Phil Taylor injured; to be replaced by rookie?

According to John Telich of Fox 8 News, Cleveland Browns second-year defensive tackle Phil Taylor has a torn pectoral muscle and could be out up to six months, putting the majority of his 2012 season in jeopardy.

Taylor was slated to return to his starting role next to Ahtyba Rubin, but that position will likely be up for grabs in training camp with two rookies competing for the job. 3rd-round pick John Hughes and 6th-round selection Billy Wynn will likely be the front runners in the competition, with journeyman Scott Paxton also in the mix.

Unfortunately, the Browns won’t be able to replace Taylor’s size, which could potentially lead to some changes in their scheme. Taylor is listed at 355 pounds. The next largest tackle on the Browns depth chart, aside from Rubin and Taylor, is Hughes, who checked in at 309 pounds at the combine.

Hughes’ size may give him a slight edge over his competition. Dick Jauron’s defense is currently built around two nose tackles anchoring the front seven. And while the Browns have already stated their intentions of moving Frostee Rucker inside in passing situations, it would require a restructuring of the defensive scheme to play a true three-technique pass rusher like Rucker or even Billy Winn, on a more regular basis.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns Comments Off

Draft Grades: Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns hit a home run with their first selection… and it was all downhill from there. The Browns entered the draft with 13 picks – an opportunity to completely change the direction of this floundering franchise – but whiffed in such a way that it could cost Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert their jobs in the not-so-distant future.

Even taking into consideration the somewhat questionable trade, Trent Richardson was a great selection at No 3. The Browns needed to land a can’t-miss prospect in the top 10, and Richardson was arguably the best on the board. He will be a star from day one.

If the Browns were looking to change the face of the franchise, the accomplished that by selecting Brandon Weeden. But it feels like a lateral move to me. Regardless of your opinion of Weeden, the Browns are going nowhere fast. Even if all goes as planned, they won’t be serious contenders until 2014, when Weeden will be 31 years old. I could understand a more established team gambling on Weeden, but the selection simply does not make sense for a franchise with a steep uphill climb just to enter the playoff discussion.

Mitchell Schwartz was a reach in the early 2nd round. At best, he’ll be an average starting right tackle, and that’s not worth the 37th overall selection. He’s essentially a younger Tony Pashos, who the Browns recently released.

John Hughes may have been the reach of the draft. The Browns have two above average starting defensive tackles, and plan to use Frostee Rucker as the three-technique in passing situations. So where does Hughes fit in? It’s hard to do worse than a reach that doesn’t even fill a need.

Travis Benjamin is a track star masquerading as a football player. He could have value as a return specialist, but the Browns already have Josh Cribbs, who is backed up by the more-than-capable Buster Skrine. At best, Benjamin develops into a decent 4th option who can stretch the field, but he was not worth the 100th overall selection.

James-Michael Johnson adds some much-needed depth at the linebacker position. He will likely back up D’Qwell Jackson, but could play any of the three spots in Cleveland’s 4-3 defense.

Ryan Miller adds some depth at guard and could push Shaun Lauvao or Jason Pinkston for playing time, both of whom are coming off disappointing seasons. Lauvao led all guards in sacks allowed and penalties in 2011.

Emmanuel Acho will compete for the backup weak-side linebacker job, and could actually see some playing time early due to Scott Fujita’s suspension.

Billy Winn was arguably the Browns best selection other than Richardson. I gave him a fringe 3rd/4th-round grade and had him rated significantly higher than John Hughes.

Tevin Wade will compete with Buster Skrine for the 4th cornerback job. Like Skrine, he’s undersized and his upside is limited to playing the nickel corner role.

Brad Smelley blocked for Richardson at Alabama, and the Browns reportedly called Richardson about him before making the selection. It’s not a bad decision, but the Browns drafted Owen Marecic in the 4th round last year and parted with Lawrence Vickers to make room for him. What does that say about their evaluation process if they’re willing to give up on Marecic after one year?

I fail to see how this draft class changed Cleveland’s direction in any meaningful way. They have a power running game and a rookie quarterback… is that any different than two years when their offense featured Peyton Hillis and Colt McCoy, who, at the time, was viewed as a promising young quarterback? This draft class, coupled with the strong drafts of their division rivals, cemented the Browns place in the AFC North cellar.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Draft Grades - 2012 Comments Off

Will the Browns trade Colt McCoy today?

One of the biggest names on the trading block today is Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. The Browns are reportedly shopping him around due to the fact that they are more comfortable with Seneca Wallace as Brandon Weeden’s backup in 2012.

However, McCoy has very little value on the market. He’s viewed as a career backup now and many teams likely have some prospects such as Kirk Cousins rated higher than McCoy. At this stage of the offseason, most teams are comfortable with their backup quarterback situations. Teams would much rather bring in a young, unproven quarterback to develop than a guy like McCoy who has two years of experience under his belt already.

If McCoy does get moved, the Browns will likely won’t get anything more than a 6th or 7th round pick.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns Comments Off

Cleveland Browns select John Hughes, Grade WTF

The Cleveland Browns may have been better off selecting the late, great filmmaker John Hughes, rather than the defensive tackle.

I did not have a draftable grade on John Hughes and, to be honest, did not even bother scouting him in depth. I saw him while studying teammate Derek Wolfe and absolutely nothing about his game stood out. I assumed Hughes would be picked up as a free agent after the draft.

