If trading Trent Richardson allows the Browns to draft a franchise player like Teddy Bridgewater, than they made the right decision in yesterday’s trade (Credit: Cardinalsportszone.com)
Yesterday, the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts pulled off one of the most shocking NFL trades since Jay Cutler was sent from Denver to Chicago for a first-round draft pick, third-round draft pick and Kyle Orton (although that trade was dragged out a lot longer than yesterday’s trade). Initially, a lot of Cleveland Browns fans were angry about the trade and at the time it made sense. It appears that the Browns are, essentially, giving up on the 2013 season. Furthermore, after trading away their third overall pick and starting Brian Hoyer over Brandon Weeden, their 22nd overall pick, it appears that the Browns have given up on the 2012 draft as well. It is understandable that the Browns fan base is upset with their general manager, coaches and team.
But, are the Browns fans overreacting? Could the Browns have made the right decision in trading away their third overall pick in last year’s draft? Here is how the Browns may have won yesterday’s trade:
Running backs are no longer important to the NFL
The NFL is no longer a run-first league. Outside of Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings, no one is winning games by just relying on their running back. Even the Vikings were only able to make the playoffs after Peterson nearly broke the single season rushing record last year. Furthermore, running backs are expendable and quality players can be found later in the draft. When players like Alfred Morris (6th round), Jamaal Charles (3rd round), Arian Foster (undrafted) and Stevan Ridley (3rd round) can all finish in the top 10 in rushing yards last season, it is understandable why the Browns might trade away Trent Richardson. The first round draft pick the Browns received for Richardson can be used on a more important position and the Browns can find a productive running back in the later rounds of the NFL.
And while Richardson’s numbers were impressive last season for a rookie (950 rushing yards, 367 receiving yards & 11 touchdowns), he is currently not an Adrian Peterson type of player. Yes, Richardson should give the Colts a 1,000 rushing yards for years to come, but he will not carry the team into the playoffs the way Peterson did for the Vikings last year. Richardson is a good running back, just not a great running back. He may excel in Indianapolis, but the Colts are going to rely more on Andrew Luck to win them games than Richardson. A franchise quarterback is a luxury the Cleveland Browns do not have currently. Which brings us to the second reason this trade made sense for the Browns.
Now, A Franchise Quarterback Is Within Reach
While a running back is important to a team, they are expendable and not nearly as important as a franchise quarterback. Why do you think the Ravens gave Joe Flacco a $120.6 million contract this off-season? Why do you think quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees can still win games without a top running back? [Yes, Stevan Ridley was 7th in rushing yards last season but that is not the norm for the New England Patriots]. No team is constantly spending first-round draft picks on a running back, hoping one of them will turn into a franchise player. Nowadays, running backs are a luxury pick that teams often draft only after they already have their franchise quarterback. Only the Minnesota Vikings seem content to try and win games with a franchise running back while starting a sub-par player at the quarterback position. While that may have got the Vikings into the playoffs in 2012, they are currently 0-2 and look to be headed to a top 10 draft pick. A team needs a franchise quarterback if they expect to win games.
If a team expects to make the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl they need to have a quality quarterback, something the Browns currently do not have in Brandon Weeden. Not only are Brandon Weeden’s number unimpressive, but he will be turning 30 in October. Normally, by 30-years-old, a team knows whether or not they have their franchise quarterback. Instead, the Browns are still trying to figure out Brandon Weeden is the future. Although, yesterday’s trade and the news Brian Hoyer would be starting Sunday, seems to indicate they have decided Weeden is not the future and it is time to move on.
This trade gives the Browns another first round draft pick and the ability to trade up if their franchise quarterback is within reach. Receiving a first-round draft pick for a running back is tremendous value and while I currently expect the Browns to have a top-3 pick, it is doubtful they will have to trade up to grab a franchise player, this trade gives them that luxury. If they are able to grab someone like Teddy Bridgewater with their first pick, it also allows the Browns to draft another top notch player with the first round pick they received from the Indianapolis Colts yesterday. This brings us to the second reason why the trade makes sense for the Browns.
Next Year’s Draft Has Incredible Talent At The Quarterback Position
Next April’s draft should include quarterbacks like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Georgia’s Aaron Murray, UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. With Richardson, the Browns were already off to an 0-2 start. Without Richardson and with Brian Hoyer being named the starting quarterback, the Browns should be competing for the number one overall draft pick in 2014. The Browns must think they can find a franchise quarterback in next year’s draft and instead of settling for whichever player falls to them, Cleveland must want to be able to pick their guy.
Not only should the Browns have a top-3 pick next year, but now, they should have a late first-round draft pick from the Indianapolis Colts. This gives the Browns more options. If the Browns do not have the number one overall draft pick, they could easily trade into that spot by giving up their second first-round pick. If the Browns do have the number one overall draft pick, they can support their franchise quarterback with a quality player later in the first round. With the Colts first-round draft pick, the Browns could draft another offensive tackle to play opposite Joe Thomas. Or, they could select a wide receiver to improve their receiving corps that features players like Greg Little, Davone Bess and Josh Gordon.
The Colts were able to reload in one draft by selecting quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Coby Fleener, tight end Dwayne Allen and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The Browns may be ready to follow a similar path by drafting their franchise quarterback with their top-3 draft pick, followed by adding offensive weapons with their second first-round and early second-round draft picks. The most important thing for the Browns to do in the 2014 NFL Draft is find their franchise quarterback and yesterday’s trade provides them with more opportunity to find that quarterback and surround him with talent.
Yesterday’s trade may have been one that set off anger in the Cleveland Browns fan base, but it shouldn’t have because it will allow the team to finally find their franchise quarterback. Yes, running backs are important, but no one is winning games based off of their running back’s performance. Cleveland Browns fans, would you rather have a top-5 running back or a top-5 quarterback? While yesterday’s news may have irritated you Browns fans, just close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine watching Teddy Bridgewater take the field wearing his number 5 uniform for the Browns in 2014.
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