The long list of needs the Cleveland Browns must address in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft is centered almost entirely around the offense.
Cleveland averaged just 288.8 total yards (29th in the league) and ranked 30th in the NFL with 13.6 points per game in 2011, while the defense finished 10th overall (332.4 YPG), fifth in scoring (12.2 PPG) and second against the pass (184.9 YPG).
With the chances of star signal-caller Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III getting past the first two picks virtually impossible, the Browns have to settle between the likes of five star prospects in QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Trent Richardson, WR Justin Blackmon, OT Matt Kalil and CB Morris Claiborne with the fourth overall pick (unless the trade down).
Speaking of trading down, despite entering the three-day event with 13 draft choices, there’s been plenty of recent trade speculation suggesting the Browns will trade down from the 4th overall pick. Only time will tell on what comes to fruition. For the time being, here’s our seven-round mock draft projection for the Browns.
1st Round (4th Overall)—Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
A multidimensional bulldozer out of the backfield, Trent Richardson possesses a rare combination of drive, size, speed and strength. With over 680 carries in college, T-Rich fumbled only once. That’s a rare breed, indeed.
Many argue he’s the most complete running back to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson. Last season, Richardson rushed for 1,679 yards and had 338 receiving yards for a total of 24 touchdowns.
Give whoever starts under center next year a really reliable, tackle-shedding machine that can be utilized in both the passing and rushing game. For fans who aren’t thrilled with this choice, just keep in mind, he’ll not only fill the void for Peyton Hillis, but he’ll make you even forget his name. He’s also a headache waiting to happen for the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers twice a year.
1st Round (22nd Overall)—Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
In his final season with Baylor, Kendall Wright chalked up 1,663 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
Wright is a weapon of mass destruction in the slot and on the outside, and can be just as lethal on special teams. He has the makings to become a superstar at the next level and will be a brilliant compliment to Greg Little for years to come.
2nd Round (37th Overall)—Brandon Weedon, QB, Oklahoma State
The Browns continue their offensive overhaul with a pretty pro-ready 28-year-old quarterback out of Oklahoma State. Brandon Weeden has a strong football IQ, excellent experience and can compete right away for the starting job with Colt McCoy.
In his senior season, Weeden completed 409 passes for a total of 4,727 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also won head-to-head against Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck and recently had dinner together with Richardson and the Browns.
3rd Round (67th Overall)—Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia Explosive enough to shoot through the gaps, Cam Johnson is rock-solid against the run. His only real downside is his tendency to get tight and lost in the pass rush due to limited abilities in changing directions.Nevertheless, the Virginia product totaled 30 tackles with 11 tackles for loss (TFL), 4.0 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles last year. He’ll have the potential to provide an immediate impact in the Browns’ 4-3 defense.Johnson is equipped with a terrific combination of size and speed, which he utilizes to attack ball-carriers quickly inside. The Browns need to strengthen their front four, which features Juqua Parker, Frostee Rucker, Ahtyba Rubin and Brian Schaefering, along with Jabaal Sheard and Phillip Taylor, who were both snatched in the first two rounds of last year’s draft.
4th Round (100th Overall)—Chase Minnifield, CB, VirginiaCleveland picks up its second Cavalier with the 100th overall pick. Chase Minnifield is fluid in the hips and possesses an impressive blend of size and speed. His father, Frank Minnifield, played for the Browns in the ’80′s and was a four-time Pro Bowler win the franchise.The Browns are less-than-stellar in the secondary and can use a remedy for their woeful rush defense. Minnifield is hands down one of the better corners in this class against the run. Look for him to battle for plenty of playing time with Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson behind Joe Haden.
4th Round (118th Overall)—Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State
Levy Adcock only saw the field a few times prior to his junior season, but had an insurmountable impact when he was on the field, as Gridiron Grit.com Co-Founder and Senior Writer Tanner Thoms pointed out in late February.Last season, Cleveland’s offensive line had far fewer ups than downs. Tony Pashos was inconsistent and also missed plenty of action. Eric Steinbech was out for the entire year due to back surgery, before getting cut by the Browns.A three-sport athlete with tremendous athleticism, the 6-foot-5 tackle was selected to the All-Big 12 Conference First-Team in 2011 and was one of the many reasons why Brandon Weeden and co. were so successful.
5th Round (139th Overall)—Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas
The middle of the Browns’ defense is not an area of pressing need. Cleveland re-signed D’Qwell Jackson and Chris Gocong earlier this offseason. Nonetheless, the team could use some added depth.
With the Longhorns last season, Keenan Robinsonregistered 85 tackles and 6.0 TFL. A fluid and rangy athlete, Robinson is heads-up fit in the Browns’ 4-3 scheme and happens to excel in coverage.
However, he needs to hone in on his instincts. Until then, look for Robinson to be featured in passing situations, though not early downs.
5th Round (160th Overall)—Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple
The fluid route-runner is a solid steal with excellent value for the Browns in the fifth round.
Evan Rodriguez, a dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands, is equipped with tremendous ability to work hard for every yard after the catch. He consistently lands his blocks on the second level and adds plenty of pop.
Expect him to provide an immediate impact (albeit not too significant) in his first season.
6th Round (204th Overall)—Rishaw Johnson, OG, California of Pennsylvania
A powerful blocker that flashes top-notch athleticism, Rishaw Johnson could become a sleeper pick and eventually a starter, especially in an offense that operates heavily with the run. The biggest thing that keeps NFL teams at arm’s length from the small school standout are his character concerns.
6th Round (205th Overall)—Tony Dye, SS, UCLA
Tony Dye is an instinctive strong safety, a sound tackler and decent defender against the run. Dye also breaks down well in open field situations. He lacks range and can get beat deep in coverage, but brings value and depth to the team’s secondary.
7th Round (211th Overall)—Jermaine Kearse, WR, Washington
Jermaine Kearse is a reliable receiver and seems to have a good feel for the defender. He’s also sharp in making plays over the middle of the field. Albeit he lacks the upside, speed or strength of most higher-rated prospects at his position and could ultimately struggle against larger defenders, Kearse has low-risk, high-reward potential at the next level. He also seems to elevate his game when the pressure’s on during third downs and other big moments.
7th Round (245th Overall)—Brian Stahovich, P, San Diego State
The team welcomed Stahovich earlier this month for a workout and are looking for a punter.
7th Round (247th Overall)—Tony Jerod-Eddie, DT, Texas A&M
Last season with the Aggies, Tony Jerod-Eddie chalked up 56 tackles, 5.0 sacks and 7.0 TFL.