By far the most shocking roster move of the young season took place when the Cleveland Browns shipped 2011 first round pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round pick next year. What could this mean for their 2014 NFL draft prospects?
Richardson to Indianapolis Colts signals clear intent to rebuild
No one could deny that Trent Richardson was struggling in the new Browns offense under head coach Rob Chudzinski. In 31 carries he had 105 yards. It’s easy to place blame on him for that, but the real source of the problem is the Cleveland offensive line, which has struggled mightily in pass protection too. So apparently instead of holding out hope for a turnaround from their 0-2 start, the Browns front office made a surprising, gutsy decision to trade the former 3rd overall pick to the Indianapolis Colts. Everyone knew the Colts were in the market for a running back after losing starter Vick Ballard for the year to a torn ACL. They clearly didn’t feel comfortable moving forward with veteran Ahmad Bradshaw and reserve Donald Brown. To give up their first round pick in 2014 is interesting. If anything it signals the Colts aren’t content with a step-by-step building process. They are gunning for a championship and giving second-year quarterback Andrew Luck a talent like Richardson in the backfield could pay off in enormous ways. As for Cleveland, the fact they were able to get a 1st round pick in the deal is a minor miracle and though it all but signals their resigning to another losing season, it sets them up for a big off-season next year.
Brian Hoyer move over Jason Campbell is not about winning
Another sign of their overall strategy was in their head-scratching decision to start Brian Hoyer in place of the ailing Brandon Weeden at quarterback. Hoyer has limited starting experience and hasn’t won much. What makes it even more puzzling is the Browns have a proven veteran on their depth chart in Jason Campbell. Why wouldn’t they go with a player who has 31 victories under his belt? The answer from coaches would be that Hoyer fits their offense better, but the simpler answer is Cleveland has no desire to win much in 2013. Rebuilding franchise get better faster if they have high draft pick. By plugging in Hoyer behind a struggling offensive line with no running game, they are ensuring themselves of losing the majority of their games, thus guaranteeing a top five draft choice in the first round and high picks the remaining rounds as well. Considering Cleveland will have 10 picks overall with two in the first round, this strategy could prove very fruitful.
Teddy Bridgewater seems like the logical target over Johnny Manziel
Common sense would say the Cleveland Browns front office will cater to what their coaches want. There’s no question the team needs an upgrade at quarterback. Belief in Weeden has all bud eroded and the 2014 NFL draft class is expected to be deep in signal caller talent. Months ago one of the things Rob Chudzinski alluded to was his desire to have a quarterback with mobility in his offense who can make plays. Based on that scouting report, the Browns were instantly connected with Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel, perhaps the best dual threat quarterback in college football. However, the addition of the extra first round pick changes things. Cleveland could very well end up using both picks to bolster their roster with two top talents. On the other hand it also might give them the ammunition needed to move up for a player they really want. After all, there is no guarantee they get the first overall selection. By dealing their two first rounders it would enable them to jump up near the top. In which case they may have eyes for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
While Manziel is the media lightning rod, both for his play and his antics, scouts almost universally see Bridgewater as the best quarterback prospect in the 2014 class. He ranks among the best in college football so far in 2013, possessing all the physical and mental abilities teams look for in a pro passer. He would be the perfect player to build a team around. The Cleveland Browns haven’t had somebody like him in a long time. Perhaps they intend to change that.