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Can Weeden be plug-and-play starter for Cleveland?

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Posted April 26, 2012 @ 10:57 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

With their first No. 1 pick, the Browns found their featured back in Trent Richardson. I am sold on Richardson, and I believe he will start from Day One.

With their second first-rounder, the Browns made another big splash, drafting Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden No. 22 overall.

The Browns need a lot of help on offense, and none of the quarterbacks on the roster had clearly made a case to be the undisputed long-term starter in 2012. Clearly, the Browns believe Weeden can be an NFL starter at the most important position on the field. If he becomes a good starter, then this will be a slam-dunk success of a pick. And even if it fails, you can appreciate the Browns’ logic — their repeated attempts at finding a franchise passer have failed. They need to keep plugging away. Weeden has a strong arm, and his selection implies a stamp of approval from Browns president Mike Holmgren, a very good evaluator of QB talent.

But here’s the thing about Weeden: I'm not completely convinced he's the Week One starter. The West Coast offense isn’t easy to pick up, from all accounts. I’ve been told it takes three years to master. Colt McCoy, who has a year under his belt in the offense, figures to be Weeden’s primary competition in camp, and I would expect this to bring out the best in McCoy.

Now, the Browns could give the job to Weeden, making this argument moot. And if Weeden outplays McCoy — or even just plays him to a draw in the summer — the Browns would likely go with the rookie.

Weeden is no ordinary rookie. He will be 29 in October, and he came to college football only after a stint as a minor-league baseball player. Perhaps his maturity edge will shorten his learning curve.

You would have to believe that the Browns believe it will — and it may. That said, I’m not counting out McCoy just yet, as far as 2012 goes. He’s flashed some ability in his two NFL seasons, and he’s not going to back down.


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