Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Tick, tick, tick: One week before the draft, I believe the Browns have their choice at No. 4 narrowed down to two players – Alabama running back Trent Richardson and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
I don’t see USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil (if passed over by Minnesota at No. 3) or Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon as finalists for the Browns’ pick at No. 4. They would come into play if they moved down a few notches.
Kalil is a natural left tackle from a school that has produced Hall of Famers at the position. The Browns already have a potential Hall of Fame left tackle in Joe Thomas, who is just entering his prime after five Pro Bowl seasons. The Browns simply don’t have the luxury of selecting the highest-rated offensive lineman and moving him to right tackle. If Thomas was on his last legs, maybe.
Blackmon largely is considered the draft’s highest-rated receiver – the position of most urgent need on the Browns. But he is not the strapping, streaking, dominating wideout of past top-five picks, such as Houston’s Andre Johnson, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Cincinnati’s A.J.Green.
Kalil and Blackmon would be candidates if the Browns moved down some, I believe. But I sense that a trade from No. 4 is less likely now.
“I do think we probably would be able to trade out. But right now we hope to stay there,” Browns GM Tom Heckert said at his pre-draft press conference Thursday.
Heckert disputed an item by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in his popular “Monday Morning Quarterback” online column that the Browns were conflicted on what to do.
“I know who that No. 4 is going to be, if we stay there,” Heckert said. “We’re all on the same page. We know we’re getting a really good player, no matter what happens at 3. We know we’re getting one of two guys.”
But there is another question factoring into how they work the April 26-28 draft: What to do at quarterback?
Do they use either of their first three picks -- No. 4, No. 22 and No. 37 – on Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M or Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State?
“That’s a big question right now,” Heckert said.
Sizing them up: The answer to that question will fall on Browns President Mike Holmgren.
King’s item on SI.com said that Holmgren is still weighing whether Tannehill is the franchise quarterback the Browns need to jumpstart them to the next level. Although the Browns have consistently backed embattled incumbent Colt McCoy in the offseason, Holmgren has explored other options.
Tannehill is one option. Although he has been schooled in a similar West Coast offense under former Holmgren assistant Mike Sherman, Tannehill might not be ready to step right in. And Heckert asserted that is what you would expect from a quarterback taken at No. 4.
“If you draft a kid early in the first round, in my opinion, you’re probably going to want to start him,” Heckert said. “(But) you’re not going to just throw him out there. He’s got to prove he can play.”
The question about Tannehill is can he prove he’s ready to play in one NFL training camp. Or is he, and the club, better served sitting for a year? If the answer is the latter, the Browns can’t afford to take him high.
Weeden, who flirted with pro baseball for five years, will be 29 years old when the season starts. For that reason alone, he could be had later – perhaps as late as the 37th pick. But the question with him is the same: Could he play right away?
“Do you want a 29-year-old rookie backup quarterback?” Heckert asked. “I have my opinion on that, but I’m not telling you.”
The Big Show’s big call: Technically, Heckert has final say on the draft in the language of his contract and the description of his job as general manager. But Holmgren is Heckert’s boss and also came with the reputation as a quarterback guru. Holmgren wouldn’t be doing his job without diving deeply into this conversation.
“Mike watches the workouts,” Heckert said. “Mike lets me do my job. So, there’s no … Now, he watches the quarterbacks, and we spend a lot of time talking about them and watching them together. Obviously, he has a major input in a lot of things we’re doing. But he lets me do my job.”
Holmgren wouldn’t be out of line making the call on the quarterback in this draft. Do they take Tannehill or Weeden? And do they take him as the immediate starter? It’s on Holmgren.
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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