BEREA: The Browns made attempts to resuscitate their offense Thursday night by selecting Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Browns General Manager Tom Heckert entered the draft with 13 picks in his arsenal, including two in the first round (the fourth and 22nd overall selections). But Heckert traded picks in the first (No. 4), fourth (No. 118), fifth (No. 139) and seventh (No. 211) rounds to the Minnesota Vikings, allowing the Browns to move up to the No. 3 slot, where they nabbed Richardson.
“It’s bigger than winning my national championship,” Richardson said during a conference call. “The feeling I got right now is incredible.”
The Browns later stayed put at No. 22 and drafted Weeden. He played minor-league baseball for five seasons before pursuing his collegiate football career. He’ll turn 29 on Oct. 14.
Leading up to the draft, the Browns’ decision makers said they were willing to give Colt McCoy another shot as their starting quarterback, but they never ruled out drafting another player at the position with one of their first three picks. Heckert reiterated that he expects players taken in the first round to play as rookies.
“I’m gonna come in and compete,” Weeden said by phone. “That’s just my nature. I want to come in and give it all I have to be the best player I can.”
Drafting the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Weeden in the first round, as opposed to early in the second round (No. 37), was the second surprise the Browns pulled off in the opening round. He’s the fifth quarterback drafted by the Browns in the first round and the first since Brady Quinn in 2007.
“When you’re talking about a quarterback, we just didn’t think it was worth taking a risk,” Heckert said. “There’s some teams we know that were interested in him behind us.”
“Eventually he’s gonna be a starter for us. That’s why we drafted him.”
When asked if the Browns will trade McCoy, Heckert said it’s something the team would discuss.
The first twist of the night occurred when Heckert wheeled and dealed for Richardson. News of the trade broke about an hour before the draft began.
The 5-9, 228-pound Richardson later became the first running back drafted by the Browns in the first round since William Green in 2002. The No. 3 pick is the highest selection the Browns have used on a running back, surpassing the sixth overall choice they spent on hall of famer Jim Brown in 1957.
Heckert said he knew the Vikings had offers from other teams. He decided to ensure the Browns would not be leapfrogged by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or anyone else who might have wanted to get Richardson at No. 3. Heckert and Co. fell short last month while bidding for the No. 2 pick and the rights for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, but they were not denied in their aggressive pursuit of Richardson.
“As we went through the process, we knew he was our guy,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “So we did what we had to do to secure it. We had pretty good knowledge there were teams behind us that wanted him as well.”
In the 2011 draft, Heckert traded with the Atlanta Falcons, moving down from No. 6 to No. 27 and later moving up to No. 21 to take defensive tackle Phil Taylor. As part of their blockbuster deal with the Falcons, the Browns gained the 22nd overall pick, which they used to take Weeden, and an extra pick in the fourth round (No. 118), which they traded to the Vikings.
The Browns still have the following eight selections: second round (No. 37), third round (No. 67), fourth round (No. 100), fifth round (No. 160), sixth round (Nos. 204 and 205) and seventh round (Nos. 245 and 247). Wide receiver and right offensive tackle are their most pressing needs heading into the second round today. Receivers Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech and Reuben Randle of Louisiana State are still on the board along with tackles Cordy Glenn of Georgia, Mike Adams of Ohio State, Jonathan Martin of Stanford and Bobby Massie of Mississippi.
Regardless, one of the league’s worst offensive teams sparked a major overhaul with the additions of Richardson and Weeden. The Browns ranked 29th in offense (288.8 yards per game), 30th in scoring (13.6 points per game) and 30th in touchdowns (21) last season. Now they’ll rely on Richardson and Weeden to spearhead a turnaround.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.