AFC North: Bill Polian

The idea of the Cleveland Browns trading back in the draft is gaining momentum.

If they do, they’d best not do so with one specific player in mind.

That’s the advice of Bill Polian, the former builder of the Bills, Panthers and Colts, who said that a team is not wise to expect one specific player to be available if it trades down.

“I always said this as a general manager, I said it to the coach and the personnel director,” Polian said on ESPN Radio on Tuesday. “‘If we make this deal, are you prepared to lose the guy we want down below?’

“Be prepared for that. It’s going to happen about 90 percent of the time.”

Which are high odds.

And which would indicate that if the Browns really like cornerback Justin Gilbert, they need to have other options. Those presumably would include cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Jason Verrett, as well as receiver Mike Evans. If quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and/or Blake Bortles were not selected early and were available, they would also have to be in the discussion following a trade down.

Polian emphasized that preparation is essential.

“If you’re going back five spots, you need to have four guys that you’re happy with at that spot,” he said. “If you go back 10 spots, you need to have eight guys you’d be happy with.”
PITTSBURGH -- Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay will critique draft picks that are made in less than a week. The ESPN analysts took their own respective turns in the hot seat Thursday night on ESPN2.

The two engaged in a head-to-head, three-round mock draft with Kiper picking for teams with even-numbered draft picks and McShay picking for those with odd-numbered picks. Their selections were followed by analysis from former NFL general manager Bill Polian and former NFL director of pro personnel Louis Riddick.

And Polian didn't opt for subtlety after McShay picked North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron for the Steelers at No. 15 overall.

"He's a Pittsburgh Steeler and he doesn't block. That doesn't compute," Polian, a six-time NFL Executive of the Year, said of Ebron. "I don't think he's ready to play in the NFL right now. I think he's too immature. I don't think his feet are firmly planted on the ground. Yeah, he has ability but that only gets you so far."

Ebron may be one of the more polarizing players in the draft.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is the best tight end in the draft and an undeniable talent. Ebron, who caught 62 passes for 973 yards in his final season at North Carolina, has the size and athleticism to create mismatches.

And he is part of the new wave of tight ends who have become such a commodity because of their ability to put stress on opposing defenses.

Ebron would give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a tall target, and he would add a pass-catcher to a group that doesn't have a reliable one after veteran Heath Miller.

But as a blocker he can most diplomatically be described as a work in progress.

Or, as McShay said recently, “He’s a buffet blocker if you will. He kind of picks and chooses when he wants to get interested. But what he does well it’s just hard to find guys that can do it at the level that he does as far as stretching the field vertically and creating after the catch.”

Ebron may be too much of a gamble for the Steelers to pick at No. 15, especially since they have more pressing needs. McShay picked him for the Steelers with Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard off the board though with every other cornerback still available.

Riddick said he would have taken a cornerback for the Steelers, and he is especially high on Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller. Polian added of Ebron, "I would not risk this guy in a Pittsburgh offense that requires you to block."

As for the Steelers' other two picks, Kiper took LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry for them in the second round (No. 46 overall). McShay picked Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland for the Steelers in the third round (No. 97 overall).

Polian: Ravens will win Super Bowl

September, 4, 2012
While I'm still taking heat for picking the Ravens to finish third in the AFC North in my predictions, I wanted to pass along a differing opinion. Former NFL general manager Bill Polian, who is now an ESPN analyst, is picking the Ravens to win the Super Bowl by defeating the Falcons.

This Super Bowl matchup would create an intriguing storyline at quarterback with Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, who were both drafted in the first round in 2008. Ryan has thrown for more yards and touchdowns, but Flacco has won more games in the playoffs. A Super Bowl would settle the debate on whether Flacco or Ryan is the better quarterback.

Here's what Polian had to say about his prediction:
The injury to Terrell Suggs may have deprived the Ravens of the label of AFC favorites, but they can withstand the loss. In their defense, they can scheme rush as long as they have cover corners -- which they do -- and their young linebackers will grow over the course of the season. In a one-game situation, it's a flip of the coin between these two teams. But if this game is serving as Ray Lewis' farewell party, I think Baltimore gets the emotional edge.

