Essence of Browns’ draft comes down to four picks

Posted by Vic Carucci on April 29, 2012 – 12:09 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

The Browns had 11 picks in the 2012 draft, but the essence of what they accomplished over the past three days comes down to four choices: Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitchell Schwartz, and Travis Benjamin.

This is in no way is to suggest that any or all of the remaining seven picks won’t become good or even great players in the NFL.

But for all practical purposes, it is fair to say that Richardson, Weeden, Schwartz, and Benjamin are being counted on the most to have the sort of immediate impact that will allow the Browns to make the “big jump” that team president Mike Holmgren called a “reasonable” expectation when addressing reporters near the draft’s end on Saturday.

Based on what they’ve done at the collegiate level and how they’ve been evaluated by general manager Tom Heckert and the rest of the Browns’ player-personnel staff, the four look to be direct answers to the following pressing questions that have lingered since last season’s 4-12 finish:

Who is going to carry the load at running back now that Peyton Hillis has moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs?

The Browns were so confident in Richardson’s ability to do so that they made a trade with the Minnesota Vikings to move from the No. 4 to the No. 3 overall pick to guarantee that they would land the former Alabama star. Richardson not only is the most talented running back in the draft, he is arguably the most dynamic player, period. He provides greater versatility than Hillis did even when Hillis was in the midst of the one standout season he has had so far, in 2010. The Browns’ anemic offense instantly improves with the addition of a highly explosive runner who can be as effective working between the tackles as he is going outside, who catches the ball exceptionally well, and who is an excellent blocker in the passing game.

Who is going to be the franchise quarterback?

Neither Holmgren nor anyone else within the Browns’ hierarchy is anointing Weeden as the team’s starter. None of them is saying the job still belongs to Colt McCoy, either. The fact is, however, the Browns invested a first-round pick in Weeden with the idea of upgrading themselves at quarterback. And, as Holmgren and coach Pat Shurmur mentioned on Saturday, the former Oklahoma State standout enters the NFL with an elevated level of maturity because he is 28 and has already been exposed to professional sports as a former baseball player in the New York Yankees’ organization. The Browns’ brass clearly is excited about Weeden’s powerful arm, strong pocket presence, and superb decision-making skills on the field.

Who will replace Tony Pashos at right tackle?

The Browns parted ways with the oft-injured Pashos earlier in the offseason, but questions would have lingered about the right tackle spot even if he were still on the roster. Oneil Cousins and John Greco could conceivably have helped patch the hole, as they tried to do last season, but there was a need to have a more definitive answer. Granted, nothing can be considered definitive with any rookie at any position, let alone one as challenging as offensive tackle, but the Browns feel very good about Schwartz’s chances of sufficiently handling the chore as their starting right tackle. Schwartz gives them a combination of good size, strength, and athleticism that should allow him to be a force in helping to make room for Richardson in the running game and providing solid pass protection. The Browns’ big-picture view of their offensive line is that they will eventually have three highly dependable pieces in Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, center Alex Mack, and Schwartz.

How will the receiving corps improve?

This, by far, was the hottest of the burning questions among the majority of Browns followers. And the general consensus is that, by selecting only one wide receiver in the draft, the team essentially ignored it. Not true. Let’s start with the addition of Benjamin. At 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds, he isn’t nearly as tall or thick as receivers typically found in the West Coast-style offense the Browns run. However, what the Browns coveted was Benjamin’s remarkable speed (he runs a 4.3-second 40-yard dash), something they feel will provide a game-breaking dimension to their passing game and their kick returns. Additionally, if Richardson is the same player in the NFL that he was in college, the Browns’ passing game should easily improve because opposing defenses will be forced to honor his presence in ways they did not have to do against Cleveland’s virtually non-existent running game last season. And if Weeden is the highly accurate and smart passer in the NFL that he was in college, the Browns’ incumbent receivers should thrive more … provided, as Holmgren was quick to point out, they catch the ball better than they did a year ago. And the team president is expecting they will.

