What should the Cleveland Browns do in Round 1?

Jan 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Evan Spencer (6) and running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) react following Elliot
Jan 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Evan Spencer (6) and running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) react following Elliot /

The 2016 NFL Draft is Thursday and the speculation for what the Cleveland Browns will do at No. 8 is rampant.

Although the first two picks are likely to be quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, selections No. 3 through No. 8 can go in any direction. The Cleveland Browns have repeatedly said they would like to upgrade their defense early in the draft, however players such as Ezekiel Elliott and Laquon Treadwell have heard their names linked to the Browns at No. 8 too.

There is no doubt the Browns need to upgrade almost every position on the field and their 12 draft picks should help build the foundation for this new regime. At pick No. 8, Cleveland has five options they can go with.

The number one option for the Browns would be drafting DeForest Buckner out of Oregon. He is a bruiser who could help 2015 first-round draft selection Danny Shelton and a young Browns defense by bringing a great mix of power and speed.

His familiarity in a 3-4 defensive scheme makes him a perfect fit in Cleveland although the odds of him being available by pick No. 8 is decreasing by the hour. The San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have all expressed interest in the big pass rusher, so it’s unlikely he’s there for the Browns.

Cleveland’s second option would be an offensive lineman in Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley. Tunsil was once pegged in at No. 1 in all mock drafts before the Tennessee Titans traded the pick. Recent rumors have surfaced that Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley has jumped Tunsil on a few teams boards.

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This helps a team like the Browns, who lost two standout linemen in free agency, who could look to take a lineman with a top-ten pick. Once again, I have both players off the board at No. 8 although with Tunsil going No. 3 to San Diego Chargers and Stanley at No. 7 to the San Francisco 49ers.

Then there is the fan choice. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott has been the popular choice over the course of the last few days for the Browns at No. 8 and for good reason. The running back is the total package and can come in immediately to be a bell cow back.

Hue Jackson’s offensive scheme features a strong running game and Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson just don’t have that “it” factor like Elliott has. Drafting running backs in the top-ten is not usually a safe bet and doesn’t offer much historical value (or analytics) and because of this, the Browns may pass and break many hearts in doing so.

Lastly, the Browns have one more option. Trade back. Although many aren’t happy with this, it makes sense. Analytics may not be as big of a factor in the Browns draft as some initially thought, yet it makes the most sense with the team’s prioritized players off the board.

A trade back with a team desperate for Elliott, the Miami Dolphins perhaps, would offer the Browns more selections and flexibility to move around later in the draft, which they will do. At No. 13 now (Dolphin’s selection) the team takes the best player available in UCLA’s Myles Jack.

Next: Browns talking with teams who want Ezekiel Elliot

The linebacker who was once a top-five pick in all mock drafts has seen his stock plummet due to injury concerns with this knee. The Browns can thank Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd for jumping Jack as the top linebacker taken, leaving Jack and his massive potential to the Cleveland Browns.