Our twice-per-day look at the draft needs for the 32 teams continues with a team that has been to the playoffs only one time since returning to the NFL in 1999. The fact that their division sent three teams to the playoffs in 2011 will make it even harder to break a streak of nine years without a postseason appearance, and counting.
Quarterback: Before free agency, when looking at the needs of every team on PFT Live, I said (I think) that the Browns need to make a decision at quarterback. Either Colt McCoy is the guy, or he isn’t. Make a decision, and implement it.
The Browns decided to try to get Robert Griffin III. And they failed.
So now, with McCoy fully undermined, the Browns need to decide whether to try to get someone else or stick with the guy who is, at most, their second choice. The best move, if they believe in Ryan Tannehill, would be to get him — and to get rid of McCoy. The wrong move would be to use a second-round or third-round pick on a rookie quarterback, keep McCoy as the starter, and continue to do the dog paddle by the Dawg Pound until the new quarterback is ready to help the team strive for consistent mediocrity.
Our point? Get a franchise quarterback, or stick with the journeyman you have. Drafting another quarterback of Christmas-without-the-playoffs-future won’t break the cycle of one journeyman after another.
Tackle: With Joe Thomas in 2007, the Browns nailed down the most important position on the offensive line for a decade, or longer. But the other side of the line continues to be a problem. That’s why it’s no surprise that the Browns have taken a look at Matt Kalil. With Thomas and Kalil as the bookends, the skill-position players could suddenly look a lot better.
It’s more likely that the Browns will look later in the draft for help on the right side, especially since it’s looking likely that the Vikings will take Kalil at No. 3.
Running back: Peyton Hillis is gone, and 2010 second-rounder Montarrio Hardesty has been a major disappointment, missing all of his rookie season and rushing for only 266 yards in 2011, with an average of 3.0 yards per carry. That doesn’t mean the Browns should pounce on Trent Richardson, given that competent running backs can be found in later rounds, or even after the draft ends.
But keep this in mind — new offensive coordinator Brad Childress saw the value of a top-10 workhorse running back in Minnesota, with Adrian Peterson opening up an otherwise subpar offense. Childress may be lobbying heavily for another high-end tailback like Richardson, who then could make it easier for McCoy (or whichever journeyman quarterback is taking the snaps) to find open receivers.
Receiver: A pair of second-round picks were devoted to the receiver position three years ago. One guy, Brian Robiskie, is long gone. The other, Mohamed Massaquoi, has seen reduced production in each of his three NFL seasons. Justin Blackmon could be tempting with the fourth overall pick, if the Browns aren’t still haunted by the memories of their third overall pick in 2005. A mid-round field-stretcher could be a nice complement to promising 2011 draft pick Greg Little, or maybe a high-level guy who is available when the Browns use the Julio Jones first-rounder at No. 22.
Cornerback: Speaking of No. 22, the Browns could take a chance on Janoris Jenkins with that second first-round pick. Corey Chavous of DraftNasty.com recently pointed out that Jenkins’ best performances came when he was paired with Joe Haden at Florida. Pairing him with Haden now could help the Browns defend suddenly pumped-up passing games in Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.
The Browns laid the foundation for a successful 2012 draft when trading out of the No. 6 spot in 2011. They have a chance to get the kind of impact players that can help close the gap between the bottom of the AFC North and the three franchises who continue to keep them there. The biggest question is whether the Browns will try to get a franchise quarterback now, or later.