The Cleveland Browns gave up three picks to move up one spot in the NFL draft and select Alabama running back Trent Richardson, a trade that has some analysts questioning the Browns’ decision because the Vikings (who already have running back Adrian Peterson) wouldn’t have drafted Richardson anyway. But Browns President Mike Holmgren said that if he hadn’t pulled the trigger on moving up to get Richardson, someone else would have leapfrogged the Browns and taken the player they wanted most.
Although the Browns obviously would prefer not to be in a position where they had a Top 5 pick and desperately needed an offensive playmaker, Holmgren said that once they were in that position, they had to do whatever it took to get the playmaker they wanted.
“You don’t want to be up there, really,” Holmgren said. “But we were up there so it was very, very important who we chose there. That’s why we targeted Trent. We didn’t want to lose him.”
It’s entirely possible that the Vikings were bluffing when they convinced the Browns to trade up, and that if the Browns hadn’t agreed to the trade the Vikings would have stayed at No. 3 and drafted Matt Kalil, whom they ended up drafting at No. 4 after the trade. So maybe the Browns wasted the fourth, fifth and seventh-round picks they gave the Vikings to move up one spot.
But Holmgren — who felt burned when he was out-maneuvered by the Redskins in his effort to trade up for Robert Griffin III — says he told General Manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur that Richardson was too good to miss out on, and they needed to do whatever it took to get the pick to take him.
“My conversations with Pat and Tom were, ‘If you even think somebody is going to jump us, then what are we going to do to prevent that from happening?’ We had that conversation many, many times – how far were we willing to go to do this? Tom did a masterful job of setting that thing up,” Holmgren said. “I thought it was an excellent trade because we got the player who, Lord willing, stay healthy and all those things, is going to be a really fine player for us for a long time.”
Ultimately, whether this trade was the right move or not will depend on whether the Browns are right about how good Richardson is. If Richardson is an All-Pro running back, then it was worth the price to eliminate any doubt that they’d get him. If Richardson turns out to be no better a player than the next few guys off the board (Kalil, Justin Blackmon, Morris Claiborne), then the Browns were foolish to trade up for him.
In other words, we really don’t know yet. But Holmgren is glad he didn’t take any chances.