When draft day is the biggest day of your season, you aren’t a very good team or organization. For the Cleveland Browns, once again, draft day is the biggest day of their season as they try to build a team that can compete for relevancy. Yeah, I said it. I don’t think the Browns are in a position to compete for a championship. This organization needs to succeed in this draft to put themselves in a position to be relevant. For the past several seasons the Browns have been that dude who tells you how great he is, but can’t show you.
The Browns miscues on draft day are epic. Cleveland has not had a franchise quarterback since Bernie Kosar, and yet they continue taking major gambles on draft day to try to find that signal-caller that can lead them. The problem is this franchise doesn’t seem to understand that what they really need are pieces that can complement a serviceable quarterback. That is the first step to relevancy.
With 10 picks in this years draft the Browns, ONCE AGAIN, have the chance to bring in some quality players that can give them talent and depth at key positions. Cleveland has their own pick at #12 and they have the Buffalo Bills pick (2014 draft day Sammy Watkins trade) at #19. This would be an exciting proposition if we didn’t see this team completely screw up their two-1st rounders last year. You remember last year ? The Browns had a top-five pick and Watkins, the Clemson star receiver was sitting there. The Browns traded that pick for the Bills #9 and this year’s 1st round selection. Not a bad deal until you saw what the Browns did with #9. They chose corner Justin Gilbert who was so badly over-matched in his rookie season that Cleveland had to bury him on the bench. Then the Browns traded up from #26 to take quarterback Johnny Manziel at #22. It was flashy. It was exciting and Browns fans went crazy. Then they watched those two players actually take the field. They went crazy again.
So now the Browns are presented with a similar scenario. Two-1st round picks and numerous holes to fill. The problem is we are hearing rumors that General Manager Ray Farmer and the front office are lusting for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Yep, another quarterback. Analysts say the Browns love Mariota’s make-up. The former Oregon Duck is the anti-thesis of Manziel. He doesn’t party. He is down-to-earth and is someone the Browns can develop and build around. It would take the two-1st rounders to get him, and even then it may not be enough. The Browns could trade to move up and get him and then flip him to the Eagles and possibly get Sam Bradford in return. While this rumor has been alive and well for weeks, it doesn’t solve the numerous other issues the Browns face with their personnel.
Lets look at Cleveland’s horrific history of drafting quarterbacks since re-entering the league. It started with their first overall selection in Tim Couch. While Couch may have worked out, the Browns didn’t get him an offensive line to protect him and nearly got the guy killed. Over the last eight years the Browns have moved up to select Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel all to play quarterback. Quinn and Weeden were disastrous selections and Manziel was headed that way before his long stay in alcohol rehab this off-season. I will give the kid another chance. I am not willing to close the door on a kid that was good in college just yet. Early reports say Manziel has been going in early and staying late to try and put himself in position to play the position. For that reason I don’t think the Browns should gamble again and take Mariota or any other quarterback early in the draft.
I believe the Browns need to hang on to their picks. Here are Browns trouble spots that MUST be addressed over the next three days.
First, the Browns must get a defensive tackle that can stop the run. The Browns ranked last, dead last in run defense last year. It was the Achilles heel of a team that features a strong secondary and better than average linebacker corps. The Browns must use one of those two first-rounders to get a multi-faceted defensive tackle. Danny Shelton from Oregon meets all the criteria. *Most prognosticators believe this where the Browns go if they don’t trade the pick* Malcolm Brown from Texas fits the bill. Michael Bennett from Ohio State would fit as well. This position must be addressed. While Phil Taylor is a beast on that defensive line he just can’t stay on the field and that is hurting this team. The injury prone Taylor can not be relied on for consistent production. The Browns primary need is a run stopping upgrade on their defensive line.
Second, the Browns have a very solid offensive line, but when center Alex Mack went down last year the Browns season went down the tubes. Mack is vital to this team’s success. With Mack the Browns were averaging nearly 4 yards a carry. Without Mack the Browns barely averaged over 2 yards a carry. His health is paramount and all reports suggest he is good to go. Mitchell Swartz is not getting it done at guard so Cleveland needs to look at offensive line. There should be some great options in the first round. Interior lineman aren’t sexy on draft day but it’s how you build your team, from in the inside out. The guts of your team needs to be addressed, then you have the protection for your skill guys. Cleveland has no depth on their defensive line or offensive line and those positions need to be filled and strengthened.
After those positions are addressed then and only then do you try to get some depth at wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe is now a Brown and he will help along with Brian Hartline. But, the Browns need more youth on the outside. Taylor Gabriel was a nice pick-up last year and became a reliable option but he is 5’8. Bowe gives the Browns size despite his age and Hartline as that gritty receiver who can go over the middle. While it would be nice to get an Amari Cooper or Kevin White at number 12, those two receivers will not be there. The guy who might be there is Davante Parker from Louisville. That would be a great selection, but it would come at the expense of an even greater need in the trenches.
If the Browns feel they must get a quarterback there will be some solid options late in the draft in the 4th and 5th rounds. Josh McCown is slated to be the Browns starter and that is fine. With Johnny Manziel getting his nose clean in rehab maybe he finally shows the Browns something and improves. In my mind quarterback is not a priority in this draft. With 10 selections the Browns should just stay put and *gulp* trust their scouts and draft for need and depth.