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Posts Tagged ‘2012’

The NFL Draft has come and gone and this week is kind of like the week following Christmas. Fans take time to research all the players their teams drafted and analyze the draft a little deeper than first glance. At Christmas, you get all your presents and are all excited about all of them but can’t play with them all at once so you take the entire next week to play with each one.

Plus, the following week is when you realize you got all these cool things, but you need batteries or something else to make them work. This is akin to NFL teams signing undrafted Free Agents following the draft…the picks they got in the draft aren’t quite enough to fill out the roster so they need to add a few more players to the roster to make it complete.

This brings us to my final grade for the Cleveland Browns 2012 NFL Draft. Consider this as you read through my grading and rationale behind this. If you look at teams’ drafts from year to year if a team ends up with two or three solid starters from a draft that would be deemed a good draft. Sound low??? Go to nfl.com and look back at draft classes from 2009-2011 and see how many teams got more than two or three starters in those drafts. However, the Browns need to be held to a slightly higher standard this year as they had two first-round picks and two fourth-round picks thanks to the Julio Jones trade last season.

Overall, I’m going to give the Browns a “B-” grade on this draft strictly because I think they drafted a couple guys a little earlier than they needed to and I would have love to see them trade a pick or two in this year’s draft for a higher pick in next year’s draft to keep stockpiling draft picks.

Moving up one spot to take Trent Richardson was fine by me as we hardly gave up anything of huge value to move up and with 13 total picks we had plenty of ammunition to swing this deal. Plus, the Browns ended up getting one additional pick back by trading down in the third round. Richardson is a safe pick and will be a starter from day one. I think their only other option at #3 or #4 would have been Justin Blackmon and he seems like a risky pick to me and the Browns aren’t in a position to be rolling the dice on draft picks.

I would have been much happier with the Brandon Weeden pick at #22 had we turned around and taken WR Stephen Hill or Ruben Randall in the second round at pick #37. Instead we used that pick on a RT, Mitchell Schwartz. I said it before, I like Weeden and there’s no question in my mind he’s an immediate upgrade over Colt McCoy. The draft is about getting better and if he makes our team better at the most important position in the NFL then I’m ok with the pick.

With Mitchell Schwartz he seems like another safe pick who should come in and be a starter immediately. He’s big, strong and has lots of experience at the college level. If he can’t beat out Oniel Cousins at RT in training camp then the grade for this draft immediately drops. I’m ok with safe picks in the second round as the Browns have rolled the dice on some classic picks like Chaun Thompson and David Veikune in the past and how did those work out for the team?

The biggest question mark for me in the entire draft was the third round for the Browns. First, they trade down 20 spots when some quality players were still on the board. At this point they still hadn’t taken a receiver and guys like Mohamad Sanu from Rutgers and Chris Givens from Wake Forest were still on the board. Then, to top it off, they take a DT from Cincinnati, John Hughes, who isn’t well known by anyone and is going to be a rotational player at best. The only reason I’m not killing them on this pick is they have no depth at DT behind Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor so if this guy can play at all then it’s another upgrade over what is currently on the roster.

The fourth round is where it began to get interesting for the Browns and others in this draft. Before the round began I told numerous people the Browns needed to come out of the round with a receiver and a linebacker. Well, the Brownies delivered and they got a LB I really liked going into the draft, James-Michael Johnson and a WR who not many people knew much about, Travis Benjamin, from Miami, FL. Johnson can play any of the four LB positions and I think he may take over for Scott Fujita as a starter before the season is over. Plus, this is another area where the team had zero depth. In Benjamin the Browns got a fast, deep-threat kind of receiver but he’s not a tall guy so hopefully he can do the job of stretching the field to keep teams honest. Something no team did last year with McCoy at the helm and the rag-tag bunch of receivers we rolled out there from week to week.

