Many fans will be nothing short of infuriated if the Browns do not get a quarterback with their first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Several factors are involved in the draft day decision for the Cleveland Browns, most critically being our overall placement. We may end up even higher than the six spot we currently hold and still be able to land Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater, although many mock drafts currently have Carr still on the board at six.
The “curse” that cost us the New England game may very well be a blessing in disguise. I want to win, always, fight and scrap like there is no tomorrow, but the cards fell as they did and we are better off next year because of it. Several difficult games remain and we will not know our overall positioning for some time.
Will we get our “franchise” QB? I expect our front office, if they do not feel we are in position to get Carr or Bridgewater, will pursue several options in the following priority:
1-Trade up for Carr or Bridgewater
2-Trade up for Jake Matthews (perhaps moving Mitchell Schwartz inside)
3-Trade down to improve our overall value (or even into 2015)
4-Take the best available player, regardless of position, or
5-Take one of the remaining highly ranked offensive tackles.
Many doubt that a trade up would be likely. An abundance of teams need a solid quarterback and some players will opt to remain in school, as Marcus Mariota has already done. I do not rule out a trade, at all. That “need” that other teams have for a QB should allow both Atlanta and St. Louis to trade down a spot or three and still acquire the players they are likely targeting at other positions. We also have the firepower, via additional first, third and fourth round picks, to acquire such a trade.
I can already hear Browns fans around the world screaming in discontent if the second, third, fourth or fifth options become reality, but I would rather wait for 2015 than to see yet another high pick go to waste. I am confident that all involved in our front office would as well. Although I cannot speak for the Browns decision makers, I do not value any other quarterbacks or players in a position of need that highly. I would certainly attempt to trade down and increase our overall value if unable to secure a quarterback worth the pick. Given Banner’s history thus far, I can see him having a similar mindset.
What happens if we do NOT get our guy with the top pick?
I too hope that this is not the case, but Brian Hoyer will likely start next season regardless of the draft. I would pursue a solid QB prospect with a later pick, as well as focusing on the talent available in 2015. I do not pretend to know the future, or who would hold the top pick in 2015 draft, and any trade into it would be a gamble at best. In addition, any move that would place us into the 2015 draft would most certainly require much more than other teams would be willing to part with, so I do not consider that feasible.
I do however, have confidence in Norv Turner and his ability to work with young quarterbacks. We may likely find our guy later in the draft. Keep in mind that only or month or two ago, many mock drafts had us selecting Brett Hundley or Tahj Boyd, while others currently project us targeting Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel. Bortles and Manziel may indeed prosper in the NFL, but I personally, have little interest in any quarterbacks other than Carr and Bridgewater with our first pick. My thoughts aside, I cannot pretend to know whom the Cleveland front office is targeting. They may have their eyes on someone else altogether, for all we know. It is not often that a “Tom Brady” emerges, but it has happened before.
My Wish List:
Please, please, please, let our Brownies get a Quarterback! Also, please allow him to grow into a “franchise” roll while riding the bench behind Brian Hoyer for a year or two and if you could sir, please bring us the help up front to protect them both. Thank you.
Simply put, I want to see Derek Carr in brown and orange next year. I will settle for the other options only if all attempts to bring him in have failed. Bridgewater is also a solid prospect, but I don’t feel that we will be in a position to obtain him without suffering a great cost.
For a quality, in-depth analysis of Derek Carr, read this scouting report by Peter Smith: http://withthefirstpick.com/2013/11/04/2014-nfl-draft-scouting-report-derek-carr-qb-fresno-state/
I also want to see a significant upgrade on our offensive line.
The opinions of how much depth and which positions varies from person to person, but I feel we must upgrade at right tackle. Mitchell Schwartz has struggled repeatedly this year, but he has been solid in the past and may prove an anchor if placed inside at guard.
There is also some concern with whether or not Alex Mack will be returning, as he will be a free agent after this season. If he does not, we will certainly need to find a suitable replacement at center as well. I for one, hope he stays here for the duration of his career.
Several top prospects should hear their names called early in the draft. Of those, only Jake Matthews is projected to go before our pick, as it stands at sixth overall. If we indeed secure a quarterback with our top pick, I would like to see Cameron Erving, Cyrus Kouandjio, Antonio Richardson or Taylor Lewan taken with our pick from the Colts in the latter part of round one.
I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of these lineman is not profound, however, I have always felt the scouting combine to be more effective in evaluating the big men, over most other positions. Many players in skill positions (QB, WR, RB) can have a good showing, yet struggle on the field, whereas brute strength and power is much easier to rate. The play on the field remains a crucial part as well, but there is little margin of error when it comes to a powerful big man. I want the biggest, toughest, nastiest and meanest player available at the right tackle spot, as it remains an urgent need.
