It’s the week football fans here along the shores of lake Erie and all over the country and the world look forward to during the NFL offseason. NFL draft week is upon us. The festivities kick off on Thursday evening from a new location this year, Chicago and not Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
There is an old saying that a change can do you good. Perhaps the Cleveland Browns can take that motto and turn it into some good selections to help get this franchise back to winning football.
It’s no secret that the Browns organizations has had more misses than hits on their draft picks since returning to the NFL in 1999. I would be wasting your time by going back and reminding you of just some of the mistakes made by the team over the last 16 years.
The Cleveland Browns have a total of ten picks in this years NFL draft. For the second year in a row, the Browns have two picks in the first round, the 12th pick and the 19th (acquired from Buffalo.) Let’s pray that general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine use both of those picks wisely on Thursday night. The jury is still out on the two picks taken in the first round last year, cornerback Justin Gilbert at number eight (after trading down from number four with Buffalo and trading up from number nine with Minnesota,) and quarterback Johnny Manziel at number 22.
The Browns always seem to have plenty of holes to fill heading into the draft and 2015 is no exception. The quarterback position is always a topic of conversation. Will the Browns bring in another quarterback in this draft? I wouldn’t be surprised if that is the case but the question is when? It’s no secret that Farmer likes Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota but there is no chance that the reigning Heisman trophy winner makes it all the way down to the Browns at number 12. Many draft experts feel that Mariota will be selected at number two. The Tennessee Titans currently hold the number two pick and could certainly use a franchise quarterback, but like the Browns, the Titans have many needs and could perhaps use some extra picks this year and in the future. Another team that will be in play for Mariota is the Philadelphia Eagles coached by Chip Kelly, Mariota’s former college coach at Oregon. The Eagles have made plenty of moves this offseason to perhaps stockpile enough assets to make a trade to move up and select the Oregon quarterback.
For the Browns to make a real play for Mariota, two things have to happen in my opinion. Number one, Mariota has to be on the board past the second overall pick. The reason is simple, Jacksonville picks third, Oakland picks fourth. Both of those teams took quarterbacks last season so they will see what they have this season. The Washington Redskins pick fifth and you have to believe the Redskins would like to get some extra picks since they are still recovering from the Robert Griffin the Third deal with St. Louis back in 2012.
That leads to point number two. For the Browns to have a real chance of getting Mariota, will Farmer and company be willing to part with both of their first round picks this year and more to move up. Reports have been out that Farmer has had trade talks with the Redskins for the fifth overall pick. However, Farmer also says he’s had talks with other teams drafting in the top ten, so is that just the ever famous smoke screen that always comes up this time of year.
Do I think the Browns will pull the trigger on a deal to get Mariota, no I don’t. I think the price is just too high. Could the Browns trade up for someone else, that is a possibility. The question is for who. In my mind two big needs for the Browns are defensive line and wide receiver.
The Browns finished dead last on defense last season against the run, and the Browns need to continue to improve their pass rush. The Browns could fill that need with a trade up to perhaps number five with Washington to take either Leonard Williams of Southern California or Dante Fowler Junior of Florida. It will depend on what the Jacksonville Jaguars do at number three. The jaguars are expected to take either Fowler or Williams. Will the Browns get either of those guys, I don’t think so.
What about wide receiver, the Browns addressed the position during free agency by signing veterans Dwayne Bowe from Kansas City and Brian Hartline from Miami. It’s still a position of need because the Browns didn’t address the position at all in last years draft. That decision still leaves me scratching my head to this day. The Browns could have drafted Sammy Watkins out of Clemson last year with the fourth overall pick, but decided to trade down with Buffalo instead. I believe the Browns will draft at least one wide receiver sometime in this draft if not two. The top receiver in this class is Amari Cooper out of Alabama. If the Browns are interested, they will most likely have to move up as high as number three with Jacksonville to select Cooper. The Oakland Raiders at number four are believed to like Cooper to give another weapon for second year quarterback Derek Carr.
I believe the Browns will address the defensive line and wide receiver in the first round of this years draft with the 12th and 19th picks and they won’t trade up. So who do I think the Browns will take? With the 12th overall pick, I believe the Browns will address the defensive line by selecting Danny Shelton the defensive tackle from Washington. The Browns really need to stop the run, and someone of Shelton’s size can plug up running holes for opposing running backs. Let’s also factor that the Browns lost Ahtyba Rubin in free agency and were without Phil Taylor for the majority of last season.
With the 19th pick, I believe the Browns will select wide receiver Breshad Perriman out of Central Florida. Reports said the Browns had dinner with the Knights wide receiver over the weekend in Orlando. Draft experts have DeVante Parker of Louisville, and Kevin White of West Virginia higher than Perriman, but most mock drafts have both of them off the board by the 19th pick. Parker could be another option at number 12 if Shelton is gone.
As for other positions of need, the Browns could select an offensive lineman with either pick 12 or 19 to shore up the right side of the offensive line but I don’t think that will happen. An offensive lineman should be taken sometime during the draft.
The Browns could certainly use a young pass catching tight end after Jordan Cameron left for the Miami Dolphins in free agency. That position could be addressed in round two with a one of the two best tight ends out of the Big Ten, Maxx Williams of Minnesota or Devin Funchess of Michigan.
An interesting debate could be drafting a running back in the first round with the number 19 pick. Sure the Browns had two rookies last season who showed some flashes of greatness carrying the pigskin in Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. However there are two very intriguing running backs that are expected to be first round selections, Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Todd Gurley of Georgia. Gurley is coming off a season ending knee injury in 2014 but he says he healthy, I’ll believe it when I see it. Gordon would be a bigger and physical running back that could be effective when the weather gets cold and snowy later in the season. Let’s also factor in that a running back has not been selected in the first round since 2012. We know who that was, Trent Richardson by the Browns, so maybe the Browns won’t lean in that direction.
It will be interesting to see if the Browns would draft anyone with ties to northeast Ohio. A couple of options could be either Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith who played his high school ball at Massillon or Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant from Akron St. Vincent St. Mary.
Of course, I don’t call myself an NFL Draft guru by any means, and if you know my history with predicting who the Cleveland Browns will draft, my record isn’t very good. The Richardson pick was the last time I guessed right. I am just basing my predictions on what I saw on the field last season, and like the rest of you what I saw on the field gave me some optimism in some positions, but a lot of help is needed in others. Farmer and the Browns are on the clock to improve this football team.