The Cleveland Browns season is over. We will spend a good amount of time reviewing the season but we will spend even more time preparing for the off-season. Browns 2015 NFL Draft seems ready to be a very interesting one for the team. With 10 picks, including two in the first round, the Browns are ready to make noise again for the second year in a row.
Instead the 2014 started off strong and ended with a thud. Last year the Browns draft included a big trade down and the drafting of Johnny Manziel. While the first round hasn’t panned out yet, the rest of the draft seems to be great. It is likely that GM Ray Farmer and Head Coach Mike Pettine see a greater need for more veteran talent on a very young roster and we expect them to be aggressive in seeking to bring in that talent during Browns free agency.
After free agency we wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns tried to trade their picks to move up, to get another veteran or went with best player available instead of drafting for need. Farmer did this last year when he drafted Joel Bitonio, Terrance West, Christian Kirksey and others instead of drafting a wide receiver. We could see that again.
In preparation for such we will be taking a look at certain players that we think the Browns could target. Keep in mind we are not saying that these are players they are targeting, although some rumors may start to leak of the Browns having interest in them, instead these are players that we think the Browns could or should have interest in. Our profile will try to include as much information as possible to prepare you for the NFL Draft.
6’0”, 196 pounds
2014 – 13 games; 33 receptions for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns.
2015 NFL Draft Range
2nd Round – An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten player as a senior, Smith led the Buckeyes in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. More importantly, he flashed his big-play ability in some of Ohio State’s biggest games: catching three touchdowns vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game; catching a touchdown against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl; and, even though he had just one catch in the title game against Oregon, it went for 45 yards and sent up a Buckeye touchdown.
According to his draft profile at NFL.com, Smith is a “smooth speed merchant with instant gas off the line” and is a receiver who “must be matched by speed on defense or with a safety over the top.” He is also “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.” (An asset that should come in handy on a team with Josh McCown and Manziel at quarterback.)
In addition, draftbreakdown.com points out that Smith uses “good angles and has the kind of vision needed to maximize his game-breaking speed with the ball in his hands. He’s a true vertical threat who can take the top off a defense. Smith is sharp into and out of his breaks, and creates consistent separation on most of his routes, but he simply wasn’t consistently targeted to get a good feel for his ability to live over the middle. As a pass catcher, Smith flashed the ability to make the spectacular catch; he tracks the long ball exceptionally well and is a focused hands catcher who can secure the ball even when a defender is draped over him. He is a more aggressive attacker of the football than many prospects who present with a bigger frame.”
The one aspect of Smith’s game that may turn off the Browns is that is virtually useless in the running game as he lacks the proper motivation to be an effective blocker. For a team that will look to run the ball as much as possible to minimize how much McCown or Manziel need to do, that could be a deal breaker.
However, as solid as Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins are as a receiving group, none of them have the ability to turn a short catch into a long gain or a touchdown like Smith. Adding a receiver like Smith, who has the potential to help the offense turn in the occasional two- or three-play scoring drive, would be a huge bonus and could very well be in the plans in Round 2 if general manager Ray Farmer passes on a wide receiver in the opening round
Fit with the Browns
The concern with Smith, other than his blocking skills, is that because he was so underutilized at Ohio State teams may not know what they are really getting until it is too late.
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But Smith wouldn’t be coming to Cleveland as a No. 1 receiver, and because he can put pressure on opposing defenses, especially in yards after the catch from the slot position, he has to be an attractive option.
While Farmer has stated on several occasions that he does not see the wide receiver position as one deserving of a first-round pick, in a deep wide receiver class a player like Smith could change Farmer’s mind.
Browns Player Selection Could Impact
With Josh Gordon not catching balls for the Browns next season, the Browns receiving corps needs all the help it can get. With Hawkins, Miles Austin, Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin combining for just eight touchdowns for the regular season, it is blatantly obvious the receiving corps needs an injection of fresh blood.
With a new quarterback in McCown, Smith could play a crucial role in the development of the new Browns offense as another option in the slot position. After some work (and perhaps some mentoring from Hawkins) Smith could be a solid piece of the Browns offensive scheme.
How Selection Could Be Impacted By Free Agency
Even with the additions of Bowe and Hartline in free agency, and Hawkins entering his second season with the club, the Browns can still use help at the wide receiver position — just most likely not in the first round.
High-Medium – The Browns have traditionally been a running team and head coach Mike Pettine wants to keep it that way. With the quarterback situation still … unsettled … having a solidified receiving corps could go a long way in alleviating the Browns offensive woes come the fall. The signings veterans Bowe and Hartline were a good first step in establishing the receiving corps. The addition of the speedy Smith could help turn a solid group into one that can make something happen on Sunday afternoons.
What do you think about the Browns targeting Devin Smith in the 2015 NFL Draft?