnesota to get him. The Vikings seem set on USC left tackle Matt Kalil, but for a huge haul, they might deal the pick. Teams might be willing to jump up over the Browns for any one of their likely four faves, especially Tannehill and Blackmon. The Rams at No. 6 love Blackmon, and now have the extra picks to swing a deal. The Dolphins at No. 8 might like Tannehill enough to beat the Browns to the punch. Their new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, was Tannehill's head coach at Texas A&M.

    With the new rookie wage scale, it costs a lot less to trade up these days. In 2011, the No. 3 pick, Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, received almost $15 million less in guaranteed money ($20.4 million) than the 2010 No. 3 pick, Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy ($35 million).

    2. Draft Tannehill at 4: Would the Browns spend their top pick on a player who's started only 19 games? He does run the Browns' beloved West Coast offense and has loads of potential.

    "I could see them doing it," said Rang. "With the incredible premium teams are now putting on quarterback, they'll have to consider him at that point, even though I think it's too high. He's at least a year away."

    Others, like Casserly, are leery. "No way [Tannehill] at four," Casserly said on air Friday. "Write that down."

    Sports Illustrated draft expert Tony Pauline told the Palm Beach Post: "He's a big risk. If you draft him and he pans out, he could be your starting quarterback for a long time. If he doesn't work out, you could find yourself in the same situation two or three years down the road."

    3. Draft Richardson at 4: Teams shy away from taking running backs high, but Richardson certainly warrants a top five pick. He's a triple threat as a runner, a receiver out of the backfield and a returner. Some, such as ESPN's Todd McShay, say he's the best back to come out since Adrian Peterson in 2007.

    But the Browns love the short passing game more than they do the run, and most of the playoff backs lately have been taken in later rounds.

    "If I were operating that club, I'd take Trent Richardson ahead of Blackmon," said Rang. "He has the best tape of any player in the draft, and you can make the argument he's the best player in the draft."

    4. Trade down: If Blackmon, Richardson, Tannehill and LSU cornerback Mo Claiborne are there at No. 4, teams will undoubtedly call the Browns. At the combine, Falcons GM Thom Dimitroff -- who views picks as currency -- predicted that some team will hear the same siren call for Blackmon that he heard last year for Julio Jones and pay a king's ransom.

    Would the Browns do it again? Would Heckert have to convince Holmgren to do it? By the time that trade plays out, it could make the Browns a contender. But they can't count on Tannehill in a trade down, because the Dolphins like him at No. 8 and maybe even the Seahawks at No. 12, despite the fact they signed Matt Flynn. If the Browns do trade down, it would be for a second-tier players such as Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd.

    5. Draft Claiborne: Would the Browns really go defense with the No. 4 pick? It's doubtful, because they need points, but if they knew they could come back at No. 22 and No. 37 and add a receiver such as Baylor's Kendall Wright and a running back such as David Wilson of Virginia Tech, maybe it's not so far-fetched.

    Claiborne and Joe Haden would provide the Browns with a pair of shutdown corners, and some think he's even better than former teammate and current Cardinal Patrick Peterson. He's coming off surgery Friday to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist, but that shouldn't affect his draft status much. He also ran a blazing 4.39 in the 40 at his Pro Day, which boosted his stock.


    Mary Kay's Top 10 Mock Draft 1.0

    The mock will be updated in the weeks leading up the draft, April 26-28.

    1. Indianapolis — Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford.

    Comment: The Colts have all the Luck. They go from Peyton Manning, an 11-time Pro Bowler, to Luck, who has Super Bowl MVP written all over him.

    2. Washington (trade with Rams) — Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor.

    Comment: Browns fans will be crying in their orange beer over this one for a long time. Griffin could become the superstar that got away.

    3. Minnesota — Matt Kalil, offensive left tackle, USC.

    Comment: Kalil has been compared to the Browns’ Joe Thomas, who’s made the Pro Bowl in each of his five seasons. The X-factor here is if a team is willing to offer them the moon for a Justin Blackmon or Trent Richardson.

    4. Browns — Justin Blackmon, wide receiver, Oklahoma State.

    Comment: If the Browns stay here, Blackmon makes total sense. He caught 18 TD passes last season, two more than the Browns caught all season combined. Oh, and that was in 12 games.

    5. Tampa Bay — Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama.

    Comment: Running backs have fallen out of vogue in the first round, but Richardson warrants a top five pick. He’s a triple threat as a runner, receiver and returner.

    6. St. Louis — Morris Claiborne, cornerback, LSU.

    Comment: The Rams were hoping Blackmon would be available, but they’ll shift gears and take the best defensive player on the board. He might even be better than former teammate Patrick Peterson.

    7. Jacksonville — Quinton Coples, defensive end, North Carolina.

    Comment: Coples has elite talent, but questionable drive. The Jags have already scheduled their pre-draft visit and are pondering book-ending him with Jeremy Mincey.

    8. Miami — Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Texas A&M.

    Comment: In Miami, Tannehill will be re-united with his college coach Mike Sherman, now the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator. Has only 19 starts at QB under his belt, but tons of potential and a West Coast pedigree.

    9. Carolina — Dontari Poe, defensive tackle, Memphis.

    Comment: Poe’s stock soared with a stellar showing at the combine, and climbed into the top 10 on some teams’ boards. Can be plugged in here as a starting tackle in their 4-3.

    10. Buffalo — Riley Reiff, offensive tackle, Iowa.

    Comment: Coached by former Browns offensive line coach and current Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, Riley is pro ready and has all the makings of an elite left tackle.

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    Re: Plain Dealer: Blackmon makes sense for Browns, but team has plenty of options

    One thing I always notice when listening to Browns oriented sources, or visiting some of their message boards, is that they seem to think we'd be willing to trade up from 6 to 4, at the expense of a 2nd rounder...

    We had the chance to get that #4 and passed on it. Why on Earth would we trade BACK up and lose the extra pick we got in the first place?

    I also like "The Rams love Blackmon..." They might want to add the word Fans behind Rams there. Until I see Fisher and Snead making sappy youtube videos proclaiming Blackmon to be the second coming of Rice I'll continue to believe that the Rams are happy to take whoever falls to #6.

    Also, I can't see the Browns continuing to trade down for future picks. I mean, they could, but Holmgren needs to start getting talent on this team now if he wants to win and keep his job.
    Last edited by DE_Ramfan; -03-25-2012 at 11:57 AM.

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    Re: Plain Dealer: Blackmon makes sense for Browns, but team has plenty of options

    Overall, it would seem that Richardson would be the best fit. He could stay on the field for 3 downs - no need for a speed back on 3rd down. He purportedly has great hands and would be a legitimate threat out of the backfield as a receiver. In the run oriented AFC North, Richardson would be a great fit for Cleveland. He certainly could help relieve some of the pressure on Colt McCoy.

    A trade down is not out of the question either. Especially if a team other than the Rams wishes to grab Blackmon or Tannehill, (Tannehill being unlikely IMO).

    I will really be shocked if Holmgren picks Claiborne, (if still available), as Mike is an offensive guy, and having missed out on RGIII, he'll really need to grab a skill player to help McCoy out. Sure they could take Claiborne, then roll the dice and see what's left at the #22 spot, but I'd bet they go offense with their #4 overall selection if they keep it ..

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    Re: Plain Dealer: Blackmon makes sense for Browns, but team has plenty of options

    I think they end up taking TRICH. They're roster is devoid of a starting NFL caliber RB that can play 16 games. Montario Hardesty is a pretty good player, but he is beyond injury prone. Why not take the best RB prospect since AP, take pressure of McCoy, and grab a possible pro bowler all at once?

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