Finally, in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds teams are usually looking for bottom of the roster guys or special-teamers. The Browns took a ginormous OL in Ryan Miller (6’7″ and 321) who played guard at Colorado but can also play tackle in the fifth round. He can compete with Schwartz at RT and hopefully be a swing tackle in case something would happen to either starter. We saw what happened last season with Artis Hicks and Oniel Cousins at RT so this guy can’t be any worse than those two. In the sixth the Browns took two guys I actually really like – Emmanuel Acho, a LB from Texas, and Billy Wynn, a DT from Boise State. A draft expert I trust more than any other, Gil Brandt, the GM of the Cowboys in the 70’s and 80’s, had Wynn ranked #63 on his top 100 players. Again, these guys can be special teams guys and add depth to two areas we desperately needed it. Acho put up big numbers in college but was considered a little undersized for the NFL. Wynn put up good numbers but was knocked because of his effort in college. Hopefully one of the two pans out and we can get some help and depth from them moving forward. Lastly, the seventh round is usually a throw-away round where no-name guys from no-name schools get drafted and rarely make an impact. In 2011 the Browns took Eric Hagg, a safety from Nebraska, who was hurt most of the season but came in and played some quality football for the Browns at the end of the season. This year they take CB Trevin Wade from Arizona and FB/H-Back Brad Smelley from Alabama. Wade was projected to go much higher in the draft but had consistency issues in college. He has the speed and skills to be successful, so hopefully a little NFL coaching can get the best out of him. Smelley was Richardson’s blocker at Alabama and may be able to compete with Owen Marecic for the FB spot or possibly even Alex Smith or Jordan Cameron for the final TE spot on the roster.

This seems to be the third solid draft for Tom Heckert and the Browns so hopefully it’ll translate to success on the field. Ultimately it’s going to come down to Brandon Weeden more than anything else, so if he’s a success then everything else the Browns did or didn’t do this off-season will be water under the bridge. I’ll leave you with one last thing. In looking at the picks the Browns had and who was on the board at the time, here’s what I would have done if I were turning in the index cards at Radio City Music Hall in NYC…

Round 1, Pick 3 – Trent Richardson – RB – Alabama
Round 1, Pick 22 – Stephen Hill – WR – Georgia Tech
Round 2, Pick 37 – Brandon Weeden – QB – Oklahoma State
Round 3, Pick 87 -Bobbie Massie – T – Mississippi
Round 4, Pick 100 – Ronnell Lewis – OLB – Oklahoma
Round 4, Pick 120 – Brandon Boykin – CB – Georgia
Round 5, Pick 160 – George Iloka – S – Boise State
Round 6, Pick 204 – Billy Wynn – DT – Boise State
Round 6, Pick 205 – Chase Minnifield – CB – Virginia
Round 7, Pick 245 – Eric Page – WR – Toledo
Round 7, Pick 247 – James Brown – G – Troy

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In about a month the Browns will have two very large decisions to make with the #4 and #22 picks in the NFL Draft. They also have a high pick in the second round at #37 overall. The Browns won a whopping four games in 2011 so needless to say they need help in all areas of the team. However the offense was terrible in all facets of the game and needs to be addressed if the Browns are ever going to put a competitive team on the field.

Based upon what the Browns have (or haven’t) done in free agency I think they will target offense with at least two of their first three picks in the draft. Their biggest need on defense was finding a defensive end to play opposite of Jabaal Sheard and they found a serviceable player in Frostee Rucker. He’s not Mario Williams, but he is a decent short-term solution. With that signing they can focus on offense in the draft.

What I think the front office needs to consider with the first two picks are these two questions. “Do we want to come away from the draft with the hands-down best RB in the draft by a landslide, Trent Richardson from Alabama and the third or fourth best WR (Kendall Wright – Baylor, Stephen Hill – Georgia Tech) OR would we be better off with the top WR in the draft, Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State and the second, third or fourth best RB in the draft (Doug Martin – Boise St., Lamar Miller – Miami, David Wilson – Virginia Tech)?”

With the Browns lack of success from their WRs taken in the second round (Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi, Andre Davis, Quincy Morgan, & Dennis Northcutt) they may decide it’s time to pull the trigger on one early.

To see what I’m predicting will happen, not what I would do personally, check out my mock draft by clicking the link below.

http://www.neilstein.com/march-25-mock-draft.html

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Here in Cleveland you can’t go 15 minutes without hearing about Robert Griffin III on the radio, TV or from the NFL fans in your office. I’d say about 75% of the people here in NE Ohio would love to see RGIII in Brown and Orange next season…but fans in Washington D.C., Miami, Seattle and even some in Buffalo, Kansas City and Denver want him in their city too. The question of the off-season so far is where will RGIII call home two months from now?

