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2012 NFL Draft: It All Hinges On The Cleveland Browns

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The Cleveland Browns control the shape of the 2012 NFL Draft with their fourth pick. What will they do?

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Nobody was thinking much about the NFL Draft, Robert Griffin III or Ryan Tannehill in Week 10 last season. There was still too much football to played. Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson certainly wasn't thinking about the draft when head coach Pat Shurmur sent him into the game to kick a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter against the equally hapless St. Louis Rams.

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A bad snap and a partial block sent the ball wide left. St. Louis won, and the Browns were one game closer to eventually having the fourth overall pick in the draft. Better circumstances and the Browns would have had at least five wins, changing their draft position ever so slightly.

Now, the entire first round of the draft hinges on what the Browns do with the fourth pick. Why Cleveland? The first two picks are sewn up with Andrew Luck and Griffin. Cleveland, in need of a quarterback, missed out on the RG3 trade, and may or may not be considering Tannehill, the Texas A&M product, as an answer. Minnesota, picking third, drafted a quarterback last season. They could be players in shaping the draft, but the other teams in need of a quarterback will be eyeing Cleveland's fourth pick, especially with Cleveland also making noise about trading down.

So what will the Browns do at fourth overall? Let's break it down.

Ryan Tannehill

On Monday, Peter King at said the Browns were one of the teams most seriously considering Tannehill. The draft's third-best signal caller possesses enough raw talent to justify a first-round pick, and by virtue of being a quarterback gets consideration in the top five spots in today's bargain market for rookies. He is not a day one starter, but the Browns can keep Colt McCoy in there while Tannehill acclimates to the game. Cleveland can use their other first-round pick, No. 22, to find additional skill players to help their quarterbacks, a close second on the needs scale in Cleveland.

Read the scouting report on Tannehill from Mocking the Draft.

Justin Blackmon

Draft pundits seems to be far more meh on the Oklahoma State wide receiver than NFL teams. Cleveland is said to be seriously considering Blackmon with the fourth pick. King reported in that same Monday column that Browns GM Tom Heckert was a Blackmon fan, and that the receiver would be his choice.

It's probably a mistake to see the literal truth in everything you read this time of year. Coaches, general managers and the other football people in the room as are prone to second guessing as any mock drafter. It's just human nature. That said, Blackmon would actually be a very good addition to Pat Shurmur's West Coast Offense. The coach lives on four-yard shovel passes, which also happen to be McCoy's sweet spot. Blackmon runs the shorter routes well and possesses a package of skills that could allow him to thrive in such an offensive system.

Trent Richardson

Everybody loves the Alabama running back, but nobody wants to draft him with a top five pick. Earlier this month ESPN's Adam Schefter said that the Browns were leaning toward Richardson. They lost Peyton Hillis, who may or may not be working a COINTELPRO mission to find bugged phones in Kansas City.

Richardson could be an asset to the Browns offense, regardless of what they do at quarterback this year. Like Blackmon, Richardson is an asset in the short passing game, a fit for Cleveland's offense. Team president Mike Holmgren is no stranger to what a good running back is capable of after riding Shaun Alexander to a Super Bowl in the 2005 season. With the receiver market the way it is, they could still draft a nice consolation prize with their 22nd pick if they pass on Blackmon.

Morris Claiborne

Claiborne is less of an option here than the other players listed above. Cleveland's defense was a decent group last year, allowing less than 20 points per game. The Browns are so talent-bare on offense that they almost have to prioritize that as a need with the fourth pick.

If they did select Claiborne, he would make a solid pairing with Joe Haden. This scenario could happen, but it seems less and less likely as the draft gets closer.


Cleveland has made no secret of its willingness to trade down. It isn't a bad idea at all. Aside from Richardson or Tannehill, the Browns would do just as well getting another pick in the middle part of the first round.

But who would trade with them? The two teams fingered as the most likely suitors for Tannehill are the Chiefs and the Dolphins. Both teams have quarterback situations that will allow them to take their time with the rookie. Miami has an extra advantage in Mike Sherman, their offensive coordinator. Prior to taking the job in Miami this year, he coached Tannehill at Texas A&M.

A third possibility is Seattle, who is reportedly taken with Tannehill. Seattle signed Matt Flynn in the offseason, and could groom Tannehill behind the former LSU product.

If Cleveland does not take Tannehill and does not trade their pick to a team that will, Jacksonville or St. Louis could be in prime position to lure a team up to their spot in the draft.

Most Likely Outcome

I'm guessing here, but I think that Cleveland will trade the pick. They won't fetch any RG3 type bounty, but an extra second- or third-round pick and a move down in the first would go a long way toward restocking their roster. They still have to think about an answer at quarterback in that scenario. Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State is one possibility, as is waiting for next year. At some point, Cleveland fans will get tired of an annual wait for next year. This draft is a make or break deal for the Mike Holmgren administration.

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