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A case for Trent

April 8, 2012 - Mike McLain
We know the Browns need a quarterback.

We know they also need a top-notch receiver.

When Peyton Hillis signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, the needs on offense expanded to running back.

How convenient, then, that Alabama's Trent Richardson is considered the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He rushed for 1,669 yards and scored 21 touchdowns for the national champion Crimson Tide last season. He has breakaway skills, but he also has the brute strength needed to run over defenders.

It would make sense for the Browns to select Richardson and then cross their fingers and hope that he avoids injury. That's the problem associated with using a high draft pick on a running back. Running backs absorb more physical abuse than any other players on the roster and, as a result, have shorter shelf lives than their teammates.

Richardson had arthroscopic surgery on a meniscus last winter and wasn't able to participate at the NFL combine. That has to be on the mind of any general manager that considers selecting him high in the draft process.

Assuming the first theee picks are quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, followed by USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, the Browns will have their choice of Richardson, receiver Justin Blackmon and cornerback Morris Claiborne. The question they have to answer is which of the three is a better prospect at his position.

Blackmon would be the first to be cut from the list. He's a good prospect, but there are concerns about a lack of top-end speed and his strength in dealing with press coverage. The Browns should target their second first-round pick (22nd overall) on a receiver.

It would then come down to Richardson and Claiborne. Both are rated about equal as prospects and are widely considered to be the top two prospects behind Luck.

General manager Tom Heckert prefers using later picks on running backs. When he was in Philadelphia, the Eagles used a second-round pick on running back Lesean McCoy in 2009, and that's turned out pretty well.

When handicapping what Heckert is thinking, I'd say the pick will be Claiborne.

I'd would go along with that choice. Claiborne is too good of a prospect to pass on. Build up the defense and add the offensive pieces later.


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