Browns should pass on QB in this draft

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
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Brandon Weeden/Ryan TannehillUS PresswireCleveland should address other areas and pass on both Brandon Weeden (left) and Ryan Tannehill.
The temptation will be there. Not once. Not twice. But three times early in the draft.

The need for a quarterback will ratchet up the pressure on the Cleveland Browns to take one every time they're on the clock with their first three picks. The smart move -- albeit not an easy one -- is to pass on a quarterback this year.

Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill will likely be sitting there for the taking at the fourth overall pick. Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden will be available at the 22nd pick and could still be on the board at the 37th pick.

Taking a potential franchise quarterback provides instant promise. But taking Tannehill or Weeden, especially in the first round, is hitting the panic button. It's making a pick based on need and not the best player available, which is the formula for failure in the NFL draft.

This isn't to say Tannehill or Weeden will flop as franchise quarterbacks. Tannehill could develop into the next Philip Rivers (who was taken fourth overall in 2004), and Weeden could become this year's Andy Dalton (taken in the second round last year). There is just too much risk when the Browns have so many more needs to address.

The only legitimate franchise quarterbacks in this draft are Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. What the Browns are left to choose from is this: a quarterback who is too inexperienced (Tannehill) or too old (Weeden). Tannehill made 19 starts in college, half as many as Luck. Weeden turns 29 in October, which makes him one year younger than Ben Roethlisberger.

Patience is extremely tough when it comes to the quarterback position. That's why you have the Baltimore Ravens trading back in the first round for Kyle Boller in 2003 and the Minnesota Vikings using the 12th overall pick on Christian Ponder last season.

Remaining patient is tougher when all your AFC North neighbors found their franchise quarterbacks and went to the playoffs last season. The Browns know they won't close the gap on the rest of the division without a quarterback. It has to be the right quarterback, though.

Cleveland attempted to get the right one when it aggressively pursued a chance to draft RG3. When the St. Louis Rams chose to trade the No. 2 overall pick to the Washington Redskins, the Browns' focus had to shift from getting a quarterback to getting weapons for a quarterback.

The Browns made it clear that Colt McCoy wasn't their No. 1 choice to be the starter, but they can help him with their first three picks. While the Browns shouldn't reach for players to satisfy need, they can potentially address major holes at running back (Alabama's Trent Richardson), wide receiver (Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill or LSU's Rueben Randle) and right tackle (Stanford's Jonathan Martin or Mississippi's Bobby Massie) with three of the draft's first 37 picks. By using an early-round pick on Tannehill or Weeden, the Browns lose out on an impact player who can fill one of these voids.

Some league observers believe the Browns are seriously considering Tannehill. There was a report earlier this week that indicated Cleveland's decision for the fourth overall pick is down to Tannehill and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Others suggested the Browns were feigning interest in trading down last week so a team like the Miami Dolphins or Seattle Seahawks won't trade up to No. 3 to take Tannehill.

ESPN's Todd McShay thinks it will be tough for the Browns to pass on Tannehill.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMany draft boards have the Browns taking Trent Richardson with their first-round pick.
“He belongs in the top 10 and he has a chance to be an elite quarterback in the NFL,” McShay said. “To me, Andrew Luck is No. 1. Then there’s a little bit of a drop-off. There’s a difference, I think, between [Luck] and Robert Griffin III. But I don’t think the difference between Robert Griffin III and Tannehill is all that big, to be quite honest with you.”

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. disagrees with that assessment and thinks it's a mistake to take Tannehill that high.

"To me, he's being overdrafted," Kiper Jr. said. "We saw it last year with Christian Ponder. He should've been a second-round pick. Overdrafting is taking place at quarterback, and it's going to happen again with Ryan Tannehill."

The concerns push you to side with Kiper Jr. on this one. According to a recent SportsNation poll, 84 percent of voters say the Browns shouldn't take Tannehill with the fourth overall pick. It's hard to wrap your head around investing that high of a draft choice in a quarterback who was a wide receiver until midway through his junior year. It's difficult to label someone a franchise quarterback when he had a 12-7 record in college and continues to have durability issues.

The alternative is taking Weeden in the second round, or as some suggested, selecting him in the first round. Both would be mistakes, although not as drastic as drafting Tannehill in the top 10. While Weeden's age has to be taken into consideration, there are other factors weighing against him. He struggled with his accuracy at times and forced throws into coverage.

By not taking Tannehill or Weeden, the Browns face more questions at quarterback in the future. If McCoy doesn't improve with more playmakers around him, the Browns can look at the 2013 group of free-agent quarterbacks, which might have someone better than Matt Flynn. The draft could have a handful of intriguing first-round quarterback prospects like USC's Matt Barkley, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

But this isn't the time to talk about 2013. Eight days from today, the Browns face a major decision at quarterback and the future of their team. Taking Tannehill or Weeden isn't the right move. It would be a desperate one.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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