I know, I know, I see all the dirty looks and hear some asking why would I, a die hard Atlanta Falcon fan, write about the Cleveland Browns. It is something that has actually been on my mind since the 2011 draft. The same draft the Falcons traded draft picks with the Browns in order to jump up and get Julio Jones. Honestly, prior to that draft I didn’t care a thing about the Browns, but once the trade happened and the Browns drafted 3 of the players I wanted the Falcons to draft my obsession with the Browns became clear to me. I am not here to make some big announcement that I am a closet Browns fan who is finally coming out like Anderson Cooper, (only he cheers for a totally different team), far from it, I just want to give my take on the Browns for this season.
In the 2011 NFL draft the Browns made a blockbuster trade with the Atlanta Falcons, to my dismay, and Atlanta traded away a total of 4 picks for one Julio Jones (we won’t get into the semantics of the trading of places in the first round as a draft pick). And when that trade was made I was even more surprised that the Browns drafted 3 of the players I had on my draft board going to the Falcons. I had Jabaal Sheard (defensive end), Greg Little (wide receiver), and Jordan Cameron (tight end) all going to the Atlanta Falcons. As some of you may know, in 2011 the Falcons showed they needed a replacement for John Abraham or at least a compliment on the opposite side, they also needed a complimentary receiver for Roddy White and they needed an understudy tight end for Tony Gonzalez that would be able to step in and take over at some point. What the Falcons got instead was Julio Jones, who may end up being a dominant receiver, but the story is not complete on Jones as of yet. So when the Browns made those picks my curiosity peaked and I began to follow them some last season, just to see how those players would work out and to my surprise, they worked out quite well for Cleveland. Sheard had 8.5 sacks, Little had more catches then any other Browns receiver, he also dropped allot but so did Jones and Cameron well, he was a bench player as was expected. So I was beginning to think, “Wow, the Browns have taken a huge step forward”. But then the 2012 draft happened and Cleveland well became Cleveland again deciding to take the road to mediocrity instead of toward greatness.
In the 2012 NFL draft the Browns first 2 picks were Trent Richardson (running back) and Brandon Weeden (quarterback). At first glance these seem to be pretty good picks, however when compared to other picks that were available and the opportunity for Cleveland to really make a jump in the AFC North the Browns fell way short of the mark. The Browns had an opportunity to pick Morris Claiborne, Courtney Upshaw or any number of defensive studs that would have made an impact for the Browns. Instead they chose to take the easy route and pick 2 offensive players that by all accounts now will actually be ineffective in the NFL. I will not argue Richardson could be a good running back, however, (this comes from an Alabama fan), he was getting injured and dinged up playing in the SEC and my main concern with any team that picked him or any running back that high in the draft is the durability factor in the NFL. In one of the hardest hitting defensive conferences in the AFC much less the NFL I can see Richardson playing about 8 or 10 games in a season. That is not the productivity you want from a first round pick.
And as far as Weeden, let’s just say it was a reach to take a guy at the bottom of the first round who was graded as a fourth round pick at best. Plus, why would you take a guy who is 28 year old to be your franchise quarterback. I don’t mean to sound age discriminatory but wouldn’t you rather take a guy you’re going to have for at least 10 years instead of a guy you may have for maybe 4 years as your franchise quarterback. I mean the ink is barely dry on the jerseys after 4 years. Cleveland fans your franchise had a chance to change direction and possibly become a defensive powerhouse in an already defensive dominant division and compete for a playoff spot but instead of taking that road your ownership decided to take the road of mediocrity.
Look Browns fans, you know first of all that you are in the toughest division in the AFC right? I mean you have the perennial playoff teams of the Steelers and Ravens every year staring down at you, and now it seems your evil step brother the Bengal’s have found their way back from irrelevance to make the playoffs last year. In fact, the Browns were the only team in the AFC North to NOT make the playoffs in the 2011-2012 post season. I know it is frustrating for Browns fans to always be starring up at division rivals. But when you constantly shoot yourself in the foot like your ownership has been doing you really have no one to blame but yourself. I know the regular season hasn’t started yet and every team is hinged on the positives but for Browns fans it seems that optimism will have to wait till the 2013 draft and hopefully you can make the choices that will lead you back into the playoffs. I usually like to end on a positive note, but for this one I guess the most positive thing I can say for Browns fans is hopefully you will have a very high draft pick in the 2013 draft and ownership won’t screw it up again.