Mel Kiper came out with his “Grade A” NFL Mock Draft this week and he made some interesting choices for the Cleveland Browns.
In this mock draft, Kiper isn’t projecting what he thinks the Browns will do, but rather what he believes is the best pick for the Browns through the first three rounds of the draft.
Kiper’s full post is only available if you are an ESPN Insider, but here is what he would do if he were general manager Ray Farmer at the end of the month in Chicago. (While the picks are Kiper’s, the added analysis is our’s.)
Pick No. 12 in Round 1: Danny Shelton, Defensive Tackle, Washington
If the Browns make this pick there are few who will argue. As our own Paul Noel wrote in his draft profile of Shelton:
“Danny Shelton is a college senior who passes all the eye tests heading toward the draft. He is a big and strong interior defensive lineman who finished off his senior year with AP All-American honors, recording 93 tackles, including 16.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. Danny has a wide frame that allows him to anchor and hold, even against double teams that were thrown his way often. Shelton would fit the need the Browns are looking for in a high motor player who has the ability to hold the line and take on double teams while allowing edge defenders to go free toward the quarterback. But his skills as a two-gap run stopper are what should really draw the Browns’ attention. His quick burst and ability to shed lineman and tackle the ball carrier nearby is exactly what the Browns defense needs.”
Pick No. 19 in Round 1: Todd Gurley, Running Back, Georgia
This is where Kiper loses the plot a bit. As we all learned in 2012, picking a running back in the first round is no longer a priority among NFL teams. Now, picking a running back at No. 19 is certainly different from picking one at No. 3, but that doesn’t mean the Browns should pick Gurley here. Running backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell combined to rush for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns as rookies in 2014, so with numerous other holes to fill on the roster, picking a running back here doesn’t make much sense. Of course, the Browns are reportedly hosting Gurley, as well as Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, for a pre-draft visit, so maybe Farmer has not fully learned the hard lessons of the past.
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Pick No. 43 in Round 2: Devin Smith, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
According to his draft profile at NFL.com, Smith “isn’t just combine-fast, he’s game-fast and he would have had more than 12 touchdown catches during the 2014 season if he didn’t have to slow down and wait on throws so often. Smith has the feet and hips to become much more than a deep-ball specialist and should be able to step right into a gunner spot on special teams. He still needs to learn his craft and improve his hands, but he has rare speed to score from anywhere on the field.”
Smith has the same type of ability that we highlighted in our draft profile of Phillip Dorsett. It’s not so much that the Browns need a fast wide receiver to stretch the field, but they need one who can take a short pass and use his speed to turn it into something bigger.
Pick No. 44 in Round 3: Brett Hundley, Quarterback, UCLA
A second-team All-Pac-12 selection and Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist in 2014, Hundley led the Bruins with 10 rushing touchdowns. He is also the first UCLA quarterback to win 9-plus games in three consecutive seasons, which is nice.
At 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds, Hundley has the size to hold up in the AFC North Division.
The knock on Hundley, at least according to his draft profile at NFL.com, is that he “flashes athleticism and talent, but his basic quarterbacking issues will take time to improve. In 2014, more than 54 percent of his pass attempts were from six yards and in, including 29 percent from behind the line of scrimmage, which is nothing like an NFL offense. Hundley is a flash prospect who shows the physical tools to be a starter, but his internal clock and issues with reads and progressions must be improved to give him a shot at becoming a decent NFL starter.”
While you certainly would not want to see the Browns select Hundley any higher than this, if you buy into McCown as a bridge quarterback for 2015, you could see Farmer talking himself into drafting Hundley and rolling into 2016 with a tandem of Manziel and Hundley battling it out to be QB1.
On second thought, maybe that’s not such an enticing option.
So there you have it: four selections over the first three rounds. Shelton is a game-changer and Smith would definitely be a popular and possibly productive choice.
As for the other two picks, Hundley’s a project, but if you are not going to make a run for a top-flight quarterback you are left with selecting a project. The Gurley pick would simply be a waste, not necessarily because of anything with Gurley, but just the fact that the Browns have running back covered and need help elsewhere.
What do you think of Kiper’s selections? Who would you take instead?