NFL Insider: The Draft Begins With Cleveland

Barring an unbelievable surprise, the first three picks in the draft appear to be set in stone. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be the guy who follows the legend in Indianapolis; The Redskins moved heaven and earth and the first-round picks in the next two drafts to get into position to take Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, III. The Minnesota Vikings have a high first-round pick invested in Christian Ponder and they will likely use the third-overall pick to select USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil.

The first real bit of intrigue won’t occur until the Cleveland Browns go on the clock with one of their two first-round picks. With top prospects such as Morris Claiborne, Justin Blackmon and Trent Richardson likely to be available, what the Browns will do will affect most of the Top 10.

If the Browns select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, they will immediately have the best young cornerback duo in football with he and Joe Haden. Although cornerback isn’t the most desperate of needs for a team which averaged just 13.6 points per game.

The ripple of effect of Cleveland selecting Claiborne would likely leave Tampa Bay, selecting fifth-overall, to draft Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Richardson would immediately improve the league’s 27th ranked scoring offense from a season ago, and form a fine running back tandem with LeGarrette Blount.

The Bucs allocated a large chunk of their free agency piggy-bank on wide receiver Vincent Jackson, and it seems unlikely that they would further splurge a high draft pick on Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

If Cleveland were to select Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon or Ryan Tannehill, the value of Tampa Bay’s fifth-overall pick would increase significantly. If the Bucs selected Claiborne he could pair with free agent acquisition Eric Wright. Tampa still has troubled former first-round pick Aqib Talib and legend Ronde Barber already at the position.

With teams such as St. Louis, Jacksonville, Dallas, Carolina and Buffalo desperately seeking help at the cornerback position, Tampa Bay could realistically decide how far they’d like to move back and acquire more picks to build with. With a team which lost 10 straight games to finish 2011, there are certainly more holes on the roster that one offseason spending spree could fix and a trade back would likely help the team in the long-term.

If the Cleveland Browns opt to select Texas A & M quarterback Ryan Tannehill or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Tampa is left with many options. If they feel Trent Richardson is their guy, they could likely roll the dice and trade back with Jacksonville who holds the seventh-overall pick. Jacksonville would select Morris Claiborne and there’s an excellent chance that the Bucs could grab Richardson at the seventh-overall pick.

Here’s a list of some Top 10 possibilities:

1. Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2. Washington Redskins- Robert Griffin, III, QB, Baylor

3. Minnesota Vikings- Matt Kalil, OT, USC

If the Cleveland Browns select Trent Richardson with the fourth-overall pick…


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Morris Claiborne, CB LSU

6. St. Louis Rams- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

8. Miami Dolphins- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A & M

9. Carolina Panthers- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

10. Buffalo Bills- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

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If the Cleveland Browns select Morris Claiborne with the fourth-overall pick…


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

6. St. Louis Rams- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

8. Miami Dolphins- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A & M

9. Carolina Panthers- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

10. Buffalo Bills- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

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If the Cleveland Browns select Ryan Tannehill with the fourth-overall pick…

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Tampa Bay)- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

6. St. Louis Rams- Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Jacksonville)- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

8. Miami Dolphins- Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

9. Carolina Panthers- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

10. Buffalo Bills- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

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If the Cleveland Browns select Justin Blackmon with the fourth-overall pick…


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

6. St. Louis Rams- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

8. Miami Dolphins- Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A & M

9. Carolina Panthers- Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

10. Buffalo Bills- Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

Every year the NFL Draft inevitably has some surprises. With the first three picks already likely being decided, the shape of the first round of this draft will depend on what the Cleveland Browns do with their fourth-overall pick.

Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie

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