ESPN's Ron Jaworski also had the Ravens in the Super Bowl but he has Baltimore losing to Green Bay. Jaworski believes the Ravens will reach the Super Bowl on the strength of Flacco and running back Ray Rice and not their defense.

In terms of the AFC North champion, Polian and Mel Kiper Jr. picked the Ravens while Herm Edwards went with the Bengals. Kiper did select the Bengals as one of his dark horses, saying it wouldn't surprise him if Cincinnati won 11 games.
At least four teams have called the Cleveland Browns about the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft, sources told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

One of the teams believed to be in the mix is the St. Louis Rams. That would mean dropping to No. 6. Just say no. Why? The Browns can say goodbye to an elite offensive playmaker in running back Trent Richardson if they trade down. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would immediately grab Richardson at No. 5.

Another potential trade partner is the Philadelphia Eagles. This would require the Browns to fall to No. 15. Cleveland really has to say no to this one. Why? It's a pipe dream to think wide receiver Michael Floyd is going to be available at this spot. He's going to get drafted by Buffalo (No. 10) or Arizona (No. 13).

The top offensive prospects who should be on the board in the middle of the first round are guard David DeCastro and wide receiver Kendall Wright. Two additional second-round picks are not worth this dropoff. Plus, general manager Tom Heckert indicated 17 days ago that the Browns would consider falling back as far as No. 8. The Eagles' spot is out of that range.

As I mentioned earlier this week, the Browns shouldn't trade back. They need playmakers, not picks. Their draft should be based on quality, not quantity.

Still, there's a good chance that the Browns will trade back. Heckert's track record shows he likes to acquire extra picks. And, as ESPN Insider Bill Polian pointed out, Mike Holmgren's teams often find their running backs later in the draft or through free agency.

But Richardson is one of those special types of backs. He has the toughness to excel in a division like the AFC North and he has the potential to immediately affect an offense like Adrian Peterson did.

If Holmgren doesn't believe me, he should consult with his good friend and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden before thinking of trading back.

“The easiest thing to do is turn around and hand the ball to somebody 300 times a year,” Gruden said in a conference call. “Everybody says, ‘Don’t take a running back. You can get those guys in the fifth, sixth or seventh round.' You go try to find Trent Richardson in the fifth, sixth or seventh round."

Gruden added, “He’s a beast. He broke all of Emmitt Smith’s high school rushing records in Florida. I’ve seen him run over people, run around people, he protects the ball, he can catch it, can pick up blitzes. He might be the strongest human being on the planet."

Just because teams are interested in the No. 4 pick doesn't mean the Browns should be interested in giving it up. Just say no.
We've been debating what the Cleveland Browns should do with the fourth overall pick for months. And, like many of you already know, I'm in favor of taking Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Bill Polian, former NFL general manager and current ESPN analyst, feels the same way and calls Richardson a "perfect fit" for the Browns. But he also explores why the Browns might trade down in his latest Insider column. As Polian points out, Mike Holmgren's teams often find their running backs later in the draft or through free agency.

Here's a portion of what Polian wrote:
I can't see Richardson falling past Tampa Bay at No. 5, so if another team targets him -- and I think the St. Louis Rams at No. 6 could be such a team -- it'll need to jump up to No. 4 to secure him. That puts the ball in Cleveland's hands, and with multiple needs it could opt to pass on Richardson, move down and set its sights on CB Morris Claiborne or WR Justin Blackmon, whichever player falls to the No. 6 spot.

This scenario is more of a long shot in my mind, but given the past organizational tendencies in Cleveland and the attractiveness of Richardson as a draft prospect, it's possible the Browns could opt to add more assets (likely third-round picks) and address a need other than their backfield.

Trading back makes little sense to me. Cleveland loses more than it gains in this scenario. The Browns need an offensive playmaker more than the top defensive player in the draft (Claiborne), and they can get a wide receiver with more speed than Blackmon later in the first round. By taking Richardson at No. 4, the Browns get one of the elite players in this draft and by far the best running back in this class.