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Posted in Carucci's Call | 20 Comments »


20 Responses to “Essence of Browns’ draft comes down to four picks”

  1. By Captain Cleveland on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    Wow Vic, you really have to tow the company line, don’t you? They pick a marginally productive tiny WR in the 98th round and they didn’t ignore the WR position??? Yes, they did. They drafted a QB who should be entering the prime of his career after 6 years in the NFL who instead will be a rookie. Who is he going to throw to? Yes, Greg Little is a player. Mohammed Massaquoi could be ok if he can keep from getting concussions every time he intakes breath. Josh Cribbs tries, but he’s just not a natural WR. They needed a Stephen Hill. Or a Reuben Randle. Or….you know……anybody. And then they draft 11 defensive tackles and 17 inside linebackers when that is the one defensive line position and linebacker position where we have some existing young talent.

    MR. LERNER, I HAVE A HUGE MONEY-SAVING PROPOSITION!!!……

    Take whatever you’re paying MIKE HOLMGREN, TOM HECKERT, AND YOUR ENTIRE SCOUTING DEPARTMENT, AND CAN THEM.

    NOW HERE’S WHAT YOU DO…..

    Pay me say $100,000 a year, get me a subscription to Lindy’s Pro Football, and let me make your draft picks. I’ll do a better job than the tens of millions you have tied up in the knuckleheads running your team now. I mean, all year to scout, and the WR prospect we “discover” is from the U of M? Gosh, what intensive scouring you did tofind a tiny WR slightly bigger than my 4 year old son at one of the biggest football factories in the country.

    WANT ME TO PROVE IT?

    At the end of the year, tell me….

    - If you would rather have had Brandon Weeden OR who I would have picked there, David DeCastro.

    - At 37, tell me if you would rather have Mitchell Schwartz or who I would have picked, Stephen Hill.

    - In round three, tell me if you would rather have John Hughes or who I would have picked, Bobbie Massie.

    - In round 4, tell me if you would rather have Travis Benjamin or who I would have picked Chase Minnifield? And does that last name sound familiar???

    - And my philosophy in rounds 5-7 would ALWAYS be, TAKE GUYS WHO HAVE THE PHYSICAL TOOLS TO EXCEL, and coach them up! Instead we take guys who were marginally productive at marginal programs with marginal upside. Here is where you should be taking risks on talented guys who weren’t productive because they transferred or had coaching changes or were in the wrong system or made some bad choices but have learned from them. Not guys who were marginally productive because they were and are marginally talented. THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE SCOUTS! Find players flying under the radar. Find the guys lighting it up for the freaking local YMCA in rural Louisiana, not the guy who can’t play even though he had good coaching at a major college power.

    The Browns will remain where they are doomed to be for who knows how long, the bottom. And here’s the sad thing…..

    I WILL SUPPORT THEM TO MY DIEING DAY! AND WATCH THEM EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY!

    But seriously Mr. Lerner, $100,000, some decent health care coverage, a subscription to some football magazines and ESPN Insider, and a good satellite TV hook-up to watch a lot of college football games and I will bring the Browns back with some good personnel choices, since the current “braintrust”, and I use that term very, very, very loosely, has no frigging clue.

  2. By jaybertx on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    Don’t agree with everything you’ve said but I love your passion, man.

  3. By RyanW on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    I think they drafted pretty good.Taking the running back made sense.Trent fits the Ground and Pound style we need in Cleveland.I do like Brandon Weeden, and I think they may have had him in round two.But this obviously says a lot about how they feel about Colt McCoy.They just couldn’t go through another year with mediocre passing.McCoy is a great backup, but did anybody seriously think he has pro bowl potential.Granted, Brandon Weeden is on the wrong side of twenty, but at least he gives the offense something we have sorely lacked.A big strong armed gun slinging quarterback that should give us some quality football in the next few years.All they need to do is draft another one and groom him for the future.They should of targeted Ruben RandalI, which I think they just missedby not moving up a few spots for him.I wish they would of drafted Chase Minnefield, but maybe there was some medical issues?Maybe he can wallk on as a free agent. I know our offense will be much more dynamic and score points. And drafting Trent Richardson will help the Defense in so many ways! Go Browns!

  4. By Ray Brohammer on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    Love Richardson! Let’s hope Weeden pans out IMMEDIATLEY. Obviously we need guys who can help instantly, especially our 1st round picks. Schwartz is a upgrade who should help. Couple real head scratchers after that. We all knew how critical this draft was for this team and time will tell. Let’s hope Heckert and his staff did their homework well in picking who they did. It seems pretty clear that the goal for the brass seems to be focused on the 2013 season and beyond. Let’s all pray that someday we can look back at this 2012 with pride rather than have a repeat of that debacle of a draft in 2009 when Mangini butchered one of our best chances we had to ease OUR pain as fans and get this team moving in the right direction.

