July 10, 2012 – Vincent Frank
The Cleveland Browns are, once again, a franchise in turmoil and in the process of rebuilding. How many times have we said this over the course of the last two decades. At some point rebuilding will have to take a back seat to actual contention. Right now that isn’t in the cards for Cleveland.
They were among the absolute worst offenses in the National Football League last season. Colt McCoy sure had his limitations in the passing game, but he wasn’t helped one iota by poor performances at the skill positions. No quarterback, regardless of his talent level, would have been able to succeed in that situation last season.
Despite the fact that McCoy wasn’t really given an opportunity to perform with a solid supporting cast, the Browns made a curious decision to select former Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden in April to replace McCoy. Regardless of your feelings about how the first-round pick is going to perform in the NFL, Cleveland has put him in a less than enviable position.
They didn’t go out there and select a wide receiver in each of the first three rounds, only to reach for Miami (F) product Travis Benjamin in the fourth. The talented young receiver was a definite reach at that point and probably wont provide a great deal of help to Cleveland’s receiving core.
As it stands right now, the only truly consistent performer in the Browns passing game has to be considered 2011 draft pick Greg Little, who played extremely well as a rookie last year. Outside of that, they really don’t have much.
Trent Richardson was a selection that Cleveland just had to make. The former Alabama standout has everything that you look for in an All-Pro running back in the NFL. He has great speed, a dynamic cutback ability and brute strength between the hashes. Even without consistent passing game to help Richardson out, I could easily see him surpassing 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns as a rookie in 2012.
While CAL product Mitchell Schwartz might have been a reach in the second round, the offensive tackle should be able to make noise and start out of the gate. He possesses above-average technique for such a young pass-blocker and should be able to be a 10 year starter on the outside for Cleveland opposite Joe Thomas.
Where Cleveland might have struggled finding value early in the draft, they did a tremendous job later. Emmanuel Acho and Billy Winn, both sixth round picks, will immediately improve a Browns’ front seven that was among the best in the league last season. Both were considered third round prospects before dropping leading up to the draft. Really solid selections there.
As has been the case with the Browns in recent seasons, free agents avoid them like the black plague. This didn’t change in 2012. The extent of Cleveland’s free agent additions were two rotational defensive lineman in the form of Jaqua Parker and Frostee Rucker. Just not a whole lot of hope in regards to the Browns ability to pluck top-level talent on the open market.
Overall, the Browns are destined to finish in the cellar of the AFC North once again. Their level of talent, in no way, compares to the rest of the conference, all of whom made the postseason in 2011.
That being said, the pieces are in place on the defensive side of the ball for Cleveland to be competitive. In reality, they have a solid core of youngsters on that side of the ball. I just have a hard time imagining their offense being able to score enough points for this team to surprise anyone.
The Browns consistent rebuilding process is long enough to be biopic as long as “Roots.” Just add another season to the end and edit it in the preface. That is what this team is looking at in 2012.
2012 NFL Draft Picks
1. RB- Trent Richardson, Alabama
1. QB- Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
2. OT- Mitchell Schwartz, California
3. DT- John Hughes, Cincinnati
4. WR- Travis Benjamin, Miami (F)
4. LB- James-Michael Johnson, Nevada
5. G- Ryan Miller, Colorado
6. LB- Emmanuel Acho, Texas
6. DE- Billy Winn, Boise State
7. CB- Trevin Wade, Arizona
7. FB- Brad Smelley, Alabama
Free Agent Signings
DE- Jaqua Parker, Philadelphia Eagles
DE- Frostee Rucker, Cleveland Browns