Flying back to the nest from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and thinking about the draft two months from, I am confident not even the Browns can blow this one. They can change the course of our favorite football team with the pick they make in the first round.
The Browns are bound to get a difference maker unless they trade down so far in the first round they trade themselves out of a sure-fire starter - or at least as sure as one can be when predicting how a 22-year-old man will perform when he becomes an instant millionaire.
We will touch on this many times before the draft April 28, but by picking third the Browns know for sure at least one of three players - left tackle Joe Thomas, running back Adrian Peterson or quarterback Brady Quinn will be available when Phil Savage is on the clock.
Yes, one player will not turn the Browns from 4-12 to 12-4, but the reason the Browns should not retreat so far into the first round - and that would mean seven or lower - is that all three will be gone. They'd probably all be gone in the top five.
Scouts compare Peterson to Eric Dickerson, a Hall of Fame running back. They compare Thomas to Jonathan Ogden and Charlie Weis, Quinn's coach at Notre Dame, says in three years Quinn will be the third best quarterback in the NFL behind Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. By then, Manning will be in his 12th season and Brady in his 10th. Soon the throne would belong to Quinn.
Thomas was the most impressive player of those that worked out at the Combine. Many star players play it cool and decline to work out in Indianapolis. They run, lift and jump at their school's Pro Day. They take the attitude 'If you want to see me, you'll have to do it on my terms.' Club officials don't like it, but in the end a player's draft status is not damaged by not working out in Indy. In the case of a good player like Thomas, running a 4.92 40-yard dash - something he will never do in a game - just confirms what the scouts already knew.
The big question about Peterson, of course, is his durability. And let's face it. Cleveland is not exactly a spa for lame football players. He separated his shoulder as a freshman, sprained his ankle as a sophomore and broke his collarbone as a junior.
Of all the injuries the shoulder should cause the most concern because a running back with a tender shoulder is hesitant to crash through the line. And though his shoulder might not be tender now, if there is any lingering problem it will show up down the line.
Still, does the team that passed on LaDainian Tomlinson make the same mistake twice? Savage wasn't the one who whiffed on L.T., but there is guilt by association. And it might happen again with Savage fully aware of the risk.
Last but certainly not least, there is Quinn. If the Raiders come to their senses, they should draft Quinn instead of JaMarcus Russell with the first pick. Thomas is expected to go to Detroit second. But for the sake of argument, let's say Russell and Thomas are the first two players drafted. Then it comes down to Quinn or Peterson for the Browns.
Quinn did not throw at the combine. He has two Pro Day workouts planned - one Sunday and one March 22. He came across very sure of himself in his interview with a room crowded with reporters.
Interestingly, Savage hung around to hear what Quinn had to say. Players are interviewed individually by teams, and Quinn was on the Browns' list of 60 to be interviewed. Players are coached by agents what to say in those interviews, but Quinn was on his own in front of the media. Of course, being from Notre Dame he has had practice in that environment.
If Quinn is as good as advertised, the Browns should go with the quarterback. Running backs do not last as long as quarterbacks (or left tackles) in the NFL and Reuben Droughns is better at his position than Charlie Frye is at his.
"Fix the line! Fix the line!" fans say, and with obvious reason. But the Browns should fix quarterback first.