5 Questions – Cleveland Browns NFL Draft edition
The Browns hold two picks in the first round, three picks in the first 35 selections and five in the first 85. While there are plenty of holes still to fill on the roster, the draft also provides plenty of opportunities for general manager Ray Farmer to something about that.
We’ve made our way through the NFL Combine, the various Pro Days and mock drafts; it’s now time to get real.
To try and figure out just what the Browns may be cooking this weekend, we’ve pulled together a panel of Browns thinkers worthy of the Algonquin Round Table.
Taking their seat at the table are:
Matt Gerber, a member of the History Department at Western Reserve Academy and defensive coordinator for the Pioneer football team.
Dave Kolonich, the former writer of Cleveland Reboot. He has also written for The Orange and Brown Report, Scout.com, Fox Sports Ohio and a variety of websites. He can be found on Twitter @DaveKolonich.
Question: Which player do you not want the Browns to select at No. 4?
Murray: Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. Kind of like the opposite of Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, I don’t understand why Bortles’ stock is so high. Sure he physically looks like an NFL quarterback, but I don’t see the skillset others do. He has some decent pocket movement, but he’s not really a developed passer. His mechanics are iffy, he seems to have an average arm and struggled against more complex defenses. His ball placement is erratic and occasionally gets stuck on his first read. I’m not really big on the idea of a wide receiver at No. 4, but Bortles would be a deflating pick.
Ryan: Of the top prospects, I don’t want the Browns to draft Sammy Watkins at No. 4. He’s very good, but I don’t think he does for the Browns offense what a wide receiver like Mike Evans can do. I don’t think taking a wide receiver that early is a good value decision, but if they do, it should be Evans, not Watkins.
Matt: The player who I don’t want the Browns to select at No. 4 is any of the quarterbacks. I would trade down some to pick up more picks in a deep draft, but do not select any quarterback at No. 4. Select the best impact player available.
Kanicki: Obviously Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. But among the more likely candidates, I would be disappointed if the Browns selected Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. You can have too many pass rushers; you can have too many outside linebackers. If we’re seriously looking at Mack at No. 4, I hope we’re also seriously looking at Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 4 (who I like better).
Dave: Charlie Frye 2.0 – aka Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Mike: Right now, today, I feel very confident in Ray Farmer’s ability. Some might even say I KTB (know, trust, believe) in him, but let’s just say that I wouldn’t pound the table for Fresno State’s Derek Carr at No. 4.
Jeff: Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. Oh wait, this is probably supposed to be a player that’s rumored to be a Top 5 pick? I’d go with Sammy Watkins; as much fun as a Josh Gordon/Watkins/Jordan Cameron receiving corps would be, too many better options, whether you’re considering need or best player available. Watkins will be neither. Lewan is toxic at any slot though, just to be clear.
Question: Who is the player (or players) you most want the Browns to select on Day 2 or 3 of the draft?
Murray: There are a few players I’d really like them to pick if they were available at No. 35, like Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson, but I’ll give you a couple names for later round guys on either side of the ball. Towson running back Terrance West is a guy that’s getting a bit of buzz as a Day 3 guy. He absolutely crushed Eastern Illinois in the FCS quarter finals. He’s a bit of an upright runner and kind of reminds me of Bernard Pierce in running style. He has very good vision and finishes runs strongly. I think he’d be a really good fit alongside Ben Tate in Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme.
On defense, a guy who has impressed me in what I’ve seen of him is Maryland cornerback Dexter McDougle. He’s flown a little under the radar as he missed a lot of the season with an injury. He’s not one of the new-breed 6-foot-2 cornerbacks, but he’s a very good athlete and in a lot of games I saw seemed tied to his opponent’s hip. He’s pretty fluid and isn’t afraid of contact. He actually kind of reminds me of Ohio State’s Bradley Roby a bit. He’s also a playmaker when he gets the ball in his hands, whether that’s on turnovers or special teams.
Ryan: On Day 2, I would love to see the Browns draft Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson. Obviously, this is contingent upon them not drafting a wide receiver in the first round. But Robinson does many of the same things Evans can do, and he is a better value at pick No. 35.
Matt: I want the Browns to select San Jose quarterback David Fales late in the draft on Day 3. I think Fales has the potential to be very good and outduelled Derek Carr in a head-to-head matchup.
Kanicki: Gabe Jackson, an offensive guard from Mississippi State on day two. I keep reading stuff about Jackson’s technique and first step and violent hands or lack thereof. Jackson is to me as Bridgewater is to ClevTA: I know what I saw in games. He crushed it against the best defensive line in college. If you believe what you read he could be had at the top of the third and I think that’d be terrific.
