2012 NFL Draft

Browns Offseason Priority: Find Some Playmakers

While most Cleveland Browns fans would prefer to blame Colt McCoy for disappointing offensive performance, the fact is no quarterback could have salvaged the Browns offense in 2011.

Could Griffin be the Browns superman?

Aside from rookie Greg Little, who showed some promise, the Browns simply lack the playmakers necessary to consistently put points on the scoreboard. And the issue goes beyond the wide receiver position. While a healthy Peyton Hillis will help (if he’s re-signed) even he isn’t a true playmaker. What the Browns need is someone their opponents need to game plan for, someone who can change the course of the game in a single play.

The easiest solution to this problem would be to add Robert Griffin III. While I believe Colt McCoy can be an effective starter if surrounded by a strong supporting cast, he will never have Griffin’s playmaking ability. McCoy can win with the right teammates, but Griffin has the potential to turn his teammates into winners.

But if Griffin is off the board, hope is not lost. The Browns still own three of the top 37 picks, and could acquire another if they trade down – which would make sense if the lose out in the bidding for Griffin.

If the Browns move back 5-10 slots to the middle of the 1st round they could potentially add Kendall Wright, who would immediately add a new dimension to their offense given his ability to stretch the field.

Then, either at No. 22 or in the 2nd round, the Browns could add another weapon – perhaps a playmaker at running back (Doug Martin or David Wilson) or a pass-catching tight end such as Coby Fleener or Ladarius Green.

The bottom line is this: the Browns have some glaring holes, but also have the ammunition necessary to address their areas of concern. Adding Griffin would help, but all will not be lost if they’re forced to return with Colt McCoy as the starter in 2012.

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

Quarterback search: Cleveland Browns

I’ll start by saying this: Colt McCoy got a raw deal in Cleveland.

McCoy is perfect for the West Coast offense, and should have excelled with the Browns, but wasn’t surrounded with that talent he deserves. That said, after two disappointing and injury-plagued seasons, it’s time for the Browns to strongly consider moving on.

The issue with the Browns offense – in part due to McCoy’s very average arm strength, in part due to their pitiful receiving corps – was their inability to pick up large chucks of yardage. As a team, they completed just 19 passes of 25 yards or more, the league’s fourth-lowest total.

Another issue with the Browns offense was McCoy’s tendency to check down on nearly every play – again, in part due to his receivers’ inability to get open down the field. According to ProFootballFocus, McCoy’s competions traveled only an average of 5.83 yards through the air – the 6th-lowest average this season.

So where do the Browns go from here?

Assuming that trading up for Andrew Luck is not an option, they could settle for the next best thing: Robert Griffin III. But is he a good fit for their offense?

The Browns will continue to run a West Coast offense under new coordinator Brad Childress in 2012, which means we shouldn’t expect them to suddenly start tossing the ball all over the field. For this reason, one could argue that Griffin isn’t a great fit.

At Baylor, Griffin played in Art Briles wide open spread attack, primarily taking snaps from the shotgun. With weapons like Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, a strong offense line, and the aid of standing in the shotgun, Griffin had plenty of time to stand in the pocket and wait for a receiver to break free. He won’t have that luxury in the NFL – especially not in the West Coast system.

But that doesn’t mean Griffin can’t excel in Cleveland.

The Browns are desperate for a playmaker and Griffin’s big arm and elite athleticism will add a new dimension to their offense. He may not have the ideal skill set for the West Coast system, but a good coaching staff will always find ways to adjust to the players around them. Brad Childress worked with Donovan McNabb for the first seven years of McNabb’s career, and while McNabb never had Griffin’s athleticism, his mobility was a big part of the Eagles offense early in his career.

Griffin can change the Browns offense and, in time, could develop into more of a prototypical West Coast quarterback.

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

NFL Draft Trade Scenarios: Minnesota Vikings

There’s been a lot of early focus on the St. Louis Rams potentially parting with the No. 2 overall pick, but perhaps the rumors should be focused on the Minnesota Vikings.

For starters, the Rams and Vikings are likely interested in the same players (Matt Kalil, Morris Claiborne, Justin Blackmon) and if the Rams trade down to No. 4 or No. 6, there’s no guarantee they’ll get the guy they covet. The Rams most glaring hole is at left tackle, and Kalil is the only true franchise left tackle available in this draft class. If the Rams were to drop to No. 4, and especially if they fell to No. 6, Kalil would likely be off the board.

On the flip side, there’s also no guarantee that the guy the Vikings want at No. 3 will be there if the Rams stay put. If the Rams select Kalil second overall, the Vikings may feel No. 3 is too early for a cornerback or receiver, and would be willing to trade down.

The Vikings also have more holes to fill overall than the Rams, who are just one year removed from nearly making the playoffs. One could argue that the Vikings simply need the extra picks more than the Rams.

