Pre-Draft Needs: WR, ORT, RB, QB, G, DT, DE, CB, OLB
Round 1-Trent Richardson/RB
Round 1-Brandon Weeden/QB
Round 2-Mitchell Schwartz/OT
Round 3-John Hughes/DT
Round 4-Travis Benjamin/WR
Round 4-James-Michael Johnson/LB
Round 5-Ryan Miller/G
Round 6-Emmanuel Acho/LB
Round 6-Billy Winn/DE
Round 7-Trevin Wade/CB
Round 7-Brad Smelley/FB-TE
WR, G, DT, DE, CB
General manager Tom Heckert is taking a slow yet methodical approach to building his roster. That approach, used well by the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, only works if you draft well.
Heckert, armed with 11 picks in this year’s draft, addressed several needs, starting in the first round with RB Trent Richardson. After struggling through various running backs in recent seasons, Heckert clearly decided to end the issue by selecting Richardson, the consensus No. 1 back available. With Richardson in the fold, the Browns can control the ball on offense on the ground and can take pressure off the passing game. And if they can get a lead in the fourth quarter, Richardson’s impact could really be felt.
Fellow first-round pick QB Brandon Weeden, like Richardson, will be expected to start right away. Weeden has a much stronger arm that third-year QB Colt McCoy, which is one of the biggest reasons why Heckert selected the 28-year old signal caller. Even at his advanced age, the Browns believe Weeden, because of his maturity, can be their franchise quarterback for many years to come. However, he’ll be asked to learn a completely different offensive scheme than he played in during his years at Oklahoma St. And protecting Weeden will be very important going forward.
The Browns had to address the right tackle position in this draft, so they did that with second-round pick Mitchell Schwartz, who, like Richardson and Weeden, is expected to start this season. Schwartz, according to a personnel source, was one of the top right tackles available for this draft. But it should be noted he made a significant amount of snaps at left tackle in college.
Third-round pick DT John Hughes is coming off a really strong senior season (51 combined tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks), which could explain why he was drafted a bit higher than some personnel evaluators thought he would go off the board. Getting to play next to DT Derek Wolfe probably helped Hughes get singled up. And Wolfe had an even more impressive senior season than his former college teammate.
The Browns clearly needed to emerge with a vertical threat at wide receiver out of this draft, and they got one in fourth-round pick Travis Benjamin. The wiry big play threat is built like Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson—a player Heckert was involved in drafting back in 2008. But Benjamin is clearly not as skilled as Jackson. Heckert clearly believes with Weeden behind center, they can get Benjamin the ball down field. Fellow fourth-round pick James-Michael Johnson was one of highest rated inside linebackers available for this draft. However, with D’Qwell Jackson firmly entrenched inside, Johnson could wind up competing for the WLB job in training camp. At the very least, he could wind up backing up at ILB and WLB this season.
Offensive linemen measuring over 6-7 tend to only play tackle, but fifth-round pick Ryan Miller could wind up playing guard in the NFL. But it should be noted that Miller had extensive experience at Right tackle and guard in college. And the Browns could use competition at both backup positions.
Sixth-round picks LB Emmanuel Acho and DT Billy Winn should be able to push for roster spots in training camp due to lack of depth at their respective positions. However, Acho, who has solid athleticism, needs to prove that he can play with more discipline, according to a personnel source. He often overruns plays. While Winn didn’t put up big statistics in college, he’s known in scouting circles for his high energy and solid first step quickness for an interior defensive lineman.
Seventh-round picks CB Trevin Wade and FB/TE Brad Smelley are long-shots to make the regular season roster. However, Smelley, who is coming off of an impressive set of practices during Senior Bowl week earlier this year, could give the Browns a more athletic option at FB. Wade is thought of in scouting circles as a true developmental project at CB.
Heckert knew he had a lot of needs to fill coming into this draft. But he also knew that not all of them could be filled. Overall, he did a nice job of addressing most of the key ones—but the need at receiver still is a major issue going forward. The good thing is it looks like the Browns should get at least three starters out of this draft in 2012 and as many as six over the long haul.