The fourth pick of the 2012 BTSC Community Mock Draft is in! Thanks go to _ET_ for the fine write up of our division "rival". Next up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they'll be represented by FLsteelhead. -barnerburner-
My drafting philosophy is a combination of best player available and based on need. I subscribe to the idea of ranking players in a tier system and then letting team needs be a deciding factor. In doing this, teams should try to avoid taking players that are on a lower tier than those available, even if it means ignoring a need. Fortunately, that did not come into play for this pick. To me, there are six players in this draft that belong on the highest tier Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon, Trent Richardson and Morris Claiborne.
The Cleveland Browns are the first team in this draft where their choice is not obvious, and thus it will have repercussions felt by the next half dozen or so teams. This pick comes down to four players in my opinion: J. Blackmon, M. Claiborne, T. Richardson and R. Tannehill. Three of these players fit immediate needs for the Browns (QB, WR, RB), while three players rate as elite talents within this draft (all but Tannehill).
In reality, Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren would love to trade down and pick up a few more picks to fill in the numerous holes they have. I think that explains their newfound interest in Tannehill, who does not have the accuracy to fit with the West Coast offensive system Shurmur/Holmgren like. It is more likely they are trying to convince a team like Miami to trade up for the QB. Combine that with the recent commitment to Colt McCoy, and I don't think Tannehill will be the pick if the Browns stay at #4.
I passed on Claiborne because of the recent top-10 pick of Joe Haden (7th overall in the 2010 draft). CB is not a top need and Claiborne would represent a luxury pick, something the Browns cannot afford to do at this point in their rebuilding. Claiborne may be the most talented player available, but given larger needs elsewhere that can be filled by players on the same tier as Claiborne, he will not be the pick.
That leaves the two offensive playmakers in RB Richardson and WR Blackmon. I went back and forth between the two. Ultimately, I believe the Browns running backs, even with the departure of Hillis, are a more talented unit then their wide receiver corps. Furthermore, it is easier to find RB talent later in the draft than WR talent.
Justin Blackmon is the only WR in this draft with elite talent. While he may be a notch below last year's elite WRs, A.J. Green and Julio Jones, he is head and shoulders above his peers in this draft. He scored 40 TDs in his last two years in college, catching 232 balls for over 14 yards per catch. Blackmon put an exclamation point on his outstanding college career, taking over in Oklahoma State's Fiesta Bowl victory, catching 8 passes for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns, two of which went for over 40 yards.
Drafting Blackmon will have a cascading effect on the current group of receivers the Browns have. Greg Little showed talent and promise in his first year, but was plagued with drops. He lacked explosion, averaging 11.6 yards per catch (for sake of comparison, Heath Miller was 5th among Steelers offensive players with 12.4 yards per catch). Drafting Blackmon will allow Little to eventually slot into the #2 WR role, a spot where he will be more likely to thrive. This will also allow Joshua Cribs to focus more on the return game, where he has the talent to be elite (as we Steeler fans most painfully are aware of). Blackmon will give the unit the explosion they lacked last year. Little, Cribbs and Massaquoi combined for only 8 TDs, just two of which were over 35 yards.
If the Browns are serious in their commitment to finding out if Colt McCoy is their QB of the future, then they can show it by surrounding him with talented playmakers. The first step in doing so is drafting WR Justin Blackmon. Looking at the big board over at Dawgs By Nature, most of them agree.