In Cleveland he will strictly be a backup to Taylor and Rubin and is a longshot to ever make a significant impact at the next level.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns 2 Comments

Cleveland Browns select Mitchell Schwartz, Grade C+

I actually like the fact that the Cleveland Browns didn’t feel compelled to draft a receiver simply because it’s their most glaring need. However, they missed the boat with Mitchell Schwartz.

Schwartz can be a reasonably effective starter, but he’s the type of player you can find in free agency every year without having to break the bank. In essence, he’s a younger Tony Pashos, the guy the Browns just released which opened up this hole at right tackle. The best way to describe Schwartz’s game is to say he’s a bend-but-don’t-break blocker. And when you move from the Pac-12 to the NFL, more of those blocks will begin to break.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns 1 Comment

Browns wanted Kendall Wright, settled for Weeden

A quarterback should never be your fall-back option in the 1st round, but that’s exactly what happened to the Cleveland Browns.

According to Adam Schefter, the Browns were prepared to take Kendall Wright at No. 22 and were disappointed when the Titans surprisingly grabbed him at No. 20.

Brandon Weeden felt like a 1st-round reach to begin with, but this report further calls into question the strategy being used in the Browns war room. If you have a similar grade on a quarterback and a receiver in the 1st round, you always target the quarterback. Quality receivers are found in the mid-to-late rounds every year. Quarterbacks are not.

If the Browns were targeting Wright at No. 22, they obviously felt comfortable moving forward with Colt McCoy. Now it’s possible that they could have landed Weeden at No. 37 or traded up to get him, but you certainly can’t count on that option. If they took Wright at No. 22 they had to be OK with McCoy as their starting quarterback.

So if they were willing to move forward with another year of McCoy, why make Weeden the backup plan?

This entire situation makes it looks as though the Browns panicked, and calls into question just how much confidence they have in their new franchise quarterback. This is definitely not the type of publicity Mike Holmgren’s front office needs when they’re already losing the confidence of the fan base.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns Comments Off

Cleveland Browns select Brandon Weeden, Grade D

The Cleveland Browns got themselves a starting quarterback, but it sort of feels like a lateral move to me.

I can’t give them a failing grade because I do think Brandon Weeden can be a starter. However, he is much more of a developmental prospect than he’s been made out to be. Being 28 years old doesn’t make you NFL ready. He needs time to develop, and by the time he does, he’ll be 30 years old. Weeden’s ceiling, in my opinion, is only as a Chad Pennington-like middle-of-the-road starter.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns Comments Off

Browns select Trent Richardson, Grade A

The Cleveland Browns absolutely had to take Trent Richardson, given what was on the board. I’m not crazy about the trade (if the Vikings were willing to settle for a few late round picks, obviously no one was seriously considering a blockbuster trade up) but the Browns still have 11 picks in the draft and will still be able to completely overhaul the roster.

The reason Richardson makes more sense than Justin Blackmon, is due to the fact that Blackmon is very similar to Browns 2011 2nd-round pick, Greg Little. While they would have probably settled for Blackmon in a difference scenario, they’re better off waiting until late in the 1st round or early 2nd round for a receiver who better fits their system.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns Comments Off

5 teams that will draft a quarterback

1. Indianapolis Colts/Washington Redskins
This is a done deal, so I’ll group these teams together.  We know that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin are headed to Indy and Washington, respectively. But I will add this, don’t be surprised if Colts draft another quarterback to compete for the backup job with Drew Stanton. They own six picks in the final three rounds of the draft, and could add a guy like Russell Wilson or B.J. Coleman late in the draft.

2. Miami Dolphins
I’m not convinced the Dolphins will take Ryan Tannehill, but they will draft someone to compete with Matt Moore for the starting job. If they pass on Tannehill, Brandon Weeden or Kirk Cousins could be options on Day Two.

3. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are another candidate to land Tannehill. But even if they miss out on the Texas A&M signal caller, they’re likely to bring in someone to groom as Matt Cassel’s replacement in the 2nd or 3rd round.

4. Cleveland Browns
The Browns will have the first crack at Tannehill, but they’re unlikely to pull the trigger at No. 4. In fact, the Browns may simply chose to stick with McCoy and pass on most of the top signal callers in this draft. But that doesn’t mean they won’t find someone. Mike Holmgren is a quarterback guru, and is likely to pick out someone in the 3rd round or later that he would like to develop.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Obviously the Steelers aren’t in the Tannehill sweepstakes, but they’re also unlikely to enter the 2012 season with Jerrod Johnson and Troy Smith as Roethlisberger’s backups. Look for them to add a quarterback at some point, potentially as a early as the 3rd round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns, Chiefs, Colts, Dolphins, Redskins, Steelers Comments Off

Why Browns don’t need to trade both 1st round picks to move up for Griffin

The general consensus is that the Cleveland Browns will ultimately win the bidding war for Robert Griffin III due to the fact that they own two 1st round picks, and therefore can offer more than the Redskins or Dolphins. However, the Browns should be able to win the Griffin sweepstakes without parting with the 22nd pick.

For starters, the Browns also own the 37th pick, two spots higher than the Redskins 2nd-round pick. If the Redskins offer their 1st and 2nd round selections, the Browns can out-bid them simply by matching the offer.

On top of that, the Rams may not be interested in dropping all the way to No. 6. By sliding to No. 4, the Redskins are still guaranteed to get either Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon –  most likely the top two prospects on their draft board. Any GM would be thrilled to land one of their two favorite prospects at No. 4 and pick up an additional second-round pick in the process. So whatever the Redskins offer to sweeten the pot beyond the Browns 1st and 2nd round picks may not be worth it to St. Louis.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns, Rams, Redskins 1 Comment