If Schwartz can make the transition inside and strengthen the guard spot, we will be in much better shape. If Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao remain healthy and Garrett Gilkey and the other young lineman continue to improve, we should have adequate depth at guard. It is a rarity to have multiple injuries in one position so early in the season and I do not expect it to happen again, although you will never hear me disapprove of the addition of solid talent up front.
We need hands!
Forget size, forget speed, forget everything else. A wide receiver must catch the ball, period. Josh Gordon is nothing short of sensational, but he cannot do it alone. We need to upgrade on the opposite side. Greg Little has the size and ability to be great, but he has struggled with his hands. He could certainly still be effective, but we need a dependable threat nonetheless. Mike Evans will likely be drafted too high for us to secure, but I would love to see Jordan Matthews in Cleveland, given he can be taken within a properly valued pick. The remaining crew of Little, Davone Bess, Travis Benjamin and either Josh Cooper (who I have always liked) or Brian Tyms, would round out a solid squad.
Who will handle the running game?
This, to me, is a very important question. Coming into the 2013 season, we all had tremendously high hopes for Trent Richardson. I have been, and will remain to be, a huge fan of his, however I am glad that we have moved on. In this league, even powerful running backs must hit the holes and hit them hard. He may get the hang of NFL speed, but I don’t care to watch and wait.
Dion Lewis was brought in as a speed back to compliment Richardson, but his broken leg left us unsure of his talents and our future in that position. He may still be a solid back, but we have not had an opportunity to judge his impact. Even if he is phenomenal in his role, we need depth and a back to bring some hard-nosed power.
Many view the talent of this draft to be deep in many positions. Running back is not among the top on that list. Are there capable running backs? Certainly, there are many that could provide an impact in the NFL. Are there any that come with a first round value? No, I don’t think so, although one or two might make their way in late in the round.
That said, there are a few that the Browns should consider. Some may remain in school and most are likely to go somewhere throughout the second, third and fourth rounds. The draft is a long ways off and their individual tryouts and performances at the combine will greatly determine their overall value. Much will change before then, but here are a few of the prospects that I will follow: Lache Seastrunk, Bishop Sankey, Andre Williams, Marion Grice, Charles Sims and James Wilder Jr., to name a few. Perhaps I am biased, but in addition, I would love to see both Carlos Hyde and Dri Archer (RB/WR) find their new homes just north of their current ones.
We all hope for a vast improvement in the running game and the Browns will certainly have several backs in mind. I adamantly believe that regardless of any selection, our running game will not improve as much as needed without the addition of power and blocking on the offensive line.
Tight End: I absolutely love Jordan Cameron. Gary Barnidge has played well, but we should bring in some help at tight end. The offensive firepower that Cameron brings is outstanding, but if he were injured, Barnidge may not be able to provide the help we need on his own. I also view the tight end position similarly to the offensive line. I would certainly not argue bringing in a solid blocker to help with our pass protection and running game. Tight ends I’ll be watching in the later rounds include: CJ Fiedorowicz, Arthur Lynch and *Colt Lyerla.
*Lyerla was rated among the top prospects at tight end until he quit school, then several weeks following, was charged with possession of cocaine. He would be a gamble, but a minimal one if taken very late in the draft or via free agency. College can offer a much deeper education than books and classes alone, hopefully he has learned a lesson in life and can continue his career in the NFL. I would love to see the Browns give him a chance.
Defensive Secondary: Depth, depth and more depth! I have truly enjoyed watching the play of Buster Skrine, Joe Haden, TJ Ward and Tashaun Gipson. Gipson and Skrine have made tremendous strides since last year and I expect that growth to continue. Haden is, well, Haden is simply, Joe Haden and TJ packs a punch, spiked with class (the only thing “dirty” about the New England game are the rules set in place by the league, and of course the official’s interpretation of pass interference.)
Leon McFadden has shown promise lately at cornerback, as had Chris Owens prior to his injury. Jamoris Slaughter might yet, but either way, we need to add a solid nickel back and depth throughout our secondary.
The Front Seven: The defensive front has been superb! The only thing needed there is good health, and a “thank you” from the fans. To say they have not been good enough is absurd, to put it kindly. They have battled through injury and extended time on the field throughout most of the season. If they have a game without a sack, it happens, and they will continue to grow and mesh as a unit. They have brought pride back to Cleveland football and have once more fulfilled the true meaning of “Dawg”. To them I say only, “Thank You!”