After a disappointing season in which they finished 4-12 and last in the AFC North division, the Cleveland Browns have had yet another long offseason to evaluate the team's needs and hopefully make some progress in one of the tougher divisions in all of the NFL.
In fact, all three of the Browns' division rivals made the postseason last year, so the Browns have a lot of work to do in order to gain ground and try to push for a postseason berth, which has not happened for them since 2007.
For the past few seasons, the Browns have been lacking a big-time player at wide receiver. Veteran Josh Cribbs is currently the Browns' best passing threat, but he is best suited as a special teams player due to his ability to run back kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns.
The Browns already have a solid quarterback in Colt McCoy, and with a good offensive line led by former first-round pick Joe Thomas, all the Browns really need is an explosive receiver in order to hopefully score more points each game.
With their first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, the Browns should draft Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State with the fourth overall pick. During his junior season, Blackmon caught 121 passes for 1,522 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
At 6'1'' and 215 pounds, Blackmon is quite fast for a receiver, having run a 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash. He also can jump pretty high, which could definitely be useful in red-zone situations, so it will be interesting to see how his talents can transform from college to the NFL.
The defensive backs of both teams are very solid in particular, so in order for the Browns to even think of gaining a few more wins next season, they will definitely need to improve on their passing game, which has struggled over the years against good defenses like that of the Ravens and Steelers.
Perhaps the Browns may not find more success right away, with or without Blackmon. Again, the Browns are in a tough division and should definitely continue to rebuild. The Ravens and Steelers are not going to get any worse, and the Bengals are on the rise as well.
With this being said, the Browns should keep progressing at their own pace so that hopefully they will be ready to contend if their division opponents do not play as well in future seasons.
One of these years, things will work out for the Browns, but as long as the Ravens and Steelers continue playing like two of the NFL's top five teams, the Browns will be stuck in a grave that will be nearly impossible to dig out of right now.
Ever since Joe Thomas was taken third overall in the 2007 NFL draft, the Browns have failed to have much immediate success with their first-round picks. Most notably, Brady Quinn is now a backup quarterback for the Chiefs.
The Browns' first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft was defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who had a solid rookie season, but being that defensive tackles do not get as much attention compared to other positions, his season went more or less unnoticed compared to that of players in more respected positions on the field.
Having an explosive receiver like Blackmon on the field next season would instantly change the way that opposing defenses would view the Browns offense. Cornerbacks and safeties would actually have to really pay attention to the premier duo that Blackmon and Josh Cribbs could potentially turn into, which would mean that the Browns should no longer be taken lightly.
Being a popular player among college football fans, there's also a very good chance that Blackmon would help the Browns make money through merchandise sales. His jersey would instantly become a top seller among both Browns fans.
Furthermore, not only would Cleveland fans want Blackmon jerseys, but so would people in Oklahoma that cheered for him while he played at one of the most respected college football programs in the country.
All in all, Justin Blackmon would be a perfect fit for the Browns offense, and the Browns front office should not second-guess choosing him with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
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