So now that the adrenaline of the 2012 NFL Draft has worn off, it’s time to assess the impact. It goes without saying that Steeler Nation is excited about the new rookie Steelers. The O-line got a significant upgrade, and the team appears to have found the heir to Casey Hampton at nose tackle.
But what about the AFC North rivals? Emily Miklasevich has already reviewed what the Bengals draft means for the Steelers. Up next is the Browns.
The Cleveland Browns entered this year’s draft with 13 picks, more than any other team. They were still reaping the rewards of a 2011 trade with the Atlanta Falcons (who moved up to take WR Julio Jones), which had added additional 1st round (#22) and 4th round (#118) picks for this year. They had many areas of need and seemed primed to address them, a slightly concerning scenario for the Steelers and their fans. Would this be the year the Browns finally rebuild? In a word…no.
Despite what Mike Holmgren claims, the Browns got duped into trading up one spot from the 4th to the 3rd selection. It was a brilliant move by the Minnesota Vikings, who received 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks and still selected OT Matt Kalil. The Browns secured RB Trent Richardson, who would still have been there at #4. Richardson is a true talent, and he will help the Browns offense to some degree. Without an effective passing game, however, the team will struggle against defenses expecting him to run the ball. Oh, and the Browns play 3 of the top 10 rush defenses of 2011 twice each (Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals).
The second 1st round pick, QB Brandon Weedon, was a true reach at #22. He would have been there in the second round. The Browns also passed on OG David DeCastro (to the Steelers’s delight), and every pick from 23-28 had better value for that round. It’s hard to know if Weedon will succeed, coming from a spread offense where teammate WR Justin Blackmon may have made him look better than he truly is. He’ll need to adjust to Pat Shurmer’s west coast offense without much WR help. After a failed MLB career, Weedon returned to college and football, which makes him a rookie at 28 years old. And the Browns say they don’t plan to trade Colt McCoy despite the obvious vote of no confidence. Hello, QB controversy.
Their 2nd pick, OT Mitchell Schwartz out of Cal, is puzzling only because they left Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin on the board, both of whom were rated much higher. Not the best news if you’re Trent Richardson. Or Brandon Weedon. Or even Colt McCoy. Glad tidings indeed for James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
In the 3rd round, the Browns traded down 20 spots, taking DT John Hughes (not the film director) and gaining a 4th round pick. Not a bad pick, but not a great strategy. If they hadn’t wasted picks trading with the Vikings, they could have taken one of a few decent WR available earlier in the round.
The 4th round brought a WR finally, Travis Benjamin, a slot receiver fairly similar to the WRs on the current roster. He won’t stretch the field, and that’s what they needed, so he doesn’t upgrade their offense. Later in the round, they selected ILB James-Michael Johnson. He may move to OLB and adds depth. The 5th rounder, G Ryan Miller, won’t be a starter but again adds depth. In addition, the Browns selected an LB, DL, CB, and a FB-TE.
Obviously, the Steelers will always have to take the Browns seriously, or they’ll find themselves the victims of a trap game (painful memories of that Thursday night loss in December 2009). The missed opportunities and mismatched picks that characterize the Browns 2012 draft, however, don’t help make the Browns a legitimate rival. If the Steelers don’t sleepwalk through the games, they should be 2-0 against the Browns in 2012.
Melanie Friedlander is a contributor to Steel City Blitz. You can follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/girlsurgeon.