Draft Grade: C+
When Cleveland looks back on this draft, it will wish it had gone something like this: Ryan Tannehill at Number 4, Doug Martin at Number 22, keep the rest of the picks (or use them to trade up on Days 2 or 3) and laugh all the way to the bank.
Trent Richardson may be superior to Martin– but it’s close. Richardson brings a more complete package to the table (ball security, blocking, balance), but my guess is that if Martin can address a few of the holes in his game, experts may someday regard him as the superior player.
I cannot say the same for Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill anticipates throws better and has a much stronger arm than Weeden. (To say nothing of Tannehill’s athleticism.) Tannehill will flourish in Miami, while Weeden represents a marginal upgrade to Colt McCoy.
Moreover, this particular pick represents an example of where taking a superior, more reliable player takes a back seat to position scarcity. A good QB is much more rare than a good running back. A good team rolls the dice on a talented-if-unpolished QB in the top ten, and finds a way to add a talented RB to its roster later in the draft.
Admittedly, I’m not particularly familiar with the rest of the players in Cleveland’s draft, but a brief film study doesn’t inspire confidence that they uncovered a goldmine of talent in the lower rounds that would catapult their overall draft management above a middling grade. Mitchell Schwartz actually looks quite formidable in run and pass. But ILB Johnson’s game doesn’t jump off the screen at you. With the caveat that there may be a gem or two in the other picks, I am uninspired by Holmgren’s draft this year.
Note: Unlike many commentators, I don’t give teams extra credit in this draft for successfully completing trades in past years that led to additional picks here. Each draft can be evaluated on its merits, that’s the beauty. Good for Cleveland if trading down a few picks last year netted it an extra first-rounder this year– but that was last year’s coup. This year, they failed to capitalize on those picks as effectively as possible.
Much was made in the lead-up to this draft of the cost of mis-drafting a QB: either drafting the wrong one too high, or failing to draft the right one, given the opportunity. Over-drafting a running back represents just as much a sin: it may be a waste of a pick on a position in which there is relatively little disparity between the draft’s top talents and those lower down. In this case, Cleveland committed both in one– and may rue this draft for years to come as a result.
This is the first in a series of commentaries on NFL teams’ draft selections from the 2012 Draft.