As many of you know, I also operate as the editor and a writer over at Withthefirstpick, so I am always looking at the NFL Draft. Chris Burke released his second mock draft for the first round of the year today (Wednesday) which can be found here has the Cleveland Browns with their newly acquired first round pick from the Indianapolis Colts. So, here is my take on who he had the Browns selecting.
4. Cleveland Browns: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
The Trent Richardson trade obviously makes the Browns an extremely intriguing team to watch approaching the 2014 draft. Assuming Bridgewater lands No. 1, Cleveland needs to pick its guy at QB and go for broke to get him. Will that be Mariota? Hundley? Johnny Manziel?
The position is right on as the Browns desperately need a franchise quarterback and I understand how talented Brett Hundley is. He is advanced for a sophomore, but he is still a sophomore. For me, the fact that the success rate for three year quarterbacks is awful because of two things: experience and maturity. Experience matters. The quarterbacks who are arguably the best in the league and came into the league hitting the ground running have a ton of it.
Colin Kaepernick played 51 games as a four year starter at Nevada, then sat a year at a year in San Francisco behind Alex Smith. His freshman year in Reno, he was already 20 years old.
Russell Wilson was a three year starter at N.C. State, graduated and then went to Wisconsin and played a season there. In all, he played 50 collegiate games before coming into the NFL and being a stud from the start.
Robert Griffin III started 41 games over 4 seasons at Baylor. And it really did not click for him until he got to that last year there.
Andrew Luck started 38 games at Stanford and he was a once in a quarter century type prospect. Nevertheless, that is a good amount of experience and he was in Palo Alto for four years.
In the best case scenario, which means that UCLA goes to their conference championship game and a bowl game, Hundley only starts 28 games. Kaepernick and Wilson had close to double that number.
The other issue is maturity. When drafted into the NFL, a quarterback has to learn the offense, learn to live on their own with everything that comes with that and try to be a leader of the offense, the team, and the face of the franchise. That is not easy for anyone, but certainly more difficult with only two years of collegiate experience on the field as well as three years to grow up. It is an extremely difficult transition and even with all of the advanced coaching and everything else nowadays, growing up takes time and experience matters.
The last redshirt sophomore quarterback to go in the first round? Blaine Gabbert, 10th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gabbert played 29 games while he was at Missouri during his three years there. He has been an utter disaster since being drafted. The Jaguars rushed him into action before he was ready and he got destroyed. If the Browns draft Hundley, he would need to sit and that simply does not happen here. The rookie always get rushed into action in Cleveland whether because the quarterback in front of them gets injured or is simply incapable. So Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, or God forbid, Johnny Manziel are not even in the conversation for me if they declare and come out this year. They would all be substantially better off going back to school for another year.
So naturally, the next logical choice would be Tajh Boyd from Clemson, right? Not for me. Boyd is not accurate enough for me. He has a great arm with the ability to push the down the field with relative ease and he could conceivably fit the offense, but his inconsistency with accuracy is maddening, especially when it comes to timing routes. He is also short and there are issues with his ability to see the field at times.
The two quarterbacks that jump out at me at this point are both seniors and neither is listed in Burke’s first round mock draft. The first is Derek Carr of Fresno State. A combination of a stigma with his last name, perhaps the conference he plays in, and the offense they run there have had some hesitant to buy into Carr. He also battled through last year with a sports hernia, but played with it the entire year.
Carr has a cannon for an arm and an incredibly smooth throwing motion that comes out quickly. He is able to throw the ball 50-60 yards with almost no effort. It comes out easily and he is also able to throw with terrific accuracy. He puts the ball on his receivers in position for them to gain more yardage. Carr is also athletic and can make plays with his legs. The questions with Carr come down to consistently using good mechanics and avoiding throwing off of his back foot and there are some questions with his pocket presence. He can also take chances with the football. Nevertheless, he is carving up opponents and put up insane numbers and I think he is a terrific fit in this offense.
The other quarterback just started their season this past weekend. The Ivy League just kicked off and one of the best passers in the country is Jeff Mathews of Cornell. He is a man amongst boys in that league and there are questions about just how big he is. Mathews is not particularly mobile, but he is an artist with the football. His anticipation, accuracy, ball placement and his ability to make great passes are reminiscent of Bernie Kosar for me. It just looks a helluva lot better than it did with Kosar. Many people are hesitant to buy into Mathews because of the Ivy League and he will likely have to make believers of people when he gets to the All-Star circuit after this year with the likes of the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. He will be playing against better competition and he will not get much time to adjust to the higher level of competition. Nevertheless, Mathews should excel there.
Personally, I think both of these guys are going to make big jumps up the board this season and a player like Boyd is going to fall. So, with the pick Burke gave us, 4th, I will take Derek Carr from Fresno State. He will end up with right around 40 games played in two different offenses. Carr will come into the league at 23 years old and he is married. Both of his brothers played college football and his brother David helps him with his development and understanding the game and getting better player. Carr is the type of player that can come in and start right away.
17. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
As trade rumors swirl around current Cleveland receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little, the possibility of landing both a top-flight QB and an elite WR should have Browns fans feeling giddy. Don’t be surprised if Evans winds up being the most productive 2014 wide receiver.
I certainly understand why Mike Evans would work here. With Josh Gordon’s situation sort of up in the air, the Browns really need another wide receiver. However, I would hold off from taking one here and opt to grab one in the second round. Specifically, I am looking at Brandon Coleman from Rutgers if he declares or Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt.
Coleman is a thoroughbred for the Scarlet Knights. He is 6’6” 230lbs and looks like exceptional. Coleman is big, strong, and fast. He has been hurt by inconsistent quarterback play and needs to keep working on his technique with his body positioning, but he is a monster who walks onto the field as a mismatch. In many ways, he is almost like a tight end and there are virtually no corners who can stop him.
Matthews, broken down here in more detail here is 6’3” 206lbs with a good build and a nice mix of size, strength and speed. More importantly, he runs great routes and understands the position at a high level. He would be a great fit across from Gordon but could evolve into a #1 type receiver as well. Matthew s is just a great, great wide receiver and was more dominant and productive than anyone else in the SEC last year and he has picked up where he left off last year.
Given the mock draft as Burke has laid it out, there are two options that jump at me. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, the safety from Alabama and a few of the tight ends. I know it sounds crazy to want defense, but if the Browns can put a dominant free safety in this defense with the range and play making ability of Dix, they get a big time playmaker that really goes well next to T.J. Ward. Dix is a great center fielder who can fly all over the field and make plays on the football with a knack for the big play and getting interceptions.
There are three tight ends that the Browns could really use and it really comes down to the style they want. Jordan Cameron has been great so far, but the Browns need a second tight end and preferably one that can block inline to help the running game as well as go out and make plays. Perhaps the best option in that vein is Austin Seferian-Jenkins from Washington who is a monster sized tight end. Jenkins is listed at 6’6” 276lbs and he can move well. His blocking has been inconsistent at times but he has shown the ability to dominate. And even though he is that size, he can go up and high point passes and is just too big for opponents to cover. There are some off field issues that need vetting, but his talent is off the charts and a great fit.
Eric Ebron is significantly smaller than Jenkins at 6’4” 245lbs. In many ways, Ebron can legitimately line up at wide receiver or tight end and is an incredible athlete. What makes Ebron interesting is how much effort he puts into blocking. He needs to keep getting bigger but is similar to Barkevious Mingo in some ways. Ebron is not going to just add fat. He will give everything he can as a blocker and do better than many would expect, but as he gets stronger, it will only get easier. As a receiver, he is extremely fast and can line up inline or as a joker. The question with Ebron is consistency with his hands and catching the ball.
Last but not least, Colt Lyerla from Oregon is 6’5” 245lbs with a nice combination of skills. For whatever reason, the Ducks do not get him the ball, but he has shown ability to be a playmaker. Lyerla gets used as an H-Back as well as a tight end and can block as well as be a receiver. The big question with Lyerla is figuring out why Oregon does not seem to want to throw the ball to him. A mistake on their part or is there something more legitimate there that is not clear on the surface. With his unhappiness in Eugene, it seems like a good bet he will declare for the NFL Draft.
Part of me is tempted to hold off picking a tight end and going ahead and trying to grab C.J. Fiedorowicz from Iowa in the third round. He looks like an offensive lineman with no neck, but he is a better receiver than some realize. He might well be as big as Eric Steinbach when he was in Iowa City. Fiedorowicz fits the Browns offense in that Steve Heiden type role from Chud’s time here as an offensive coordinator that really worked well.
The other part of me wants to see if Jenkins’ background is up to muster and put together an offense for the Browns that is just bigger than everyone.
Knowing how the Browns tend to look at character, I will opt for Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix. They are still working to get another corner but safety is more important in Ray Horton’s scheme and should let T.J. Ward loose in the box. They put a stamp on their secondary and really take a step towards being an elite defense.
So, I opt for Derek Carr and Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix in the first round while taking either Brandon Coleman or Jordan Matthews in the second round. And in the third round, I hope to get C.J. Fiedorowicz to play opposite of Cameron and use the other third round pick on a running back. There are a number of great options. One that looks like a nice fit for the Browns would be LaDarius Perkins from Mississippi State as an all-around back in the SEC who can run, catch passes and block. While I am sure there are people who will think I am nuts for taking Carr and then going defense with the other first round pick, I hope the reasons why are clear enough to make them seem less insane. Having said that, feel free to weigh in and tell me how I completely screwed the pooch here.