Other day two names: Deone Bucannon, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Jordan Matthews, Pierre Desir.
Day two do not want: David Yankey, Cyrus Kouandijo, Lamarcus Joyner, Kadeem Carey, Bruce Ellington, AJ McCarron, Andre Williams, Marcus Roberson.
But on day three there are two. Dri Archer if he’s there in the fourth round, get him. Wouldn’t mind if the Browns used a third on him; he’s truly unique. Archer’s play will surpass Jacksonville’s Ace Sanders (51 receptions for 484 yards in 2013) who surpassed St. Louis’ Tavon Austin (40 receptions for 418 yards).
Also in the unique category is Jonathan Dowling, a long safety from Western Kentucky. I guess he’s too thin (190 pounds) and that’s why you might be able to get a 6-foot-3 safety in the sixth round. He was a University of Florida recruit, transferred to Willie Taggart’s Hilltoppers, and I always knew where Dowling was in the Sun Belt games I watched. He has a presence.
Other day three wants: Adrian Hubbard, Jerick McKinnon, Howard Jones, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Keith Wenning, Christian Bryant, Michael Schofield, Michael Campanaro and Brandon Thomas (he of the ACL tear during this spring’s training). I would indeed draft Colt Lyerla in the seventh.
Day three do not want: Stephen Morris, Logan Thomas, Antonio Andrews, David Fales, Xavier Grimble, Ricado Allen … and the award for Most Must Avoid goes to – DeAnthony Thomas.
Dave: Since the current roster can only boast Brian Hoyer and his shaky knee, the YouTube guy and the ghost of Vince Young – let’s go with a quarterback or two. Given how erratic nearly every 2014 quarterback prospect appears to be, taking a flier on Wyoming’s Brett Smith, San Jose’s David Fales or an injured Zach Mettenberger (from LSU) makes just as much sense as sinking a first night pick on David Carr’s brother.
In related news, the failure to land a veteran backup quarterback has been the most underreported story of the Browns’ offseason. We don’t even know if Hoyer is good – let alone if he’s able to play an entire season.
Mike: This draft class is loaded with talent, so it is hard to pinpoint any one guy. But if I had to pick one guy from Day 2 and a few from Day 3 here they are:
Day 2 – Kareem Martin, Allen Robinson, Billy Turner, Xavier Sua Filo or Phillip Gaines
Day 3 – Walt Aikens, Isaiah Crowell, Matt Hazel, Laurent Tardiff, Trai Turner, Keith Wenning, Jimmy Garrapolo and Jon Halapio
Jeff: Pierre Desir, the 6-foot-1 corner from Division II Lindenwood University. Groom him to start opposite Joe Haden in 2015. He’ll be 24 when the 2013 season starts, which is a major plus in my eyes.
Question: Since 1978, the Browns have had two picks in the first round four times: 1978 (Clay Matthews and Ozzie Newsome), 1994 (Antonio Langham and Derrick Alexander), 2007 (Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn) and 2012 (Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden). Which of those drafts will this year’s first round most resemble?
Murray: Well last time worked out pretty horrendously, so nothing like that hopefully. I think deciphering all the noise, something resembling 2007 looks most likely. I do think they intend to pick a quarterback, if they can get the guy they want, and it seems like it’s not going to be at No. 4. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went offensive line at No. 4, maybe Auburn’s Greg Robinson if he’s there. I also expect some movement with No. 26, probably upwards if they’re targeting a quarterback there. They’ve done a really excellent job of hiding their intentions, though they’ve been linked with just about every single player in the draft. It’d be really great if they managed to land two players the level they did in ’78, but I think they’re aiming for one of the top players plus their guy at quarterback, but hopefully he works out better than Quinn!
Ryan: Obviously, the hope is the Browns can get two franchise players and hit home runs with their two picks this year. Therefore, my hope is they can emulate the 1978 draft as opposed to the more recent times they’ve had the chance to double-dip and missed.
Matt: The obvious answer would be the 1978 draft. If we could get the production value of that draft we would be in great shape. This year’s draft is deep and it will resemble the 1978 draft because we will take a linebacker and a guy who catches the ball in the first round, maybe not a tight end, but a receiver.
Kanicki: Experience is telling me 2007. We take a first-round quarterback (probably at 26) and Brian Hoyer emerges and we stroke ourselves that it’s good to be a developmental QB learning, but we know damn well that first rounders need to contribute for this to be a winning franchise. This draft is rich enough where our first round should yield two impact starters and anything less is a miss in my view.
