Robert Griffin III throws the draft into overdrive
Robert Griffin III energized the predraft hysteria when he officially declared Wednesday that he would leave Baylor for the NFL. "Energized" might not be strong enough of a word. Griffin just gave the draft a two-month supply of twice-a-day Five Hour Energy drink. He will surely become the object of affection for any NFL team not in Indianapolis that needs a quarterback. The Colts own the first pick, and they will surely take Andrew Luck of Stanford. They haven’t said that yet, but neither has the next lottery winner said they’ll be ecstatic. That leaves Griffin the next best quarterback available — and it leaves the St. Louis Rams in a very enviable position.
The closer the draft approaches, the more quarterback-needy teams will realize the only way to ensure they can get Griffin will be a trade up — and St. Louis drafting second is the most likely target. The Rams have invested a lot of time and money in Sam Bradford, and a 2-14 team needs players at a variety of positions, which the Rams could get with a trade down. If the Rams keep the pick, that means Minnesota might be able to finagle a trade down with the third spot. Teams would not fear the Vikings taking Griffin — general manager Rick Spielman told Christian Ponder they would not take a quarterback to compete with him — but very few NFL observers expect Griffin to get past the Browns with the fourth pick. That’s true even though there are many good reasons for the Browns not to take a quarterback. Cleveland has needs at many positions, and it has Colt McCoy returning. McCoy had a rough 2011, but he also had little help. The Browns could easily decide to build around McCoy, a theory that holds some water. Too, Cleveland has had a bad habit of starting and re-starting with quarterbacks. Derek Anderson went to the Pro Bowl and threw 29 touchdowns for a 10-win team, but that didn’t stop fans from clamoring for Brady Quinn the following season. Fans clamored for Quinn, just as they clamored for Charlie Frye, Jeff Garcia, Kelly Holcomb and, yes, McCoy. Now they clamor for Griffin to replace McCoy — because Griffin is the next great unknown. It’s a cycle that has held the Browns back. Team president Mike Holmgren is on record saying he would change quarterbacks every year to find the right guy, but it was Holmgren who urged GM Tom Heckert to consider McCoy in the third round in 2010, and Holmgren who said McCoy still can be a franchise quarterback, though he’s not yet. Holmgren believes in taking a quarterback almost every year in the draft. But he’s not always been successful. In Green Bay, with Ron Wolf as GM, the Packers took some good ones among the six they drafted: Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell and Matt Hasselbeck. In Seattle, when Holmgren was in charge of the drafts, his choices were Brock Huard in 1999, Josh Booty in 2001 and Jeff Kelly in 2002. After the 2002 season, Holmgren was relieved of GM duties, but his input in the draft led to the selection of Seneca Wallace in ’03 and David Greene in ’05. Holmgren’s best quarterbacks were acquired in a trade. Wolf traded for Brett Favre in Green Bay, and Holmgren engineered the deal that brought Hasselbeck to Seattle. This might encourage Holmgren to make a run at Bradford, whom he liked a great deal two years ago. The Browns have an extra first-round pick this year, the 22nd overall, which Atlanta gave up to select Julio Jones. Two fourth-round picks would an enticing start to a trade up. But Heckert, who is in charge of the draft, said he doesn’t think the Browns would do that to get a quarterback. He and Holmgren both said the reason they gave up Jones was so they could stockpile picks to replenish the roster.
The discussion will rage, and expect the Browns to keep people guessing to keep all options open — even a trade down if Griffin slides to four. The other two teams in bad need of a quarterback are Miami and Washington. The Dolphins will have a new coach and Chad Henne and Matt Moore as incumbents. A new coach would want a new start, which might be the impetus for the Dolphins to make a major move. Washington suffered through John Beck and Rex Grossman. Enough said. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder loves the big offseason splash, and a new quarterback would also buy Mike Shanahan some time — have to let him “develop” of course. Washington has the sixth overall selection, which would allow St. Louis (or even Cleveland) to still get a standout player. The Redskins would have to part with next year’s No. 1, and they also have an extra fourth-round pick (from Oakland for … quarterback Jason Campbell). If Griffin does go second, it would be the third time in 14 years that the draft had quarterbacks taken first and second. The lesson when that happened: There is no certainty. In 1999, the Browns took Tim Couch first and the Eagles took Donovan McNabb. The Eagles went to a Super Bowl and four other NFC championship games with McNabb. Couch, for a variety of reasons, never succeeded. In 1998, the Colts took Peyton Manning first and the Chargers took Ryan Leaf second. It’s pretty evident how that worked out. Let the hysteria begin.