Here are some potential trade scenarios:

Browns get: No. 3 pick
Vikings get: No. 4 pick, Browns 2nd-round pick

Redskins get: No. 3 pick
Vikings get: No. 6, Redskins 1st-round pick in 2013

Dolphins get: No. 3 pick
Vikings get: No. 9 pick, Dolphins 2nd-round pick, Dolphins 1st-round pick in 2013, Dolphins 3rd-round pick in 2013

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns, Dolphins, Rams, Redskins, Vikings Comments Off

So where will RGIII land?

While it comes as no surprise, Robert Griffin III has reportedly informed Baylor that he will be entering the draft.

And so begins silly season, which will feature a never ending supply of RGII rumors involving the Rams, Browns, Redskins, Seahawks, Dolphins and possibly a few others.

So let’s break down a few of the rumors before they even start…

Griffin is a top-six lock, but where will he land?

Scenario 1: Rams trade No. 2 pick to [insert QB desperate team here] - The Rams have to be ecstatic today with the news that Griffin is turning pro, which means the value of their No. 2 pick skyrockets. Ideally, the Rams create a bidding war between the Browns and another team (most likely the Redskins) and are able to pry both of Cleveland’s 1st-round picks from GM Tom Heckert. But while the Browns have the edge over anyone interested in trading up, never underestimate Daniel Snyder’s complete disregard for the value of draft picks. If Snyder gets desperate, he just may put together a package the Rams can’t refuse.

Scenario 2: Browns select Griffin at No. 4 – While this is the least dramatic scenario, it’s probably the most likely one. The Redskins have the ability to trade up, but the Rams also have incentive to stay put. The Vikings have similar needs to the Rams and if the St. Louis gets its heart set on Justin Blackmon or Matt Kalil, there’s no guarantee the Vikings won’t swoop in a take him at No. 3. That would allow Griffin to fall to No. 4, where the Browns would probably take him.

Scenario 3: Bucs trade No. 5 pick t0 [insert QB desperate team here] - If the Browns don’t want Griffin, the Redskins would lose their incentive to trade up to No. 2. And, while the Seahawks and Dolphins would be crazy to not have an interest in Griffin, the asking price will likely be too steep for them to trade up that high. However, if Cleveland passes on him at No. 4, the Bucs could initiate a bidding war between those teams interested in jumping ahead of Washington.

Scenario 4: The Redskins select Griffin at No. 6 – If all else fails, the Redskins will end Griffin’s mini fall at No. 6.

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

Ryan Tannehill reportedly out for Senior Bowl

According to a report from DraftInsider.net’s Tony Pauline, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill has suffered a “significant” foot injury and will miss the Senior Bowl.

This is devestating news for Tannehill, who has an outside shot at sneaking into the 1st round of the draft. With Matt Barkley returning to school, we’re guaranteed to have more teams in the market for a 1st-round quarterback than we’ll have obvious 1st-round talent at the position. Tannehill could potentially be an option for the Browns or Seahawks late on the first day of the draft.

The only good news for Tannehill is that the only two quarterbacks ahead of him on every draft board (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin) are underclassmen, and therefor will not be on display at the Senior Bowl either. However, others such as Kirk Cousins, Ryan Lindley and Nick Foles could benefit from Tannehill’s absence in Mobile.

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

2011 Draft Grades: Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns made some nice picks and dramatically improved their depleted roster, but the best move of the entire draft was their trade with the Falcons. The Browns acquired two 1st-round picks (2011, 2012) a 2nd-round pick (2011), and two 4th-round picks (2011, 2012)… all for a 22-year-old receiver who has yet to set foot on an NFL field. It was truly the steal of the draft.

Phil Taylor, whom the Browns selected after trading back up again in the 1st round, fills a gaping hole on their defensive line. Some have criticized the pick because Taylor was expected to play nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme – but since when can big men only play in the 3-4? Taylor is a similar talent to Shaun Rogers, who excelled in a 4-3 defense while in Detroit (when motivated). The only downside to the selection of Taylor is that, like Rogers, he comes with some baggage. However, if the Browns can keep him motivated and out of trouble, he will be a star.

Jabaal Sheard is another perfect fit for the Browns defense, especially considering they didn’t have a single true 4-3 defensive end on the roster prior to the draft. Sheard will start immediately, even if it’s only by default.

Greg Little is a risky 2nd round pick and I’m a little confused by the decision. He clearly has upside, but the Browns needed a receiver to contribute immediately. In three years Little could be Colt McCoy’s No. 1 target, but it’s unlikely that he’ll jump Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi on the depth chart in year one.

I love the selection of Jordan Cameron in the 4th round. He’s a tight end/wide receiver hybrid and will only continue to get better as he gains experience. There are few tight ends in the league with his size and athleticism. His impact may be minimal early, but he’s in a great position to learn behind Ben Watson and Evan Moore.

The selection of Owen Marecic is a little confusing since they could have simply re-signed Lawrence Vickers, one of the most well-respected run blocking fullbacks in the game. This pick, however, likely signals the end of the Vickers era and Marecic should immediately step into a starting role. You can forget about him playing both ways though – it’s not going to happen in the NFL.

Buster Skrine is a great 5th-round pick. His lack of size limits his upside, but he has the elite speed to stay with any receiver. The Browns likely had division rival Mike Wallace in mind when making this selection; Skrine should be a perfect matchup for those smaller deep threats.

