Fixing the running game wasn’t enough for the Cleveland Browns.
They decided to remodel their entire backfield.
Desperate for playmakers to ignite one of the NFL’s worst offenses, the Browns traded three late picks to Minnesota and moved up one spot to No. 3 and selected Trent Richardson, Alabama’s explosive running back. Later Thursday night, the Browns used their other first-round pick on Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden.
The arrival of the 28-year-old Weeden, a former minor league baseball player, ends Colt McCoy’s tenure in Cleveland’s starter.
“I was hoping that this would happen,” said Weeden, who spent draft day at home in Oklahoma. “This night went just as I hoped.”
For the Browns as well.
They entered the draft looking to improve an offense that ranked 30th in scoring last season, averaging just 13.6 points per game. Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert’s priority was to find playmakers, and in Richardson and Weeden, the Browns believe they’ve found two players who can help them win and close the gap on the rest of the AFC North.
“I don’t know if we transformed the offense, but we’ve gotten better,” general manager Tom Heckert said. “That was the goal.”
Heckert said the Browns selected Weeden to be a future starter — perhaps immediately. Heckert said the club will spend the next few days discussing a trade of McCoy, who went 6-15 as a starter.
The dynamic Richardson should make an immediate impact on Cleveland’s rushing game, which managed just four touchdowns last season. The 5-foot-9, 228-pound Richardson scored 21 for the national champion Crimson Tide.
“He’s passionate. He’s productive. He’s durable and he’s the kind of runner we feel is going to help us get our offense together to score the points that we need to win the games that we’re going to win,” said Browns coach Pat Shurmur.
Shurmur said the Browns were convinced a team would leapfrog them to select Richardson. The deal with Minnesota ensured they would get their man.
“Unfortunately we had to make a little trade to secure the pick,” Shurmur said. “We knew as we went through the process that he was our guy and so we did what we had to do to secure it.”
Richardson was stunned to be taken by the Browns.
“I didn’t expect to go this high,” he said after donning a Browns No. 1 jersey and baseball cap on the stage of New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
Heckert sent the Vikings picks in the fourth (No. 118), fifth (139) and seventh (211) rounds to move up and select Richardson, who rushed for 1,679 yards last season.
During the offseason, the Browns fell short in their pursuit for quarterback Robert Griffin III. Cleveland was outbid by Washington, which selected the Heisman Trophy winner second overall.
While Weeden’s age may have been viewed negatively by some teams, the Browns feel he can answer their problems at QB. McCoy, a former third-round pick, made 13 starts last season before missing the final three games with a concussion.
“I wasn’t concerned about his age,” Shurmur said. “I was impressed with his maturity and production on tape. We became very fond of him.”