Browns fans have now had a few days to come to grips with the fact that Robert Griffin III will not be wearing a Cleveland uniform any time soon. Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder mortgaged the future of his franchise, trading three future first round draft picks and a second to the St. Louis Rams for the #2 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, where they will select the Baylor quarterback to become the new face of the Redskins franchise.
Personally, there is no way an unproven college quarterback is worth that many first-rounders. In any draft, quarterbacks are a crapshoot. For every Donovan McNabb there is a Ryan Leaf. For each Peyton Manning an Akili Smith.
Peeker pointed this out in his recent Weekend Wrap, and I wanted to delve into it a little further. He made some exceptional points that I wanted to reinforce. To wit...
Leaf was in the 1998 draft, the same as Peyton Manning. Most draft experts determined that it didn't matter who the Colts took with the first overall pick, that Manning and Leaf were both can't-miss prospects. The Colts selected Manning, then the San Diego Chargers traded up from #3 overall to #2, giving the Arizona Cardinals two first rounders, a second and Eric Metcalf to move up one spot.
No need to revisit this...we all know how things turned out for Leaf in San Diego.
The point is that you never really know how a college player will transition to the NFL. Tim Couch was a supposed "no brainer" pick for the Browns in 1999. Andre Ware put up awe-inspiring numbers at Houston. Rodney Peete was one of the top quarterbacks in the country when he was at USC. Todd Marinovich was a prototype quarterback who the Raiders thought would lead them to the Promised Land.
The list of "can't miss" prospects that missed is extensive because the draft is an imperfect science. You just never know.
This probably doesn't make most of you feel much better. The "Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert are nutless posers" faction of Browns fans has been quite vocal lately, and it is quite clear what this group thinks. They wanted the Browns brain trust to give away the farm for yet another quarterback, who would come in and struggle due to having no weapons around him. The Browns were 4-12 last year, they need so much more than a quarterback. In fact, I would put quarterback pretty low on the priorities list right now.
The Browns need receivers. They need at least one cornerback. A right tackle would be nice, as would a right guard. Outside linebacker needs to be addressed. So does punter. And tight end.
What would I rather have? If presented with the choice of Griffin throwing to the likes of Greg Little and Mohammad Massaquoi, or a more mature, balanced team with depth and an actual plan to move forward in place I would take the second option.
With the fourth overall pick, if the Browns don't move down (which I would prefer) the team could help itself immensely. Players like defensive tackle Quinton Coples from North Carolina, cornerback Morris Claiborne from LSU, tackle Matt Kalil from USC or receiver Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State would all help the Browns win more games sooner than RGIII. I say this because the team also kept its 22nd overall pick. This means another solid player, someone like defensive end Nick Perry from LSU or wide receiver Kendall Wright from Baylor will also be in orange and white this fall.
However, some people are dead-set on picking a quarterback. They are convinced Colt McCoy will not be the Browns quarterback of the future (which, I believe, the Browns pretty much stated with their pursuit of Griffin. I want to see McCoy stick around for a little while longer and actually have a chance to develop but, hey, that's what good franchises do. We're talking about the Browns here) and want someone else to come in and take over the offense.
They don't care that McCoy will be working under his third offensive coordinator in three years, and that the Browns have had a revolving door at quarterback seemingly since they came back to the NFL in 1999. So we should take a look at the other quarterback prospects in this year's draft, prospects not named Luck or Griffin.
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M – Tannehill has good size (6-foor 4, 230 pounds) and exceptional athletic ability. Though recruited as a quarterback, Tannehill played receiver his first two seasons in College Station. In his one and a half years as a starter Tannehill threw for almost 5,400 yards with 42 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He completed 65 percent of his passes as a junior and 61.6 percent as a senior.
Tannehill doesn't have a cannon of an arm and his delivery is very unorthodox, but he is very accurate both in the pocket and on the run. He could probably step right in and start in the opener, but a season of learning would do him a world of good. If the Browns want Tannehill they will have to spend the #4 pick on him because he will be long gone by #22.
Nick Foles, Arizona – Foles has been overlooked when the top quarterbacks in this draft have been discussed. Most talk about Tannehill, Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State and Kirk Cousins as the next level behind Luck and Griffin, but I think Foles is right there in that second-tier group.
