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ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. believes Browns buying into RG3 mania, oust Colt McCoy

By Nate Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal –

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. believes two players from Baylor could help revive the Browns’ inept offense.

In his first mock draft of the year, Kiper has the Browns selecting the Baylor tandem of quarterback Robert Griffin III and wide receiver Kendall Wright with the fourth and 22nd overall picks, respectively, on April 26. The Browns have two first-round picks in 2012 because of their draft-day trade last year with the Atlanta Falcons.

Of course, Kiper’s projections will change after the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins Feb. 22, and free agency, which starts March 13. Still, Kiper is convinced the Browns must acquire a quarterback and a wide receiver they can plug into the starting lineup. The Browns ranked 29th in offense (288.8 yards per game) and 30th in scoring (13.6 points per game) during the 2011 regular season.

“They have to get a quarterback,” Kiper said Thursday on a national conference call. “I think they pretty much resolved themselves to the fact that they’re gonna go that route. They’re gonna probably kick Colt McCoy to the curb. That’s what happens with a lot of young quarterbacks who don’t have great physical qualifications, and he struggled. They didn’t have a lot of talent around him, particularly at wide receiver. So they have to get a wide receiver.”

In Kiper’s opinion, the Browns will exercise one of a few options to find a new quarterback.

They could sign Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn as a free agent or trade for him if he receives a franchise tag.

“Does Cleveland have an interest with Flynn?” Kiper said. “He would fit more what they do offensively, I think, than certainly he would fit some of the other teams.”

The Browns could also draft Griffin — if he’s available. Other teams, including the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins, might try to trade with the St. Louis Rams and move up the draft board into the No. 2 spot, so they could nab Griffin, Kiper said. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is expected to become the No. 1 overall pick.

“In terms of RG3, he’s gonna go, I believe, four to two — two being in a trade,” Kiper said. “Now the question’s gonna be, ‘How many teams are competing for him? How many teams really want him to be their quarterback?’ Every team’s not gonna want the top quarterbacks in their system. Every team doesn’t love every quarterback.”

Last month, Browns coach Pat Shurmur called Griffin a “tremendous talent, good player.” When asked if Griffin would fit into the Browns’ West Coast offense, Shurmur said, “Good players fit in every offense.” Kiper said Griffin, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, attracts NFL teams not only because of his athleticism, but also because of his arm.

“He’s a heck of a passer,” Kiper said. “That’s his strength, … throwing the ball accurately on deep ball. Throwing it down the field was remarkable this year. His numbers were across-the-board better than Andrew Luck. Now he’s not as good as Andrew Luck as a prospect, but I think the passing ability of RG3 was very understated and underrated going into this year, and finally everybody has kind of jumped on the bandwagon.”

As for Wright, his speed would give the Browns something they sorely lack, Kiper said.

“Kendall Wright’s gonna be one of the faster players in this draft,” Kiper said. “He’s a pure, polished receiver. He’s not just a track guy, speed option, and he’s got the return ability. They need a speed guy. They’ve drafted enough possession types. They need a speed guy, and I think Kendall Wright from Baylor would be heavily in that discussion if they still have that choice come late April.”

If Griffin is not available at No. 4, Kiper said he thinks the Browns could target Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon or Alabama running back Trent Richardson, depending on whether Peyton Hillis departs in free agency.

“I would think you’ve gotta go offense,” Kiper said. “You cannot score the minimal amount of points that they did and be winning games in this league. I think the offense has to get a shot in the arm.”

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