People tend to forget that something called Free Agency is going to take place starting about two weeks from now (March 13) and there are a handful of starting-caliber QB’s on the market this off-season.  Here are the QB’s who I could see a team looking at as a starter for 2012:

Peyton Manning – no explanation needed
Matt Flynn – two big games in Green Bay are going to earn Flynn two extra zeroes on his paycheck for 2012
Jason Campbell – played very well in Oakland until he got hurt
Kyle Orton – had two solid seasons in Denver on a team with a terrible defense – throws more TD than INT
Chad Henne – still young and has potential and upside still

Consider this RGIII suitors…what if two of the top four teams who are considered to be the front runners to pursue RGIII (Browns, Redskins, Dolphins and Seahawks) end up signing Manning and Flynn at the beginning of Free Agency? Immediately St. Louis loses a ton of leverage. That’s likely the reason you are hearing so much from St. Louis about their willingness to trade the pick. The value of that pick won’t be higher than it is right now when, in theory, there are four teams who are likely in the market for Mr. Griffin.

As a Browns fan, here’s the scenario I’d love to see happen as I’m one of the many who want the Browns to get RGIII. Miami decides to throw cash at Manning and they sign him once he’s cut by the Colts. Next, the Redskins decide they don’t want to mortgage their future (like they did for several years in a row) and give up the draft picks to trade up in front of the Browns so they throw big money at Matt Flynn and sign him. Now, the Browns main competition for Griffin is the Seahawks who draft 12th overall. If I’m the Rams I don’t want to face RGIII twice a year by trading the pick to the Seahawks, plus, I don’t want to drop down 12 spots in this year’s draft because I know I can get an impact player in LT Matt Kalil or WR Justin Blackmon if I pick 4th. One other thought…what if Seattle signs Orton, Campbell or Henne as their starter…now the Browns may be able to stay put at #4 and get Griffin without making the trade. It’s risky, and St. Louis may pull a fast one and draft RGIII knowing someone will want to trade for him, so that’s why I think the trade ends up happening. Either way the Browns can make the trade for a reasonable price (both first-round picks this year, a third in 2013 and one of their two fourth round picks this year) and give all of us Clevelanders another reason to think “Maybe Next Year” is finally here.

PS – Remember the Browns’ trade with the Falcons in last season’s draft? Do you know where Les Snead, new GM for the Rams, came from? That’s right…the Falcons, the same team the Browns made their first round trade with last season. Hopefully that familiarity helps in getting a deal done this year too.

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Typically this time of year all you’re hearing about for two straight weeks is talk about the Super Bowl. This year there’s a little twist which is centered not on the Super Bowl itself, but instead around the host city’s biggest celebrity and athlete…Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning. By now you’ve heard many different scenarios discussed about Manning’s future as well as the drama with him and owner Jim Irsay. Here are some scenarios to think about as this saga unfolds along with how and where I think he’ll ultimately end up for 2012.

1.  Manning Retires – Manning may decide his long-term health is more important than adding a few more dollars to his bank account.

2. Peyton Manning may think he has one or two seasons left in the tank and doesn’t want to leave Indianapolis. He’ll never see the $28 million bonus the Colts owe him in early March, but he may get “cut” and turn around and re-sign a new one or two-year deal with the team.

3. Because many of you who’ll read this are fellow Browns fans I’ll humor you with this scenario. Manning would come to Cleveland and immediately re-invigorate the franchise. He’s been successful with second, third and fourth string WR’s in the past and since we’re a team full of #3 and #4 receivers it won’t be any change. We could sign a big name in free agency (Marques Colston or DeSean Jackson) and immediately have a legit offense. Oh, did I mention we have 3 draft picks in the first 40 picks too? Sounds pretty good eh? Don’t hold your breath.

4. Here’s where I ultimately think he may end up and it’s a team you don’t hear anyone else talking about…the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars played most of 2011 with first round pick Blaine Gabbert at QB. He was the only QB statistically worse than Tim Tebow last season…what does that tell you? They have a new owner who’s likely going to move the team to L.A. at some point and would love nothing more than making a splash bigger than his mustache (hands down the best mustache in the NFL…better than Brad Childress or Andy Reid). They have a new offensive-minded head coach in Mike Mularkey which Manning should love as he knows a little something about offense himself. Also, the Jags have been struggling like no other team in the league to sell tickets. You can’t tell me bringing in Peyton Manning wouldn’t immediately help sell TENS OF THOUSANDS of tickets for the next year or two and instantly make your team relevant again.

Time will tell what happens, but you heard it here first if he end up as a Jaguar. Selfishly I’d love to see the Browns sign him, but who’s the last big-name free agent to EVER come to any Cleveland team? It’s not going to be Manning either.

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