Dave: It can’t be worse than former general manager Tom Heckert’s Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden panic grab. In fact, considering his age and just how ill-prepared he was to play in the NFL, Weeden could rank as the worst pick in team history. If the Browns take a quarterback high (which is not the smartest of moves to make), 2007 will be the closest comparison – at least if the “other” first rounder makes an impact. But since Thomas is in the midst of a Hall of Fame career and drafting is really, really hard – let’s go with 1994 and hope the Browns find at least find two starters.
Mike: Hopefully none of them. I want a quarterback first unless “our guy” is gone … just as long as our guy isn’t Derek Carr.
Jeff: So, we have wow, meh, OK and AHHHH! They won’t get anything near the wonderful windfall of ’78 and I don’t think there’s a Joe Thomas-caliber player after South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney in this crop. Let’s say ’94 here, though I don’t think there’s a true parallel, given the choices. Two players that can start and probably won’t lose you any games would be a nice get.
Question: Six times in franchise history the Browns have selected a quarterback in the first round and six times they have missed. Can general manager Ray Farmer break that streak this year (and should he)?
Murray: I think he can, in that it’s a pretty good situation for a rookie quarterback to come into. They have an All-Pro receiver, All-Pro left tackle, All-Pro center and a Pro Bowl tight end and with Brian Hoyer on the roster, there’s not the pressure on a rookie quarterback to come in and be the savior right away. Plus Kyle Shanahan is very good at crafting an offense to emphasise a quarterback’s strengths. He did very well increasing RG3’s margin for error as a rookie.
In terms of should he, I think so. I think both Teddy Bridgewater and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel would be very good picks for the Browns in the first round. Bridgewater is a very polished, intelligent quarterback that reads the field very quickly. Manziel is actually quite an advanced passer himself. He can work through reads, shows understanding of touch on passes and stresses a defense vertically. Hoyer has flashed ability in his two full starts for the Browns, but it’s been too long to bet on two starts. They have to attack the QB position aggressively.
Ryan: If the Browns take a quarterback in round one, they must nail the pick once and for all. However, I’m not as convinced as most that they need to take one in the first round. Call me foolish, but I have a tremendous amount of faith in Brian Hoyer and I think he is going to surprise a lot of people this year. With no clear-cut franchise quarterback in this year’s class, I’d almost rather the Browns use their picks in the first round on more immediate-impact players.
Matt: Ray Farmer will not break the streak this year, because he will not select a quarterback until the second round of the draft. There will not be a run on quarterbacks in the draft, much like last year with Geno Smith, and the Browns will have the opportunity on Friday to select the quarterback of their liking with their second-round selection.
Kanicki: Yes. I think Central Florida’s Blake Bortles will be a good NFL quarterback. But Bortles will only possibly be there at No. 4 (and I don’t think he will be). Even if he is, I truly believe in Hoyer and would prefer to give him help to succeed, versus creating training camp drama and the relentless daily MKC “Have you named a starter? When will you name a starter?” harangue.
So can the streak break? Yes. Should the Browns take a first round quarterback? No. We do have to draft a quarterback given the roster, and my vote is for Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo (yes, at No. 35 unless they can line up a trade up into the second round) or Georgia’s Aaron Murray with the late third pick.
Dave: Here’s what we actually know about Farmer’s ability to draft: nothing.
Yet, we’re doing that essential Browns’ fan thing where we project our own ideals and hopes onto someone far removed from our lives. Of course, the paid media isn’t helping. According to the Jeff Schudel’s of the world, Farmer is Ozzie Newsome reincarnated (if only because Schudel is tired, old, unoriginal and stuck in 1988).
Anyway, only Farmer knows what he will do. Nothing in his past gives any hints to the direction he’s leaning. Certainly, the Browns need a quarterback, but they also need about 20 other things. The quarterbacks in this year’s class aren’t great – and naturally, given the Browns’ history of always missing on the position, let’s hope Farmer spends those high picks on other needs.
Mike: Yes. And yes. Since 1999 these are the quarterbacks selected after pick 26: Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Kyle Orton, Matt Cassell, Matt Schaub, David Garrard, Drew Brees, Marc Bulger, Tomy Brady and Aaron Brooks.
Two-of-11 is a poor percentage to find your franchise quarterback outside of round 1 (Brady and Brees) and is the exception vs. the rule.
