Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

The Game is Afoot

It’s the NFL off-season, which means rumors, speculation and misdirection are the currency of the land until the draft on April 26.

And the Cleveland Browns are going to be in the thick of things, probably right up until they – or someone – makes a selection with the fourth pick of the first round.

The only thing we (may) know for certain is the Browns will not make an attempt to move up to No. 3, as there are four players after quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III who would fill a major need on the Browns. General manager Tom Heckert told The Plain Dealer that there are five players the Browns would be comfortable selecting with their first pick.

Because of that, the team may be willing to trade down – just not too far.

“We’re most likely going to stay at No. 4 and we know we’ll get a really good player there,” Heckert told the paper. “But there’s about five guys we really like, so we would consider trading down — but probably only to five, six, seven or eight.”

If the Browns stay at No. 4, Heckert said the team would not be opposed to drafting LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne who, while not filling as acute of a need as Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, would still be a solid pick.

“We don’t think we’re going to take a defensive guy, but it would tough to pass on him. He’s a really, really good player,” Heckert said.

With Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton and Ben Rothlisberger in the division, having two top-flight cornerbacks in Claiborne and Joe Haden, along with safety T.J. Ward, wouldn’t necessarily be a bad way to go. And if the other team can’t score, it doesn’t matter how bad the Browns offense is. Sort of.

Of course, what fun would it be if the Browns just stayed at No. 4? After all, as Heckert said, “why not pick up some extra picks if you can get a guy you like a few spots back?”

The team is currently saying all the right things about incumbent quarterback Colt McCoy, with Heckert stressing that “we think he’s going to be much better this season.” With Seneca Wallace the only viable alternative currently on the roster, it makes sense that the Browns would not want to trash McCoy, just in case he really is the starting quarterback this fall.

So while the team doesn’t want to trash McCoy for a variety of reasons, if the Browns do want to trade down their best bet might be to create a market for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

That is where the Dolphins come in, as in addition to holding the No. 8 pick, Miami is, in reality, having the kind of off-season that the anti-Holmgren crowd can only fantasize that the Browns would have.

The Dolphins had to beg Peyton Manning just to get him to accept their phone call, missed on Matt Flynn and may be in a situation where they need to “do something” to appease their fans.

Even if it means over paying for Tannehill.

According to Omar Kelly of The Sun Sentinel:

General Manager Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin have vowed to the fans that they’d get a better starter than Matt Moore, and the best the Dolphins’ decision makers have delivered is David Garrard, a 10-year veteran with a solid resume.

The Dolphins fan base is angry, emotional, feels betrayed, and is on the verge of anarchy.

All that’s left for the Dolphins to do is ride out Garrard or Moore in 2012, or invest a first-round pick into Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Problem is, there’s no guarantee Tannehill will be there when the Dolphins are on the clock with pick No. 8.

Sounds like the Dolphins could be motivated buyers come draft day.

Kelly writes that Dolphins fan would probably be upset if the team winds up with Tannehill because they thought they were getting Manning or Flynn (shades of Browns fans and RG3).

But he makes a pretty persuasive argument for Tannehill, writing that his athleticism and footwork makes him suited for the West Coast Offense, and pointing out that Tannehill actually played in the West Coast Offense under new Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who coached him at Texas A&M.

Wait a minute. Tannehill’s a perfect fit for the West Coast Offense and he played in the system in college? Are we sure the Browns shouldn’t be drafting him?

Sorry, got a little distracted there for a moment.

The good part is the Browns have several options since they are picking at No. 4. And with the team holding three of the first 37 picks (for now) in the draft, if Heckert does his job we won’t have to worry about the Browns drafting this high again next year.

Let the games begin.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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