  5. By Mike on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    I didn’t like the Weeden pick at first. Then I got to thinking about Roger Staubach and decided to hold my opinion and wait until the fall. Overall I really liked the draft. The Browns addressed their needs, especially at RB, OT and ILB. I am really excited about this coming year……Regardless I am a Browns fan for life and only wish Bernie Kosar was still our QB. LOVE that guy.

  6. By bobbyd on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    Wow, Captain Cleveland. What a great comment. Yous sarcasm is very enlightening, and we’re all very impressed with your self-evaluation. I’ll bet you never even heard of Bobbie Massie, David DeCastro, or Stephen Hill until two weeks before the draft. You are the prototypical, self-proclaimed “Browns Fan”, who woofs at the Stadium (if you ever go), and second-guesses those who do this for a living. I’ll bet you never even played High School ball.

  7. By ed murphy on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    hire captain cleveland.i agree with everything he said. add h&h to grossi list

  8. By Captain Cleveland on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    I actually tried to be careful to not rip on the players we drafted, and instead focus my frustration on the front office. I didn’t rip Weeden. I just said that we’re effectively losing half a dozen years compared to a “normal” rookie. I actually like him as a player and have high hopes. As for your mocking my knowledge of the draftees, that’s kind of my point. We didn’t pick any real diamonds in the rough or small school finds. There were just some head scratchers relative to what we needed. And before anyone starts with “but they didn’t pick for need, they picked the BPA”. Well then what an amazing turn of luck that the best player available at pick 22 happened to be a quarterback, and the best player available at pick 37 happened to be a right tackle. Give me a break.

    As for your mockery of me as a fan and if I go to the stadium, I will admit that living in Seattle, Washington makes it difficult to be a regular at the factory of sadness. I moved here from Rocky River about 16 years ago. I read about the Browns every single day. I meet with the local Browns Backers club and watch every single game and have every week for the last 16 years. When I lived in Cleveland, I went to games regularly. I went to the very last game at the old stadium. And I went to the incredible game where Don Strock led us back to beat the Oilers in a snowstorm the last week of the season to get into the playoffs.

    Go Browns.

  9. By TXBrownie on Apr 29, 2012 | Reply

    I’ll agree that I think we could have gotten Weeden at 37, and that we should have gotten DeCastro. And it pains me even more that he went to Pittsburgh. But he is a guy we need. I don’t feel McCoy has had his fair shake, but Weeden has something Colt will never have, and that’s a powerful arm, who can get the ball down the field ACCURATELY. Don’t tell me you can watch a Browns -vs- Pittsburgh game and not be jealous watching Raping-Ben throw 60 yard passes down field to Wallace. Colt would NEVER have been able to do that. So that being said, I’m fine with getting Weeden at 22. As for the other picks you all don’t agree with, just remember 1 name…T.J. Ward. Everyone was killing them for taking him in the second round, but look at it now. We all have to agree that they were 100% correct on T.J. and if the draft were re-drafted he might even go higher now. So I’ll choose to put my trust in these guys and reserve my judgement until I’ve seen what this years crop can do between the lines.

  10. By Captain Cleveland on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    TXBrownie, you make an excellent point on TJ Ward. What the draft rags say, and what the personnel people think are often two different things. At the time, everyone was thinking, “But we could have had Taylor Mays!”. Now thank God we didn’t take Mays, who has done nothing. So yes, there’s that. But no matter how the players from this class turn out, John Hughes will never turn into an All-Pro wide receiver. It is unforgivable that they did not draft a wideout.

  11. By TXBrownie on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    I think they wanted to draft more recievers, but I think the ones they were targeting were going off the board before they fell to us. I’m not going to be cliche and say they then went BPA, but I will say they may have had the other guys evaluated lower than that pick. I know they could have taken Stephen Hill at 37, but I truly think RT was a more glaring hole on this team, and I really didn’t mind them taking one there with a deep WR draft. Will Travis Benjamin be an All-Pro? Most likely not. But I’m glad they aren’t reaching for players they have evaluated lower just to fill needs. We still need WR help, but this is still a building process, and anyone who thought we were going the the Super Bowl is delusional. We’ll get there man. This thing is in a much better place than a few years ago. Hell we have a top 10 defense! And imagine if we were better at stopping the run.

