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I’ve gone up, down, back, forth, in, out, and upside down on what the Browns should do with the fourth overall draft pick a little over two months from now, and I’ve finally come to a decision.
At one point since the college season ended halfway through January, I decided that Tom Heckert should go get the playmaking receiver they’ve desperately lacked since Braylon Edwards had his one year in the sun back in 2007. Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon would fit that mold beautifully.
At another point, I believed that a dynamic running back was needed to compete in the rugged AFC North. If you can’t slam the ball down a defense’s throat against the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals, then you can’t win. Alabama’s Trent Richardson can do that slamming, I thought, with the tremendous power it takes to move the pile inside, yet enough speed to break free off-tackle and around the corner.
On various other occasions, I’ve been convinced that the most pressing need for the Browns was another shutdown corner opposite Joe Haden, a powerful right tackle to aid the running game, or a jaw-breaking linebacker like the Steelers and Ravens have.
And I was right every single time. The Browns need all of those.
So it’s decided then, right? There are far too many needs on this team for the Browns to be packaging a multitude of high draft picks to be traded for the right to draft a top guy at any one particular position. Right?
Wrong. Not when the one particular position we’re talking about is the most important and most difficult position to play in all of team sports.
That’s why I’ve finally stopped flipping around and come to the conclusion that the Browns must do whatever it takes to get a quarterback who can go, well ... up, down, back, forth, in, out, and upside down.
Not to mention vertical, horizontal, left, right, and if you blink, out of sight.
Bring me RG3.
For many fans, Robert Griffin III burst onto the scene out of nowhere this season, stealing Andrew Luck’s Heisman Trophy in a whirlwind of statistics born of Baylor’s shotgun-formation spread offense.
Not for me. I’ve been watching Griffin closely for two years now, and have long believed what a growing number of draft analysts are now declaring: the more film you watch of this kid, the more you love him.
In those two seasons I’ve watched video of Griffin, he’s thrown for 7,500 yards and 58 touchdowns with just 14 interceptions. But the numbers don’t tell even half the story.
A lot of college QB’s amass gaudy totals like those using a complex system of bubble screens and hitch patterns that require the passer to make a single read and a short throw, then watching his receiver use the open space to ink an 80-yard touchdown pass on the QB’s stat sheet. And while there’s nothing wrong with those plays, which seem to work increasingly well on the collegiate level, they do not often translate in NFL success under center.
Those types of plays do not define RG3.
As nearly every expert analyst who has watched him closely will attest, Griffin has terrific arm strength, combined with the accuracy that has enabled him to drive the ball well down the field, which is what he’ll have to do on the NFL level. He is not afraid, nor unable, to throw the crossing route in traffic, the deep out on a rope, or the long ball to the post with equal marksmanship.
And, as anyone who has watched one of the countless RG3 highlight packages on Sportscenter or YouTube knows, the kid has the athleticism, speed, and elusiveness of an All-American tailback.
Think Michael Vick — but with better accuracy, an extraordinary IQ (graduated from Baylor a year early), and a set of morals.
Stanford’s Andrew Luck, believed by many to be the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning, will undoubtedly be the first overall pick, but as more draft gurus are discovering, the gap between Luck and Griffin is not very wide. The question is, can the Browns afford to sacrifice their other first round pick, at No. 22 overall, to move up two spots and claim Griffin as their own?
The Browns obviously have no great desire to give up first round draft picks, especially with all the positions of need listed above, but I believe it would be one of their all-time gaffes if they don’t do what it takes to trade with the Rams at No. 2 and bring Griffin to Cleveland.
Sure, the Browns would end up with a top-flight player at No. 4 overall if they stand firm, and that player may indeed combine with the No. 22 pick and improve the team a great deal. But neither one would likely be what RG3 could be:
Colt McCoy fans will undoubtedly seethe at these words, arguing once again that the current Browns’ starter could be a terrific NFL quarterback with the right pieces around him. And they might be right.
But on his best day, I don’t believe Colt will ever be the type of quarterback who keeps defensive coordinators up at night. He won’t be a guy who changes the way opponents play their game. He won’t be a guy who can pick up an offense and carry it on his back.
Robert Griffin III is that type of guy. And if the Browns don’t make whatever sacrifice is necessary to make him their own on draft day, I fear we’ll watch him turn some other franchise into a championship contender while we continue to look for our own franchise-changer — wondering how we let this one get away.
Bob Frantz hosts “The Bob Frantz Show” on WTAM-AM 1100 from 7 p.m. to midnight weeknights, and following Cavaliers, Indians and Browns games.