Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The argument for Robert Griffin III in Cleveland

By Jason Jones (posted by Rick Morris)

There is no question that RG3 will go to a team that has been consistently bad for upwards of 20 years. The Browns, the Dolphins, and the Redskins all have been terrible for a long time. It is my belief, analytically, that the best situation for him is with the Cleveland Browns. It still remains to be seen whether or not the trade to move up two spots is doable.

The following breakdown is contingent on flipping the #4 with the #2 and giving up #22, while leaving all other picks this season open. I can concede that it will take another pick to get #2, but I submit that for this exercise it happens in 2013.

Browns Draft Picks, assuming a trade for RG3

Round 1 Pick 4 Traded to STL for Pick #2 overall

Round 1 Pick 22 Traded to STL for Pick #2 overall

Round 2 Pick 37

Round 3 Pick 68

Round 4 Pick 101

Round 4 Pick 117

Round 5 Pick 132

Round 6 Pick 165

Round 7 Pick 196

That's five picks that could render significant players after the first round. The question, as it is for most teams, is how to address weak areas and compliment the areas that are not perceived weaknesses. Judging by core units, we can evaluate just that.

QB – Colt McCoy has proven that he can play at this level. Considering all-time QBs while not making any comparisons, you wouldn't keep Jake Plummer if you could have John Elway. Or Steve Young instead of Jeff Garcia. Or Tony Romo over Troy Aikman. In this case, RG3 is clearly a better long-term solution than McCoy. Now, one thing would be certain. RG3, Colt McCoy, and Seneca Wallace might just make the best young QB core in the league.

RB – After last season, I find it hard to believe that anyone would be eager to throw money at Peyton Hillis. I'm not saying it’s a certainty, but as of now, I cannot see a scenario where Hillis is anywhere other than Cleveland. Montario Hardesty is a nice complementary player. The issue is that he and Hillis are the same type of player. I'd like to keep him, but somewhere, this team needs a fast, shifty, change-of-pace back. We all want our own Sproles; I would settle for someone in the same mold.

TE – I’m good here, believe it or not. I like Jordan Cameron. He's not Gronkowski or Gates, but I believe he is on the playmaker side of the spectrum. He's definitely not a blocking specialist, but I like his playmaking abilities. Just give it time.

WR – OK, no beating around the bush. This is bad. The Browns are starting to become the "first-two-days Detroit Lions.” They keep taking WRs and underwhelming ones at that. I like Greg Little, really I do. Massaquoi could be nice if utilized in the slot, the Randle El, Wes Welker, Az Hakim of this scenario. He is no Number Two. Pretty soon, this team is going to have to realize whether or not Josh Cribbs is Dante Hall (kick returner only) or if they believe he can effectively transition to starting WR. I personally believe it is in their best interest to only use him as a returner and in some rare instances as an X-factor in sparsely-used trick plays – very sparsely used. They need a real #1 or a fast shifty #2 (i.e. DeSean Jackson type).

OL – I’m good here for now. Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach are solid on the left (provided Steinbach comes back healthy). I think the jury is still out on the ceiling for Alex Mack. The right side could use some help. However, there are other pressing issues first. OL can wait until next draft if necessary. Especially considering the Browns will have to give up some picks in 2013 to get RG3.

DE – Jabaal Sheard looks nice. He may actually be as advertised. His counterpart is missing, though. A stout DE opposite Sheard dramatically changes the defensive approach. The bookend approach could really take the pressure off of the linebackers and secondary. They will not be able to get a Quinton Coples-type here, at least not in this draft. But the closer they get to a strong, big, aggressive 4-3 DE prototype, the better off they'll be.

DT – This might surprise you. I'm good here, too. The reason is not what you'd think. I've had a theory on the defensive line that the Browns happen to have stumbled upon and I am willing to give it time to see if it works. Most 4-3 teams go with two pass-rushing DEs and two lighter DTs (conventional 4-3 DTs being around 6'3 295). I have always wanted to see two nose tackles playing side-by-side plugging the middle. It makes the DEs extremely important, but also frees up the linebackers. Ahtyba Rubin is 6-3, 330. Phil Taylor is 6'3, 335.

LB – This is such a headache, made worse by the resigning of D'Qwell Jackson. Call me crazy, but in the 4-3, I really want the MLB spot to be a killer. I want a Ray Lewis, a Patrick Willis, etc. I do not believe Jackson is that guy. He has had 150+ tackles only twice. The other three years he averaged only 83. Chris Gocong is a stop gap, a band-aid. Kaluka Maiava was a joke on draft day and I see nothing to change my perception. In a draft that had Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing, the Browns were happy to take the other USC linebacker that no one else cared about, typical Browns drafting.

S – Safety is another terrible spot, in no way resembling an NFL starting unit. There have been safeties that could have been had in recent years and they've been content to stay with bums. Yes, Mike Adams is a relative bum. The good news is that there are good safeties late in this draft. The entire core can be re-done in this draft.