  12. By Jethro on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    Love the back, Love the QB, love the RT. Love the Winn pick as a rotational guy who can bring it. Love the speedy WR, though some scouts indicated an issue with dropped passes. Also wish that Streeter would have been there for the 7th round supplemental draft picks (Ozzie Newsome got him!). Not as able to get open as Benjamin, but at 6’5″ definitely had the size to block in run situations and go for the fade or jumper in the red zone. Getting a receiver specifically for fades and jump balls in the end zone is not a bad idea.

    Hope some of those undrafted free agent WR’s pan out, between Bert Reed (FSU) and Josh Cooper (Okla State). Sounds like Reed is another speedburner, having hit mid 4.3′s in the 40 in some heats. Really need guys who can basically get open and catch. Ability to come down with the ball in traffic, reach high into the air for a ball thrown up for grabs and wall off the defender with the body are all great pluses, but basically can get open and catch the hot passes from the fireballer. (Leading the league last year in dropped passes is not a stat to be proud of, especially when the Colt doesn’t exactly blow people away with arm strength.) In all likelihood, Josh Cooper is already clued in here. I am sure by this stage of the game, Weeden knows when to throw the fastball and when to throw the offspeed stuff!

  13. By Jethro on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    What will happen to the Browns offense if Weeden can get the ball to Josh Cribbs on a consistent basis in the open field, over the middle or in the flat? There’s a 1-2 punch that ought to scare defenses.

  14. By RG on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Captain Cleveland:
    Give me a break. The worst thing we can do is start over again with a new regime. I have a question, haven’t these guys drafted well so far on the Defensive side of the ball? Oh and give them a little bit of time, there trying to fix the mistakes of all of the other regimes since 1999. Give it some time, you can’t fix this overnight but I guarantee we will be much improved this year with the addition of Childress and a real(strike free)training camp.Are you sure your not really a Steelers fan. Get in your boat and go float out to sea. In Heckert and Holmgren I trust.

  15. By Bob on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    I’m no draft expert, so I’m not going to comment on who will succeed and who will fail. Nor will I say who they could have, would have, should have…

    But, there is one thing that has happened with the Browns that I think is being overlooked. They finally got aggressive! Ever since the Browns returned at the turn of the century, they have made little splashes in the draft, and the ones they did make were usually trade-downs for more draft picks. This year they got aggressive and went after guys they wanted (good or bad). I love the fact that people are talking about the Browns as much as the Pats, the Cowboys, or others for a change.

    I hope the drat picks pan out, but if they don’t, I’m glad they tried something aggressively. I’m tired of playing it safe all the time.

  16. By Bernard on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    Hey, Browns fans and friends, Slow down and relax. How many games did we miss winning last year from flukes, Top 5 defense, Don’t undersell Colt McCoy, He has a great winning percentage at Texas, Good QB actually better than good. I believe with McCoy, Wallace, and Weeden, you couldn’t have a better QB corps in Cleveland. With Schwartz if he turns out and protects, We did well. Don’t forget we lost two games due to Ryan Pointabraint and his poor snaps. Our defense got even better in free agency. This year is different with an expanded off season from last year, relax. We still have room in free agency now that the draft is over. Start with 90 and work down to 53. I believe in the front office and believe they know what they are doing. I believe the Browns are going to be truly dynamic this year with the addition of Brad Childress. I think Ray Lewis and Troy Polomalu are going to have fits which bodes well for us. We have many second year players with a season especially with the lock out last year under their belts. I remember a guy named Brian Brennan and he wasn’t a big guy either. There is also free agency after training camp 37 players and 31 other teams, you do the math. Don’t get your panties in a bunch, We have a serious chance this year for great things. Will we win the Super Bowl? Wait let get my crystal ball out……. I have no idea, yet it is possible. I could see Cleveland this year being the only AFC North team to make the playoffs. We have a lot of payback inside of us. I believe it’s going to pay off. I have been disappointed to especially when Modell moved the team to Baltimore and they won a Super Bowl and years without a team. Just relax. You are a fan which comes from the word fanatic. I understand, the first four words I learned as a baby was Mom, Dad, football, and Browns. Be encouraged and there is much to be encouraged about. I believe we are going to give many teams headaches and heartaches this year. Keep the faith.