Jason Pinkston was the top rated player on my board when the Browns grabbed him in the 5th round. I gave him an early 3rd-round grade and I believe he has the skills necessary to compete for a starting job at right tackle in Cleveland. He’s not much of an athlete and his upside may be limited, but there’s no reason he can’t beat out Tony Pashos for the job.

Eric Hagg isn’t anything special, but he should be able to find a spot on the roster due to the Browns lack of depth at safety. He could be an upgrade over Sabby Piscitelli as the backup strong safety.

As a whole, this was a great draft for the Browns – the second straight class that has them pointed in the right direction. They landed at least three starters (Taylor, Sheard, Marecic) and possibly two others (Little and Pinkston). And on top of all that, they now own two 1st-round picks in 2012. You can’t do much better than that.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Draft Grades - 2011 Comments Off

Winners from Rounds 1-3: Cleveland Browns

If the season started on Thursday morning the Cleveland Browns wouldn’t have had a defensive line. Two days later the have added two quality starters and may have done more to upgrade their defense than any team in the league.

Phil Taylor will be the anchor of the Browns defensive line

Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard may not be sexy picks, but they’re exactly what the Browns needed. Both will start from day one, and they compliment each other well. Taylor is a space eater, much like Shaun Rogers. Sheard is a pure pass rusher, who will team with Marcus Benard to give the Browns a nice pass rush duo.

And of course the best move of the draft was the pick they didn’t use.

The Browns got a king’s ransom from the Falcons in exchange for the 6th overall selection. One of those picks was used on North Carolina receiver Greg Little, who will be given an opportunity to start and could eventually develop into a true No. 1 receiver. And most importantly, they added a 2012 1st rounder.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Browns Comments Off

Cleveland Browns prepared to trade down?

Cleveland Browns GM Tom Heckert has stated that he has two players targeted with the No. 6 pick, and if both are gone he will attempt to trade down.

While most mock drafts (including my own) have the Browns taking Julio Jones, I believe that is simply Heckert’s Plan C and will only happen if both of his top choices are gone and no one is willing to trade up.

I strong believe that the top two players on the Browns draft board are Marcell Dareus and Patrick Peterson. While it remains possible that one could fall, it appears unlikely if Blaine Gabbert is not selected in the top five.

With that in mind, don’t be shocked if the first trade of the night comes at No. 6. Once Dareus and Peterson are off the board the Browns may begin aggressively shopping the pick, potentially opening to door for a team like the Patriots to move into the top 10.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Browns Comments Off

5 early bold predictions for the NFL Draft

5. A trade occurs within the first five picks
The Panthers would love to trade down. The Broncos probably feel the same way. With two quarterbacks possibly coming off the board within the first five picks, someone is going to trade up to ensure they get their guy. My money’s on the Cardinals moving up for Gabbert, possibly to No. 1.

4. The Patriots actually use both 1st-round picks
No one loves trading picks more than Bill Belichick, but this year the Patriots actually need their picks. There is enough talent at positions of need (defensive line, offensive line) that the Patriots will stay put and fill some holes. In the 2nd round is where we’ll see the Pats start making moves. 

The best player in the draft isn't falling as far as you may think

3. Patrick Peterson is off the board within the first six picks
Nearly every mock draft has Peterson falling to the 49ers.  Sorry to ruin your fun 49ers fans, but the best player in the draft isn’t getting past six different teams. If he falls to No. 6 the Browns will gladly end his fall, even if he doesn’t fill a glaring hole.

2. A.J. Green falls to the Washington Redskins
There are multiple scenarios in which this could happen, and I truly believe one of them will come true. In my most recent mock draft I have the Bengals selecting Julio Jones, which allows Green to fall to No. 10.

1. At least three quarterbacks will go in the 1st round
Newton and Gabbert are 1st-round locks. After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to who many come off the board next. However, I am confident that someone will reach for another quarterback in the 1st round. Maybe the Dolphins reach for Mallett or Locker. Maybe the Seahawks do the same. Maybe someone falls in love with Dalton or Ponder. Whatever happens, one of those guys is going in the 1st round, and possibly more.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Browns, Dolphins, Patriots, Redskins, Seahawks Comments Off

Will Rackley drawing interest from nine teams

Rackley is one of the top small-school prospects

According to Josh Buchanan of JBScouting.com Lehigh offensive lineman Will Rackley is lining up a number of visits and private workouts.

He’ll be one of the busiest prospects over the next month, as he meets with the Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Chiefs, Dolphins, Lions, Jaguars, Patriots and Jets.

Rackley played left tackle in college but is probably best suited for guard at the next level. That said, his potential versatility certainly gives his stock an extra boost.

Based on the amount of interest in Rackley he is starting to look like a pretty safe bet to go in the first three rounds. A team like the Cleveland Browns, who could use help at both right guard and right tackle would be a good fit. The St. Louis Rams, who desperately need to upgrade their interior line would also make sense.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Browns, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Patriots, Rams Comments Off