Jeff: Though a supplemental pick, I’d say Bernie Kosar was no whiff. I think any of the Top 4 can hit, or they could all be busts. From where I sit, I’m thinking maybe he shouldn’t. It might be wise to get value on Day 2 with a 2015 opener in mind for Quarterback X.
Question: Enough nonsense. Who are the Browns taking in the first round?
Murray: They are definitely taking Derek Carr and Greg Robinson. Guaranteed. (Ha ha.)
Ryan: The pick at No. 4, if he’s there, is going to be Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. People need to understand what head coach Mike Pettine wants to do with his defense and forget about drafting labels or positions like outside linebacker or inside linebacker. Mack can play both. Sure we have pass rushers, but unlike Barkevious Mingo, Mack is not just a situational pass rusher. He will be an instant contributor on all three downs. Mack is a weapon that, if used wisely, can put the Browns defense in the discussion for Top 5 in the league. Pettine and Co. will do cartwheels if he’s still on the board at No. 4.
Matt: Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 4 and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard at No. 26.
Kanicki: Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.
I’ll be cool if they go with one of the tackles. Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Greg Robinson all will be great and frankly I don’t care which. (Personally, I like Lewan but really, all will be great.) But I’m growing to suspect the Sammy Watkins mania is obfuscation and that the hope is that the three teams in front of the Browns rate Watkins higher. I think Evans is their guy. A Gordon-Evans tandem (plus Cameron) should lift the red zone offense immediately. Here’s an interesting stat: The Bengals – even with Andy Dalton at quarterback – were No. 2 in red zone offense last year. What can the Bengals feature for targets in the red zone? A.J. Green (6-4), Mohamed Sanu (6-2), Jermaine Gresham (6-5), Tyler Eifert (6-6), Marvin Jones (6-2). Corollary, the worst red zone offense was the Jaguars, whose December depth chart shows: Cecil Shorts (6-0), Ace Sanders (5-7), Marcedes Lewis (6-6) backed up by Denard Robinson (5-11) and Mike Brown (5-10). Hey. Just sayin’. Science. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jacksonville takes Evans. But if they do, one of those tackles is a good consolation prize.
Dave: I have no clue.
However, I would like to see Farmer not do what other Browns’ general managers of the past have done, including:
Get locked into one player and take him 10 spots higher than necessary (Joe Banner, Phil Savage, Butch Davis, Dwight Clark)
Trade down to gather a surplus of lower-quality picks and miss out on real playmakers (Heckert, Eric Mangini)
Throw away picks to move back into a round (The Heckert Special)
Ideally, Farmer stays at No. 4 and takes a player who can make a real impact. Then, he doesn’t get conned into thinking that Derek Carr is worth giving up draft picks for. For once, the Browns actually fill their draft card with players who can immediately help the team.
Having said all that, let’s go with Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 pick in the first round. The Browns haven’t had a good offense in 20 years and Greg Cosell likes him – which is all I need to hear.
Mike: The Browns would be crazy not to take Johnny Manziel in the first round. The NFL has morphed into a passing league and Manziel has the highest ceiling and most fitting skill set to what the Browns want. Listening to Mike Pettine talk about what he and Kyle Shannahan want from their quarterback, Manziel provides it all: mobility to run, mobility to move outside the pocket, ability to throw on the run, the “it” factor and proven production on the biggest stages.
He’s not the prototypical quarterback. But he can be the best of this bunch, in my opinion.
I’ve heard the recent media whispers that the Browns really like Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Manziel and Carr. While I really don’t prefer Carr, a combo of Manziel and Watkins or Evans is my ideal first round. Of course this will probably require that we trade back up for one of these guys, which I’m on the fence about at the moment. That being said, drafting a wide receiver at No. 4 doesn’t make much sense to me because I don’t think any of them are worth a top 5 pick, and I’ve been adamant about this for a while now. Waiting to draft a quarterback risks “our guy” being gone before we pick next and if that happens, without a quarterback, we’ll still be the same old Browns.
Jeff: I think Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Clowney would be tough to pass on. That said, I’m not sure three teams will pass on two of them (and not listen to trade offers for those valued slots), so I’m going with Buffalo’s Khalil Mack at No. 4 and Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks at No. 26. Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews at No. 4 and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr at No. 26 wouldn’t shock me either. I’m becoming more attached to Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray more and more by the day if the Browns aren’t in a place to get a day one quarterback.
Great answers everyone and thanks for joining in. We’re just a little more than 24 hours away from finding out just what the Browns are going to do.