Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 4/9/12

The NFL Draft is coming quickly with the first round set to kick-off on Thursday, April 26, followed by rounds 2 and 3 on Friday and the late round picks taking place on Saturday.

There are so many mock drafts and opinions out there detailing each person thinks their team should take that we could spend all day debating different scenarios. Today let’s take a look at one specific draft slot that I think has a wide range of likely possibilities:

# 4 – The Cleveland Browns

Mike Holmgren and the Browns have a huge decision to make at #4 in the upcoming NFL draft.

With the Browns struggling for years to fight their way out of the doghouse in the AFC North, they need to make sure they hit pay-dirt with this year’s number four overall pick.

There are many players that make sense here and the talent pool is vast, but being an organization with so many needs raises the question as to “who” exactly the Browns should select with what will perhaps be the first pick in the NFL Draft to raise interest levels.

We all know Indy is all but certain to take Stanford QB Andrew Luck. Washington sold the farm to move up to #2 for RGIII. And most people have the Vikings scooping up future franchise LT Matt Kalil with the third overall pick.

Here is where it gets tricky, at least for me.

The Browns have the chance to grab: Trent Richardson; Ryan Tannehill; Justin Blackmon; or perhaps the best defensive player in the draft – Morris Claiborne.

A strong case can be made for each player.

Trent Richardson

After losing Peyton Hillis, the Browns need a feature back. Trent Richardson is no doubt the most talented back in this draft.

Many will argue that running backs no longer warrant top 10 selections based on value as the NFL has transitioned to a passing league with most teams using a two- or three-back committee to carry out their ground assault. Here are the two problems I see with that:

One, the Browns are definitely not one of the teams that have the ability or talent to rely on a strong passing game like many in the NFL. They must rely on defense and clock control, which means running the ball effectively.

Two, I disagree that running backs aren’t worthy of early first round picks if they have the potential to become future All-Pros. You just have to know if you are drafting a Reggie Bush or an Adrian Peterson.

I believe Richardson is the best running back prospect to enter the draft since Peterson and would be a very solid pick here.

Ryan Tannehill

But if the league is transitioning to a passing league then you need a capable QB, right? Here is where another decision lies for the Browns.

Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill may very well be the third best QB in the draft, but that only matters if the Browns are ready to publicly admit they see no future with Colt McCoy. Drafting Tannehill here would say just that.

I believe the Browns are mixed as to whether McCoy will ever develop into the gunslinger needed to win lots of games in today’s NFL, and honestly I think he just lacks toughness. That’s just me, though.

Ryan Tannehill could make a lot of sense here but only to fill a need. I don’t think he is the best player available, and we are talking about a serious case of over-drafting if he is taken.

If my team is picking that high, I draft the best player available. Lucky for Cleveland most of the best players available also fill needs as well.

Justin Blackmon

The Browns may not be ready to give up on Colt McCoy before seeing exactly what he can do when provided with some weapons.

Justin Blackmon would instantly upgrade the Browns sluggish offense. At 6’1, 215 lbs he has the ability to go up for the ball while also possessing the best hands in the draft.

Also factor in the element that the Browns play in the AFC North against defenses the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore, who most teams find it impossible to run against, and it becomes quite clear that acquiring help in the passing game is a logical move.

If the Browns are set to go this way, keep an eye on Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd as well, as his name is being thrown into the mix more and more recently.

Morris Claiborne

Lastly, perhaps the best defensive player in the draft. Could you blame the Browns if they take him?

In a division where they play Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Torry Smith, and A.J. Green twice a year, it is easy to understand why this selection would make sense. But can the Browns afford to sacrifice offensive upgrades? It is all a matter of philosophy and identity.

Adding Morris Claiborne on the opposite side of Joe Haden could take Cleveland’s defense to elite status. Last year’s 49ers proved that with an elite defense you can still make some noise in the NFL even with a struggling offense.

The Browns are facing a perplexing decision. Who would you take?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

My choice: Trent Richardson

Former Alabama star Trent Richardson could be the Browns' choice at #4. (Photo by Matthew Tosh via Wikimedia Commons)


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