Foles is big (6-5, 245) and experienced as a three-year starter for the Wildcats. He has shown he can run a pro-style offense while at Arizona and has a gun for an arm. He also went up against some of the best defenses in college football during his college career.
Foles does have a tendency to lock onto his primary receiver and reading defenses is not one of his strengths, but these are correctable flaws. Given time and the right quarterback coach I think he can become a very good NFL quarterback. There is a good chance he will be around when the Browns pick with the fifth pick of the second round.
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State – We are all familiar with Cousins' body of work, especially his success against Ohio State. A three-year starter in the Big Ten, Cousins (6-2, 210) was an effective quarterback. He didn't set the world on fire, but he was solid. That's the kind of professional I think he will be. Think Doug Williams or Jason Campbell...someone that can capably run an offense, but will probably never be the reason a team wins or loses. Cousins is a natural leader with an accurate arm, but he can make poor decisions at times. He threw a combined 20 interceptions in his final two years at Michigan State...too many for someone you are going to hand the keys to the offense and let him go. He might not be the best fit in Cleveland because he is a lot more accurate on his downfield throws than his underneath passes. Cousins will be there when the Browns draft in the fifth round, and possibly the sixth.
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State – Weeden (6-3, 220) will be 29 years old when the 2012 NFL season starts, which is a big strike against him. However, if he was your typical 22 year-old coming out of college he would be mentioned right along with Luck and Griffin. Weeden has a very strong arm, is a great decision-maker, a mature leader and has high football intelligence. He put up eye-popping numbers in the Cowboys' spread offense, but no one questions his ability to transition to a pro-style system.
Weeden did throw a lot of interceptions (13 per season during his junior and senior years), but he threw a ton of passes so these numbers are a bit deceiving. Just check out his statistics from the last two years:
Junior year – 342-for-511 for 4,277 yards (69.9%), 34td and 13int.
Senior year – 409-for-565 for 4,727 yards (72.4%), 37td and 13int.
Those are sick, sick numbers against some very good defenses. Weeden does have some mechanical problems...he throws off his back foot when under pressure and tends to take unnecessary chances...but he has a high, quick release and hits his receivers in stride. I like Weeden a lot, and think the Browns do as well.
Brock Osweiler, Arizona State – Osweiler is probably what you would get if you asked God to create the perfect physical specimen for a quarterback. He is huge (listed at 6-foot-8 at ASU, but measured 6-7 at the Combine) and quick (was a Gonzaga basketball recruit). He has a strong arm that is accurate and is quick enough to scramble to either buy time or to tuck in the ball and take off. He does have some problems...his footwork is a mess, his throwing motion is long and he can't read defenses very well. Osweiler chose not to do any of the physical tests at the Combine, choosing instead to wait for his ASU Pro Day on March 30. His stock will be determined there, but as things stand he is a project that will have to work his rear end off to eventually land an NFL starting gig. Right now he should be around in the fourth round when the Browns pick, but that could change if he wows the scouts at his Pro Day.
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois – Since I am the Mid-American Conference guy here at STO, of course there is going to be a MAC guy on my list. However, Harnish deserves some attention and he will be drafted.
Though Harnish might be better suited as a flex guy, a Kordell Stewart sort of player, he wants to play quarterback in the NFL and has the tools to do so. He's tough and very strong with the ability to make plays while absorbing contact. His arm strength is middle of the road, but he throws an accurate pass both short and downfield. Harnish is just 6-1, 220 and has a low release, which could be a problem, but he is a proven winner with amazing athletic ability. He threw for 3,216 yards and 28 touchdowns last season while rushing for 1,379 yards and 11 scores. True, he was going up against sub-par competition a good bit of the time, but Harnish is a natural leader that will get better every season. He will be a second-day pick.
There are a few other quarterbacks to consider, but I can't see the Browns going with any of them. Guys like Russell Wilson from Wisconsin, B.J. Coleman from Chattanooga, Kellen Moore from Boise State and Case Keenum from Houston. These are all guys that will be drafted, but not by the Browns.
Everyone take a deep breath. Sure, you are disappointed the Browns were outbid by one of the biggest idiot owners in professional sports, but what's done is done. Let Snyder and the Skins ruin Griffin by not having the picks to put weapons around him. We've been down that road, and it isn't a fun trip.
Cleveland has all its picks and I trust Heckert to maximize the value of those picks. I like what he has done in the draft during his Browns tenure and see no reason his effective drafting will not continue.