  17. By woodman65 on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    I believe the front office did a good job. we all wanted trent rich. and a top reciever, then a ot. that would have been a dream. then get a qb like weeden in the second 37. the running game will keep defences wondering if it’s a run or will weeden throw to josh,little or mohammed. our wr are tall enough and fast enough to get the ball if the QB have time to throw. so with a good ot on the right. a great running game. and a strong armed QB added to the offense. thats going to ,ake the recievers better that we got. they just have to hold on to the ball when giving the chance. our wr are good players. got the size, not 6’4″ but 6’2″ So the biggest need was of course the consistant running game. when the running game was good with hillis we scored. even without a big arm QB. colt didn’t lose games for us by bad desicions.just no right guard,inconsistant running game. bad timing with wr. Trent and the offenses line is going to change the game in Cleveland.

  18. By Captain Cleveland on Apr 30, 2012 | Reply

    OK, so I got kind of worked up, I’ll admit. But after a couple days to reflect, here are my settled down thoughts…..it’s still unforgivable to not have drafted a wideout higher than the 4th round. And then the one we took is tiny, with marginal production. Could the draft rags be wrong? Of course they could. And for the Browns sake, I hope they are and he’s a good player.

    Now to my settled down analysis…

    TRich: Awesome. The obvious and correct pick. All-Pro, no matter what Cranky Grandpa Brown says.

    Weeden: He better be good and fast. He doesn’t have time for a learning curve and years to get good. BUT….I will admit that it’s nice to have a big QB with a big-time arm, and I like him as a person and his character wildly more than sociopath Joe “I’m the Best Quarterback Ever” Flacco and Rapistburger. I’ll let Eric Cartman comment on Ginger Dalton. BUT……they should have traded a 5th to move to 19th and get Kendall Wright. If they KNEW teams were trying to traded to get TRich, they could have made sure that they knew who had a bead on Wright and traded up 3 spots to get him while still keeping their 2nd and 3rd round picks. Weeden would very likely have been there at 37.

    Schwartz: You have to give the Browns the benefit of the doubt that there is a reason that Bobbie Massie lasted until the 4th round and teams shyed away from Cordy Glenn. But I’ll have my eyes on those two players to see if it’s a classic case of sheep assuming the sheep in front is doing what he’s doing for a reason instead of realizing it’s a freaking sheep. And having picked Wright at 19, here is where I would have picked Weeden.

    Hughes: Biggest Browns reach. Inexplicible. I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t think he would have been available 3 rounds later. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

    Johnson: Why we need to pick a back-up to our 2nd best defender here, I don’t know.

    Winn: Here’s a good pick, with good value.

    Acho: Potentially a good pick.

    The others? Throw a dart. Who knows…

    GO BROWNS.

  19. By Bama Man on May 2, 2012 | Reply

    Hey guys, I’m a new Browns fan seeing as I’m mostly an Alabama/college football guy and don’t really have a specific “NFL team” I root for. I’m in a bit of a bind because Upshaw will be facing Trent twice a year and Kirkpatrick will as well………..For the record, i’ll take Trent 8 times out of ten in that matchup.

    TRich is the best back ever to come through Alabama, he was the ENTIRE offense many times and it was always enough. If they get him the ball in space, the passing game as well as misdirection and between the tackles, he will give you guys more than your money’s worth. He is much more than an up the middle head banger, he ran 4.43-40 at pro-day at 231lbs, he is an exceptional route runner and he’s got great hands, he isn’t just a power back.

    You guys also grabbed Brad Smelley in the 7th and I don’t know their plans for him but as a FB/H-back that guy has phenomenal hands, he catches EVERYTHING that comes close to him. He is gonna be a pleasant surprise for this offense. Not an every down NFL player but he is an absolute nightmare of a mismatch for linebackers………just wanted to weigh in on the two Bama guys.

  20. By TXBrownie on May 2, 2012 | Reply

    Well Bama Man, if you are joining the club let me be the first to welcome you. We’ve had some pretty rough years and it’s definitely not easy being a Browns fan, but you’ve never seen a bunch of more passionate fans. No matter what those black and gold morons say. I love the TRich pick and I think he’ll be a main stay here for years. Like I told the guys earlier, just be patient, and I really think we’re on the right path now. Welcome aboard man! We’re glad to have you.

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