Unfortunately, we did not do these picks last year, so you'll just have to trust me that I unerringly foresaw that the Browns would trade around frantically and wind up with Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard.
In this, I was among a large crowd of bloviating draft "experts" who knew well in advance that the Browns eyed the DT from Baylor.
Yep. Saw it all coming, we did. That's why these pre-draft predictions are so valuable.
Here is this year's set of sure-to-accurate prognostications:
Pick #4: The Browns will happily trade down with the Rams to pick number #6, taking advantage of the Rams overflowing cornucopia of picks left over from their off-season dealings with an insane person. The Browns know they will get either Blackmon, Claiborne, or Richardson, and are gambling that the Rams want the former.
Pick #6: The Rams grab Blackmon, the Bucs take Mo Claiborne, and the Browns get Trent Richardson along with a second-round pick from the Rams. Everyone is happy other than the Browns future AFC North opponents and TV executives who, in general, like passing and personalities more than running and stout defense.
Pick #22: The Browns select RT Cordy Glenn, shoring up their offensive line with a high-upside offensive lineman. Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin are both available at this point, but Heckert surprises the "experts" by selecting a player who started 50 games and who some feel might make a better guard.
Unlike many, I do not believe that the Browns trade back into the first round to pick Brandon Weedon or select him with the #22 pick. Mike Holmgren has never selected a QB in the first round, and I don't see him starting with a 28-year-old rookie from a conference with stunningly lacking defensive secondaries.
I'm not going to change my mind as to what I wrote in March.
At that time I thought the Browns would go after RB Trent Richardson with their first pick and the best rated receiver with their second pick.
I'm going to say that Kendall Wright will be their choice with the 22nd pick in the draft.
With that being said, this will be my 22nd draft covering the Browns and rarely has it gone the way I thought it would. Only when the Browns had the first pick in the draft was it evident who they would select. Beyond that, there are usually many twists and turns and this year it could very well be the same way.
Even to someone who enjoys digging deep into the the game of football like myself, I have had an epiphany in recent seasons. For every solid left tackle, center, defensive tackle and defensive back the Browns select in the NFL Draft — in other words an "un-sexy pick" — you simply don't win championships with only above-average offensive and defensive lines. Nope. You need unabashed athleticism and play-making ability at the offensive skill positions.
The one time the Browns showcased numerous talent at the skill position since 1999 was 2007 with players like Braylon Edwards at wide receiver, Jamal Lewis and running back and Kellen Winslow at tight end. The result: 10 wins.
In recent seasons the Browns have collected left tackles, centers, defensive linemen and defensive backs with high picks in the draft. The result: 14 wins in three seasons.
The Browns' current brass have done a good job on collecting key role players, but it is time to reclaim those play makers.
Pick # 4: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. Don't over think this. The Browns need someone who can touch the ball 20-30 times a game and when he has the ball in his hands, he can do it all. Most importantly, he possesses speed and game-breaking ability.
Pick #22: Reuben Randle, WR, LSU. Again, this pick stays on the "get play makers" course. Browns general manager Tom Heckert has admitted the Browns desperately need those kinds of players. He grabbed one earlier this round, who can make plays out of the backfield. Now it's Randle's turn who can do it in the passing game. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Randle has the size and speed to be an excellent target for whoever is playing quarterback in 2012.
Suddenly, the Browns enter 2012 with some excitement on offense, but more importantly someone who can get in the end zone, which has been uncharted territory in recent years.
With a third consecutive solid draft, GM Tom Heckert could solidify himself as the MVP of the current front regime. So far during his two years running the Browns' draft, Heckert has turned six early draft picks into five solid starters - a remarkable feat considering the team's recent expansion malaise. In doing so, we've learned that Heckert is not afraid to trade down for more value or trade up to land a specific player. Also, Heckert appears to have the football acumen and confidence to lock in on a player - regardless of the hype surrounding the draft.
Pick #4: If any of the above holds validity, look for Heckert to listen to trade offers from the Bucs and Rams. If nothing tangible presents itself, Alabama's Trent Richardson will become the Browns' first true offensive threat of the expansion era and serve as yet another no-brainer pick for Heckert. Logically, Richardson represents an instant upgrade for an offense that will continue to struggle - regardless of anything that will occur throughout the draft weekend.
Pick #22: Heckert's history suggests that the Browns probably will not hold onto this pick for long. Heckert has made similar trades the last two years and is armed with even more ammunition this year. Traditionally, Heckert's Eagles past suggests a lineman will be taken at this spot. It's possible that Heckert trades up to grab Cordy Glenn - who is a prototype Heckert offensive lineman.
Pick #4: I believe that all this talk about Minnesota trading out is just that -- talk -- and nothing happens. The Vikings stay put, draft Matt Kaili and the Browns take Trent Richardson.
Pick #22: The club can go a few different directions. Even though a few good wide receivers will still be on the board, I think Tom Heckert Jr. goes offensive line with Riley Reiff, if he's there, or Jonathan Martin to finally give Joe Thomas a bookend.
As the first round progresses, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he traded back into the late stages of round one with someone like New England. Bill Belichick loves to stockpile draft picks and he could be looking at the Browns' second-round pick at No. 37 and maybe a fourth-rounder. If that's the case, Heckert might go for someone like Kendall Wright, Reuben Randle or Stephen Hill.
What does an organization do when they need offensive difference-makers in the worst way? They certainly don't select a CB, but stranger things have transpired in Cleveland football history.
Indications are the Browns front office is focused on giving an offense on life support a shot of adrenaline, which leads us to RB Trent Richardson and WR Justin Blackmon.
I believe Richardson may be the best move for this current Browns team. His skill-set will help the offense move the chains and keep the clock moving……and Richardson projects to be that good a player. In the end, I believe Richardson offers more than Blackmon.
But, as is the norm in Cleveland, nothing goes as planned. So, the trade talk speculation which has been streaming solidly for the past two months could come to fruition.
If the Browns select at their pre-draft positions, here's my thoughts:
Pick #4: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
The Browns need to find ways to keep the offense on the field and Richardson is the one player that fills the immediate need. The QB should have improved options and production in the passing game and the offense staying on the field will only help a sufficient Cleveland defense.
Bottom-line, give Richardson the rock 300 times and watch the time of possession lean toward the Browns.
Though Richardson is the logical selection here, I could see GM Tom Heckert pull CB Morris Claiborne out of his hat.
Due to the quality and depth at WR, while depth is lesser at other key positions, I can see WR Michael Floyd sitting there at #22 for the Browns. In a Browns offense and WR position specifically lacking overall speed, quickness and reliability, WR Michael Floyd could be the second playmaker selected by the Browns in the first round. While Floyd may not have the overall top-end speed of Stephen Hill or the shifty dynamic of Kendall Wright, but he does have the size, speed, quickness and fit as a WCO WR, which the Browns desperately need.
As a side-note, this selection could easily be OT Riley Reiff if he is on the board or the speedy Hill.