As the 2013 NFL draft approaches, there are more and more believers at Radio City Music Hall who feel West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith could be wearing Cleveland Browns orange after the first round.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio is among those feeling that speculation to be true, as he reported earlier on Thursday that buzz around the building puts Cleveland in talks to trade above the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 4 pick) to snatch Smith in Round 1:
There’s a building buzz that the Browns could be plotting to move from No. 6 to No. 3 to get quarterback Geno Smith before the Eagles take him at No. 4.
For the Browns, a move to No. 3 would mark the second straight year in which the Browns climbed into the three spot. Last year, the Browns traded from No. 4 to No. 3 to get running back Trent Richardson. This year, a move to get Geno Smith would be far bolder.
Bold is indeed the word of choice with respect to this decision.
If Cleveland does follow through and find a way to move ahead of the Eagles—who have shown significant interest in Smith throughout the process under new head coach Chip Kelly—it could be the start of a quarterback battle.
Cleveland drafted Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden with its 22nd pick in the first round last year, but this is not the same management that made the decision to add the then 27-year-old to the mix to replace Colt McCoy.
This is Rob Chudzinski's team now, and with it there is a new offense to put in place. Chudzinski, considered an offensive guru to some, managed to win 10 games as Cleveland's offensive coordinator with Derek Anderson under center, but his offense in Carolina the past two years with Cam Newton is really the one that has turned heads.
To improve upon that offense and continue mixing in read-option plays, there's little doubt the younger, more athletic Smith would be an upgrade under center in a more run-oriented, read-option attack and would give defensive ends fits when trying to decide who they would rather stop (Smith or Richardson).
That could make for a QB battle in camp (if Cleveland decides to draft Smith), or the end of the Weeden era after just one chance to prove he can stick as an NFL starter.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport is another interested party at Radio City Music Hall, and he's hearing that Smith might already be gone if the Browns fail to trade up, hence the report from Florio expanding on this thought:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
Where will Geno Smith go? Could #Browns end up grabbing him at No. 6? Starting to hear he may not make it there. Could that be #Eagles?2013-4-25 22:02:49
Jamison Hensley of ESPN wrote on Wednesday night that he too was hearing rumors of Cleveland being interested in Smith with the No. 6 pick, noting that he feels that Cleveland becoming just the second team ever to take a QB in the first round in back-to-back years is a long shot.
That being said, general manager Mike Lombardi isn't a Weeden fan, and this is a new era of Cleveland football under Chudzinki, Lombardi and new defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Throw conventional wisdom aside when trying to sift through rumors of Cleveland's whereabouts with the No. 6 pick.
One thing is for sure—the Browns have no room to squander their selection. Without a second-round pick due to the Josh Gordon selection in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft, Cleveland is making a boom-or-bust decision by taking another QB in Round 1.
We don't know if they will or not, but the Browns are at the very least discussing the possibility of starting over under center for the third straight season.
If they do so, fans will expect a quick turnaround and no more first-round picks on QBs for the foreseeable future.