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A day for debate


At last, this was some serious debate.

After three days on the chalk – i.e., doing exactly what anyone remotely following the NFL Draft would expect – the 2012 reader mock draft moved into Day 4 hungry, thirsty and begging for some uncertainty.

Andrew Luck. Robert Griffin III. Matt Kalil.

Those three players – the top quarterbacks and top left tackle in the draft, respectively – had been such obvious choices that through much of Days 1-3 readers had sometimes spent as much time debating free agency and the future of Peyton Manning as the pick at hand.

That changed on Day 4. Big-time.

After nailing the selection in easy, predictable fashion on Days 1-3, we offered up Alabama running back Trent Richardson as the Cleveland Browns' selection at No. 4.

We did this knowing full well that the selection very well may not eventually be used by the Browns. There is every chance Cleveland will trade up with St. Louis to get the No. 2 selection, but in this draft, we have the Redskins moving up from No. 6, so Cleveland was on the clock.

And that pick of Richardson there? It got a little support, but it was nowhere near unanimous, and a lot of readers still seemed hooked on talking about Griffin to the Browns in some capacity.

Eric Thurman, in fact, seemed unwilling to accept the current state of the mock.

"I think Cleveland gets RG3 with the 4th pick," he wrote. "Rams don't trade and take the LT from USC."

While that's not out of the question, we're not going back at this point and changing the mock, and while Mike Cowan didn't think much of Washington moving up in our mock, he was willing to accept it long enough to offer a solid alternative to Richardson.

"I personally think Cleveland will be the team trading up to get RGIII because they have the first-round ammunition, but since the mock has already made Washington trade up to the spot, I'll go with Mo Claiborne, the BAP on the board," Cowan said.

While many readers agreed with Cowan and focused on Claiborne for the Browns, there also was strong sentiment for a player who almost certainly won't last long in this reader mock.

Justin Blackmon has been a major focus among Jaguars draftniks since well before the end of last season, and among reader mockers, there seems a strong feeling that he's going off the board far earlier than some draft analysts believe.

There are plenty of analysts who wonder if Blackmon is significantly superior to other receivers in this draft to merit a Top 10 selection, but in our mock, the Oklahoma State standout got mention to the Vikings at No. 3 and he got major support to the Browns at No. 4.

"They could pick a variety of guys to bolster their miserable offense," Matt wrote. "The Browns have been in the bottom four teams for points and yards on offense for four straight years.  They are desperate for a good WR . . . . Justin Blackmon is the pick here."

Scott weighed in with the first words of support for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and noted that with the Browns seemingly having a need at the position the third-ranked quarterback in the draft might make sense.

"He (Tannehill) won't be available by the time they pick again, and later in Round One they can land a solid player at a number of positions," Scot wrote.

That logic makes sense, but because we're only allowing the one trade in the first round – the Washington trade with St. Louis – we can't move the Browns back here. If we did, that would make a lot more sense, because No. 4 just, plain seems too high – even for a quarterback such as Tannehill, whose stock seems to be rising.

Andy R, for his part, said the Browns would focus on just about anyone but the two highest-ranking skill guys left on most reader's board.

"If the Browns don't get Griffin they will take Reiff, Coples, Ingram, or Claiborne before Richardson or Blackmon," he wrote.

While Claiborne makes sense, No. 4 seems way too high for Reiff, Coples or Inrgam, but then again, someone a few weeks back had Illinois defensive end/linebacker Whitney Mercilus to the Jaguars at No. 7 – and Mercilus isn't projecting anywhere near the Top 10. Yet.

But we'll have plenty of time to debate Mercilus in the coming days. As of Day 4, we were still trying to figure out something for the Browns, and when trying to make sense of some very sensible debating, arguments for Richardson still made as much sense as any.

"I think they'll go for Trent Richardson," Colin Tracy wrote. "Crazy talent, and I think the Hillis/Richardson combo would be really attractive (assuming Hillis is healthy, which, if not, makes the move so much more needed for them). They've always been a pound-the-ball team, and they'll shoot for WR's in Free Agency."

Never mind that indications are strong that Hillis may not be back with the Browns, the argument still makes sense – the Browns like to run, and there have been pre-draft indications that they agree about Richardson being a crazy talent. The guess here is that they covet that crazy talent enough to override J-School Corby's well-thought-out argument that Browns President Mike Holmgren isn't known for selecting running backs this high in the draft.

True, J-School, true, but the gut says enough people think Richardson is special enough that maybe this is a year Holmgren goes against the pattern. That means for this draft, it's Richardson to the Browns, which means the reader mock through four days looks like:

1.Indianapolis|Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2.Washington|Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

3.Minnesota|Ryan Kalil, OT, Southern California

4.Cleveland|Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

That brings us to No. 5, Tampa Bay. We'll offer up Morris Claiborne, and I while I fear we're going to go with the chalk again, we'll see. Maybe a couple of days of weekend time to debate will bring up something we haven't yet considered. Have a good weekend, and while you're doing that . . .

Have at it.

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