Sitting at No. 4 overall, the Browns have a bevy of options as they continue their desperate quest to assemble a team that makes me not want to throw a remote through the television on Sundays.
With an offense about as inept as Vince Young on a Wonderlic test, many fans believe selecting an offensive stud is the only route in which the Browns can even dare consider. Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill are the three most likely players the Browns may contemplate with their first draft pick. However, I am not sold on any of the offensive options, particularly at the draft position in which the Browns would be selecting them.
Drafting Blackmon goes against every draft Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert have ever made. The highest wide receiver Holmgren has drafted was Koren Robinson at ninth overall in 2001. Let’s just say that didn’t exactly pan out. The only way to even consider drafting a wide receiver as high as the Browns are currently drafting is if the receiver is a physical freak in the mold of Calvin Johnson. At 6-1, it’s hard to say Blackmon classifies as such. Blackmon – or any receiver at No. 4 for that matter – is a risk too steep for a team in Cleveland’s situation.
Richardson, who is built like an ideal back, is a talent certainly worthy of considering at No. 4. However, in this day and age, I could never support drafting a running back so high. To me, running backs are a dime a dozen that are likely a product of the offensive line blocking for them.
Currently, not a single running back worth noting in the NFL was drafted in the top five. Even Adrian Peterson was drafted seventh, and, despite being perhaps the best back in the league, his team is selecting third in this year’s draft after not making the playoffs two seasons in a row. At the running back position, your entire career is dependent on maintaining speed and agility, and no position in the NFL jeopardizes a player’s speed and agility more so than running back. Unless they trade down, the Browns cannot validate drafting Richardson.
Next on the list of offensive candidates is Tannehill. I don’t really know what to say. With just 20 collegiate starts at quarterback, Tannehill is an enormous gamble that the Browns cannot afford to make. I am not going to analyze this further because I don’t even want to think about the possibility of a Tannehill-led Browns squad.
You may have just realized that I have shot down all of the offensive candidates that the Browns may select. Do I hate watching the Browns’ dismal offense? Of course I do. But I also hate perennial losing, and the three offensive options available won’t change that.
Accordingly, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is the player the Browns need to draft next month. Claiborne is a blue-chip talent with major playmaking ability, both on defense and in the return game. Lining Claiborne up opposite Joe Haden would provide the Browns with a feared up-and-coming cornerback duo that rivals any other in the entire league.
Quite simply, for the first time since the team’s return, the Browns would have an element of the team that is legitimately elite. The Browns cannot turn down that chance. Realistically, none of the aforementioned offensive options will make the Browns’ offense turn the corner quite like Claiborne would turn an above average defense into a great one. I know the Browns need an offense, but selecting one of the viable offensive candidates in this year’s draft would be wrongfully forcing a pick out of need rather than getting the player that is best for the team’s future. Cornerbacks are much easier to project than wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks, and I’ll take a surefire stud in the secondary for the next 10-15 years any day of the week.
Many fans and analysts argued that the Browns should have traded up to select Robert Griffin III simply to compete with the talent at quarterback in the AFC North. So, now that Griffin is no longer an option, why not draft Claiborne to make AFC North quarterbacks’ lives more difficult? Claiborne is a beast of a talent at an extremely critical position that the Browns would be foolish to pass up.