If there is one side whose draft picks are going to come under more scrutiny than any other team then it is the Cleveland Browns. With three picks in the first 37 in the draft you can expect them to be relying heavily on their rookies this season.
Fast forward to Week 1 of the upcoming regular season and many who bet on NFL will are anticipating a scenario where there could be as many as six rookie players in the Browns’ starting 22.
The obvious starters for the Browns are the overall number three pick Trent Richardson, who is destined to be the starting running-back in Cleveland, and it looks like that their other first-round pick quarterback, Brandon Weedon will start, despite denials from GM Tom Heckert and team president Mike Holmgren.
Of their top three picks, that just leaves Mitchell Schwartz and, although he’s going to have to adjust to the power and pace of the pro game, he looks as though he could well adapt.
There is no doubt that the Browns are rebuilding - they have had to - but whilst it will be a challenge to win with these rookies from the start of the season, the Bengals proved last season that you can win with rookie-led teams and make the post-season.
The other rookies that could make the Browns starting line-up didn’t figure so highly in the draft, but remember that there are often some hidden gems way down the list, and the other three that could start are certainly not lacking in talent.
Third-round pick John Hughes looks a versatile sort. and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that fourth-rounder Travis Benjamin could see some action at wide-receiver - a position the Browns hardly have strength in depth in.
Fellow fourth-rounder Michael Johnson could well complete the sextet of rookie starters in place of the likely-to-be-suspended outside linebacker Scott Fujita.
The Browns are 13 years into the re-birth of their franchise and much of the responsibility of leading this year’s regeneration programme, and defying NFL betting odds, will fall on the shoulders of the rookie class of 2012.