By Tony Grossi
Morning kickoff …
Follow the general manager and coach: Thursday might have marked the seminal moment of the Browns’ draft evaluation process.
Faced with a conflict in pro day workouts, GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur could have broken up and split duty between Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
Instead, they chose to double-team the Richardson workout.
They would probably say that logistics played a big part in their choice. Tuscaloosa, Ala., is a lot closer to Palm Beach, Fla, where the team’s top two football executives had spent the week attending NFL owners meetings. But I think there’s more to it than that.
Of all the offensive players attached to the Browns with the No. 4 pick in the draft, Richardson probably has been the least talked about.
Asked directly if Richardson is under consideration for the No. 4 pick, Shurmur said this week at NFL meetings, “I’m not going to talk about my five guys (in the running). He is an outstanding player … he’s been very productive on a team that’s won a lot of games.”
In a different context, Shurmur was asked what a pain it was last season to not be able to practice with his starting running back from week to week and sometimes not even know which back would start until game time.
“You need not remind me,” he replied. “But I do know that’s a critical position, and the quarterback has to have confidence that he can turn around and hand the ball off and get yards, or drop back and know (the back’s) going to protect properly, or drop back and throw it to him. That’s an important confidence to have.”
Colt McCoy didn’t have that confidence last season. And if the Browns are determined to surround him with better pieces on offense, Shurmur just made a strong case in the above paragraph that the best running back in the draft – Richardson – is the best selection at No. 4.
Richardson v. Tannehill: Draft expert Dane Brugler of nfldraftscout.com and cbssports.com lives in Dallas, so he attended the Tannehill workout in College Station, Texas. Brugler has been high on Tannehill since the fall.
“He’s got all the physical abilities – strong arm, excellent size, good feet,” Brugler said Thursday night. “He had right foot surgery in late January. It was important to see him move around the pocket, make some sharp cuts. He ran well. Besides Andrew Luck, he’s probably the best quarterback in the draft at throwing on the run, at squaring his shoulders and throwing accurately.
“Plus, he played in a lot of traditional formations under center under Mike Sherman at Texas A&M. And he’s got everything you can’t teach. He’s smart, confident, driven, very mature.”
Brugler talked to Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress at the workout. Childress told him, “He’s played in a system that prepares him for every throw there is. He gets it. He knows what he needs to do. This guy is one of those guys who is capable of doing all the things you need to be able to do.”
And yet … Brugler said Richardson is the right pick for the Browns at No. 4.
“Mike Holmgren believes that in the first round you go for talent, then you build your team around that after the first round,” Brugler said. “I think Trent Richardson is the best offensive player on the board for the Browns at No. 4.
“Richardson a special kid, a combination of Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s 5-9, 228, and so thick. Every ounce of muscle he can possibly have, he has it. No one works harder than he does. If he stays healthy he’ll be a special back for the next 10 years.”
One more thing about Tannehill: I respect Mike Mayock of NFL Network a whole bunch. I really do. But when he says the Browns have to take Tannehill at No. 4, I cringe.
I can’t help but recall Mayock's evaluation of the Quarterback Class of 2011. I watched Mayock every night a year ago and he consistently said that Blaine Gabbert was the better pick over Cam Newton. In Mayock's parlance, tha'ts what you call a terrible misread.
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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