Editor’s note: Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich has submitted his sixth and final mock draft of the year. His previous mocks can be found at www.ohio.com/browns. Here are his predictions for the top 40 picks:
1. Indianapolis Colts — Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis Rams) — Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
3. Minnesota Vikings — Southern California offensive tackle Matt Kalil.
4. Browns — Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
Analysis: Richardson is not only the best offensive player available, but he also satisfies a dire need created by the departure of Peyton Hillis. The Browns ranked 30th in scoring (13.6 points per game) and 29th in offense (288.8 yards per game) last season, so finding offensive skill players who can contribute immediately should be their top priority. Richardson can run well inside or outside, do damage as a receiver out of the backfield and serve as a solid pass protector. He’s the type of force the Browns need to compete in the AFC North.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne.
6. St. Louis Rams — Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars — South Carolina defensive end/linebacker Melvin Ingram.
8. Miami Dolphins — Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
9. Carolina Panthers — Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
10. Buffalo Bills — Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.
11. Kansas City Chiefs — Alabama strong safety Mark Barron.
12. Seattle Seahawks — North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples.
13. Arizona Cardinals — Stanford guard David DeCastro.
14. Dallas Cowboys — Louisiana State defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
15. Philadelphia Eagles — South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
16. New York Jets — Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) — Alabama defensive end/linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
18. San Diego Chargers — Southern California defensive end Nick Perry.
19. Chicago Bears — Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff.
20. Tennessee Titans — Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
21. Cincinnati Bengals — Boise State running back Doug Martin.
22. Browns (from Atlanta) — Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright.
Analysis: Wright is a dynamic playmaker who can gain the yards after the catch that are invaluable in coach Pat Shurmur’s version of the West Coast offense. The Browns could field their first respectable receiving corps in years by pairing Wright with Greg Little. Adding reliable targets for Colt McCoy or whoever plays quarterback (see No. 37 below) is vital.
23. Detroit Lions — Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
25. Denver Broncos — Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
26. Houston Texans — Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn.
27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) — Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones.
28. Green Bay Packers — Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy.
29. Baltimore Ravens — Boise State defensive end/linebacker Shea McClellin.
30. San Francisco 49ers — Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill.
31. New England Patriots — Notre Dame free safety Harrison Smith.
32. New York Giants — Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.
33. St. Louis Rams — Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes.
34. Indianapolis Colts — Stanford tight end Coby Fleener.
35. Minnesota Vikings — North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
36. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David.
37. Browns — Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Analysis: Although the Browns’ decision makers have voiced their support for McCoy time and again, they are open to upgrading the position. Weeden will turn 29 in October, but if the Browns believe he can beat McCoy in a training camp battle, they should take him despite his age.
38. Jacksonville Jaguars — Louisiana State wide receiver Reuben Randle.
39. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) — Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams.
40. Carolina Panthers — Virginia Tech running back David Wilson.
More from Ulrich
A few more thoughts about the Browns’ draft plans:
•?I think the Browns prefer the presumed candidates for the No. 4 pick in this order: Richardson, Claiborne, Blackmon, Kalil and Tannehill.
•?With the Vikings aggressively trying to trade down from No. 3, there’s a chance a team (the Jets, Buccaneers, Bills and Rams are rumored possibilities) could leapfrog the Browns and nab Richardson. If that happens, I think the Browns would take Claiborne.
•?I would not be surprised, either, if Browns General Manager Tom Heckert tried to trade down.
•?I would be surprised if Heckert traded up to No. 3 despite this tweet on Wednesday night by former NFL GM Charley Casserly, who’s now an analyst for NFL Network and CBS Sports: “Cleve and TB both have spoken to Minn about trading up to presumably take Trent Richardson.” When asked last week if he would trade up to No. 3, Heckert said, “It’s highly unlikely.”
•?If the Browns take anyone other than Blackmon at No. 4, I believe the most logical approach at No. 22 would be to target the best receiver available. I’m leaning toward Wright, though it could be someone else, like Hill. If the Browns choose instead to address their need for an offensive right tackle at No. 22, Glenn or Jonathan Martin could be in play.
•?Former Browns receiver Gary Collins will announce the team’s second-round pick, and I think he’ll be calling Weeden’s name if he’s available. If not, the Browns could target an outside linebacker like David or a right tackle like Adams or Mississippi's Bobby Massie, provided they’re still on the board.
•?However, I think the Browns believe they can wait until the third (No. 67) or fourth round (Nos. 100 and 118) to draft a right tackle who can start as a rookie. California’s Mitchell Schwartz and Oklahoma’s Donald Stephenson are among the logical candidates.
•?The Browns will enter the draft with a league-high 13 picks, but I don’t think they’ll select 13 players. I expect Heckert to give up some of those choices in trades. Regardless, I think the Browns will take prospects from just about every position group except maybe tight ends and specialists.
— Nate Ulrich