It might seem a bit early for 2012 mock NFL drafts, but, trust me, they're out there.
There are probably some websites that have mock drafts for 2033 based on the talent pool in maternity wards. Those mocks don't include underclassmen, simply because they aren't born yet.
While it's too early to project where teams will be slotted in the 2012 draft, it's never too early to begin evaluating the needs of each team. For the Browns, that's usually an easy project because they have so many needs.
One topic that will come up is quarterback. Forget about Andrew Luck. If he was allowed to have an agent, Luck could start contract negotiations with the Indianapolis Colts, who have the look of a 0-16 team.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley could be within the sights of the Browns, depending on what happens in the final six games. Any interest the Browns might have in him, of course, depends upon their end-of-the-season evaluation of Colt McCoy.
That's a topic for a column at another time. For now there are greater needs, and the Browns have the firepower to fill some of the holes with two first-round picks and likely three among the first 40.
It's hard to believe anyone would be unhappy if the Browns used two of their first three choices on offensive linemen. It's assumed Eric Steinbach will return from a back injury, but he'll be 32 next year and there are no guarantees how well he'll recover from surgery.
Rookie Jason Pinkston has been forced to start at left guard, and the results have been predictable. It would be kind to say that Pinkston has been inconsistent. At least he's gaining a ton of experience that can only be helpful in the future.
Right guard Shawn Lauvao, a 2010 draft pick, is in his first season as a starter. He's also been inconsistent but with more upside than Pinkston. Coach Pat Shurmur singled out Lauvao's play against Jacksonville as perhaps his best performance of the season.
This could be right tackle Tony Pashos' final season with the Browns. Like Steinbach, Pashos will be 32 next year. He's prone to injuries, as we've seen this season with a persistent ankle problem.
The Browns can clearly do better at right tackle, which is where the draft and perhaps USC's Matt Kalil might be an option with a top-10 pick.
The worst-kept secret is that Peyton Hillis probably won't be back next year. His 1,177 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns last season apparently don't mean much to general manager Tom Heckert and Shurmur.
No one will say it, but the thinkers in the front office probably see Hillis as a one-hit wonder whose muscle-bound body is prone to breaking down with muscle pulls and tears. That's the only explanation for why they wouldn't want a back that can run and catch, which seemingly would make him a perfect fit for the West Coast offense.
Montario Hardesty has to be looked at as an injury casualty once injured, always injured. Why Heckert didn't take that into consideration when he used a second-round pick on Hardesty is hard to figure.
The offense has never had a back that can consistently pound out yards and stay healthy. Trent Richardson of Alabama would look nice in the backfield in 2012.
Maybe the most glaring weakness is at receiver, where no one is close to being a number one guy. The offense presents no threat of stretching the field vertically, which makes the challenge easier for defenses. Would any fan complain if Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is added to the mix next season?
Yeah, it might be early to start talking draft, but you can bet it's discussed every day at Browns' headquarters.