The 2012 NFL Draft is of utmost importance to the rebuilding of the struggling Cleveland Browns franchise. With 13 draft picks, the Browns have the ability to change those misfortunes overnight.
Considering that picks after the first round tend to be generally more unreliable, the Browns are in good position to add three key pieces to the puzzle as they hold three of the top 37 picks.
There are multiple scenarios that include the Browns acquiring even more picks in the top 50 if they trade down and out of the No. 4 overall selection. While that is not the focus of this article, I am strongly in favor of a scenario that would garner more first, second and third-round picks in the process.
If a trade down does occur, the probably pick for the Browns should be Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. Floyd, to some evaluators, is the top wide receiver prospect in the draft. However, in my opinion and in many others', that honor goes to Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Best Option at No. 4: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Rationale: The Browns desperately need a big play receiver and Blackmon is the best this draft has to offer. Much like A.J. Green a year ago, Blackmon's wing-span and athletic ability will give him an unfair advantage over the majority of defensive backs in the NFL.
His large, strong frame is a prototype for an NFL receiver. Too often college receivers fail at the NFL level because of an inability to beat press coverage off the line. Blackmon's ability to do just that is a vital attribute in the Browns' quick strike West Coast Offense.
According to Sports Illustrated's NFL Senior Writer Peter King, "GM Tom Heckert loves Blackmon and that would be his pick." He also said the Browns were deciding between Tannehill and Blackmon with the No. 4 pick.
Others believe running back Trent Richardson would be the best move here for the Browns. To address that notion I have a few reasons for my preference of Blackmon over Richardson:
1. Excellent second day running back options.
2. The lack of employment of a feature back by recent championship NFL teams.
3. The Browns offense design. It is a quick strike offense that imbalances defenses and sets up the run by an effective short-to-intermediate passing game.
4. Wide receiver is a glaring flaw in the Browns offense.
5. Running backs are traditionally easier to obtain in later rounds.
Secondary options:Trent Richardson, Ryan Tannehill, Morris Claiborne
Rationale: The quarterback debate is a moot point if there is not an anchor on the right side of the offensive line. A disaster last season comprised of plug-and-play linemen at right tackle led to a tough year for second-year quarterback Colt McCoy.
Enter Cordy Glenn.
Glenn is the third highest rated offensive linemen in this draft and will instantly upgrade the right side of the offensive line. His large size and athleticism projects him to be capable of transitioning to right tackle in the NFL.
At the No. 22 spot, this is too good to be true for the Cleveland Browns. After adding the premier wide receiver in the draft, snagging Glenn here to bolster the line is the ideal move.
Glenn's wing-span, size and strength will greatly help the Browns against the grueling defenses they face six games a year against their brutal AFC North divisional foes.
Rationale: The decision to take Martin here will likely be the preference of Heckert on draft day. Martin exhibits similar size and strength shown by top tier running back Trent Richardson. Luckily for Cleveland, he will likely be available at this point in the draft and will not cost the team their valuable top 5 pick.
Martin's initial quickness, cutback vision and burst through the line are very comparable attributes of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
That isn't where the comparisons end.
Another name you might recognize is Maurice Jones-Drew. Like Jones-Drew, Martin never stops churning his legs and fighting for extra yards. He frequently blows through arm tackles and extends plays after initial contact. He doesn't seem to have game-breaking speed but certainly has the quickness and vision to find space and rack up yardage.
At a closer look, Martin has solid hands in the short passing game and exhibits excellent field vision after the catch. Not only that but he is a willing and able blocker and could perform adequately in third down situations.
Secondary options: Bobbie Massie, Alshon Jeffrey, Zach Brown
Not only are all three of these picks on the offensive side of the ball, but they can be solid starters who will be able to contribute from day one.
Although there is a strong rationale for any scenario, I believe this to be the most beneficial in the long term for the Cleveland Browns. The running back position doesn't suffer as big of a drop off after Trent Richardson as many seem to think.
With the selections of Blackmon, Martin and Glenn, the Browns offense can begin to take steps towards climbing out of the AFC North basement in 2012.
As for the defense, Heckert has a third, two fourth and two fifth-round picks at his disposal. He'll likely address depth at cornerback, outside linebacker and defensive end somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.
Honestly, though, whatever does happen on the evening of April 26, the Browns will take yet another positive step forward.
Tom Heckert's done a solid job thus far. You should take solace in that as you ready the tailgate for next Thursday night.
I know I sure do.