CB – You can never have too many corners. I love Joe Haden's upside once he's comfortable. I regret them picking him so high, but hey, it is what it is. Sheldon Brown is a solid vet. At some point, there should be a move to get a young corner who can develop into a starter and eventually move Brown to the nickel.

OK, now that that's out of the way, on to the fun stuff. Clearly there are some guys that can be brought in through free agency. The problem is, it’s Cleveland and no one of note will sign there unless they believe something big is about to happen. Those deals will have to wait until after the draft.

Round 1

With only one pick in the first round, having trading the Atlanta pick to STL for the rights to the #2 overall, the Cleveland Browns select Quarterback from Baylor, Robert Griffin III

Result: QB Robert Griffin III (Baylor)

Round 2

I don't mean for this to look or sound like favoritism for the newly-crowned face of the franchise. With guys like DeSean Jackson and the speedy Mike Wallace, it’s difficult to pass on this guy and his production. Being RG3's teammate is just a relative coincidence.

Result: WR Kendall Wright (Baylor)

Round 3

That may just be where we leave offense for a while. As far a talent goes, there should still be some solid DEs available. I would love to say someone like Courtney Upshaw or Whitney Mercilus, but let's be real, those guys will be long gone by the top of the 3rd round. Still, Sheard can do it all himself.

Result: DE Andre Branch (Clemson)

Round 4 (picks 101 and 117)

Here's where the real fun begins in the draft. This is where scouting pays off. Who are the guys who will be the next______. History shows that just as many 4th and 5th-rounders as high-profile 1st-rounders contribute to championship teams. This is where game tape and surprising yet marginal combine results pay off.

Result: S Trumaine Johnson (Montana)

Result: S Harrison Smith (Notre Dame)

Round 5

Based on the questionable likelihood of finding a prototypical LB at this point in the draft, we zig when everyone else zags. Moving back to offense, there is a kid with ridiculous stats from a small school. He should get overlooked due to his lack of top-shelf competition and having a 40 time in the 4.5s. Check the tape, though. I love this kid. Power, speed, shiftiness, ability to make the first man miss, it's all there and the value of risk vs reward is perfect.

Result: RB Robert Turbin (Utah St)

Round 6

This may be the value pick of the draft if it pans out. I'm not as big a fan of Day Three picks as some people are. However, I love the gamble element at this stage of the draft. No one cares if you blow a 6th-round pick (except GM Reese), but everyone knows how great it is if you nail a 6th-round pick (i.e. Tom Brady). So in that vein, I choose to make a real gamble. It's hard enough to transition from DE to OLB. It;s harder to go Safety to LB. I'm not claiming to draft the next Urlacher, but this move could prove effective.

Result: S turned WLB George Iloka (Boise St)

Round 7

I've never claimed to be good at projecting the 7th-round. However, there was one guy I liked. If he's there you take him, if not you take a flyer on someone else.

Results: DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)

This leaves us with the option to pick up third-level free agents for depth. There was no getting Mario Williams, LaRon Landry or Ben Grubbs. This is Cleveland after all. However, by the time the draft starts, what's left will not be top tier free agents anyway. Leaving us with the following projected depth chart of note...

QB RG3 (R) C.McCoy

RB Peyton Hillis M.Hardesty R.Turbin

WR1 Kendall Wright (R) M.Massaquoi

WR2 Greg Little Josh Cribbs

TE Cameron Jordan Evan Moore

LT Joe Thomas

LG Eric Steinbach

C Alex Mack

RG John Greco

RT Oniel Cousins

DE Jabaal Shear

DT Phil Taylor

DT Ahtyba Rubin

DE Andre Branch (R)

SLB Chris Gocong

MLB D'Qwell Jackson

WLB Kaluka Maiava George Iloka (R)

SS Harrison Smith (R)

FS Trumaine Johnson (R)

CB1 Joe Haden

CB2 Sheldon Brown

To look at it objectively, no one, not even scouts or analysts could argue that the team presented is not monumentally a better fit than anything the Redskins or the Dolphins could throw together. The Redskins have a far better linebacker core. It could be argued that is where it ends. Washington's offense is worse than Cleveland’s by far. OL has one good piece. Santana Moss is still a #2 at best going against the best CB each and every game. The DL is terrible. The secondary is still not good but better than their DL. The Dolphins have Brandon Marshall, which is attractive. The OL is questionable at best and a couple of solid TEs. Reggie Bush/Daniel Thomas looks like a failed experiment. I do like their defensive line, very solid. Karlos Dansby is nice but Jason Taylor is done. There is no getting around the idea that they may have the most dynamic young secondary. Love Sean Smith and Vontae Davis (even if Davis hasn't realized it yet). Jones and Bell are solid too.

The result being one clear idea: Robert Griffin III best situation is to be drafted to the Cleveland Browns. QED

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