Cleveland Browns should look to Ohio State to fill their needs
The Cleveland Browns have needs and Ohio State may be able to fill them during the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Cleveland Browns have significant needs on both sides of the ball that could be met by drafting former Ohio State Buckeyes as Ohio State is sending a wealth of talent into the 2017 NFL Draft.
In the past, it was a case of “ne’er the two shall meet;” but this draft season should see a change in this trend if the Browns want to improve.
On offense, the most pressing need for the Browns is at center. The Ohio State Buckeyes are sending the best center, per Sports Illustrated, into the 2017 draft in Pat Elflein. The 6-foot-3 and 295-pound Elflein enters the draft having also played guard for the previous two seasons, and his diversity in the middle of the line will provide depth.
In 2016, Elflein was named an All-American at center and took home the Remington Trophy, which is awarded to college football’s best center. He served as a team captain while leading the Buckeyes offensive line to one of the best rushing attacks in college football.
With Cameron Erving failing at center this season, and backups Austin Reiter (7th round pick) and Anthony Fabiano (undrafted free agent) not providing more than a one-game spark, it might be time to turn to Ohio State for help at center.
The Browns should begin targeting Elflein late in the second round to early in the third. While most serviceable linemen are drafted between the third and fifth rounds, a stand-out player like Elflein will probably be taken late in the second round so the Browns may have to move early if they want him.
Another pressing need for the Browns is safety. The play of the current safeties on the roster was uninspiring this past season and they helped the Browns land the first overall pick. Why not use that pick on a Buckeye to shore up that position?
Daniel Jeremiah at NFL.com recently ranked Mailk Hooker as the second-best prospect in the 2017 draft. Is it really a stretch to take him first overall? (On a historical note, only one defensive back has ever been selected with the first overall pick: Gary Glick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1956.)
Hooker earned All-American honors in 2016 and starred in several games for the Buckeyes, including the game against Michigan where he returned an interception for a touchdown. Known as a ball-hawking safety, Hooker ranked sixth nationally with six interceptions and led the nation with three interceptions returned for touchdowns. He is a dynamic player against both the pass and run.
The Browns sorely need help at the free safety position and Hooker fits the bill. If the Browns want Hooker, the need to either take him first overall or trade up from No. 12 to get him. It may be a high price, but landing Hooker will go a long way to shoring up the Browns secondary.
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Speaking of secondary help, the Browns often injured cornerback room needs help this off-season.
The Browns struggled mightily against the pass due to a combination of a failure to pressure the passer and an inability to cover wide receivers. The Browns could land some help in that area by drafting Buckeye standouts Marshon Lattimore or Gareon Conley.
Lattimore is a hometown prospect having played high school ball at Glenville High School. The redshirt sophomore played his first entire season in 2016 after having suffered injuries the previous two. His play on the field was outstanding as he earned all All-Big Ten honors as voted by the coaches. He was second on the Buckeyes with four interceptions.
He is currently ranked the third-overall prospect on Jeremiah’s big board. If the Browns want to draft Lattimore, they will need to take him at No. 12 overall, assuming he falls that far to them.
Conley is another local player having played high school ball at Massillon High School. Conley is a redshirt junior and two-year starter for the Buckeyes. He was third on the team behind Hooker and Lattimore with three interceptions, and was a second-team All-Big Ten performer as voted on by the coaches. He was the only returning starter in the Buckeyes secondary last season.
Conley is currently ranked at No. 29 overall on Jeremiah’s big board. If the Browns are wise enough to pick up Conley, they should target him with one of their second-round picks.
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For years, the Browns have passed on players coming out of Ohio State and it is time for this trend to end. The Browns could add significant help to their secondary and offensive line, both major areas of concern, by choosing players from inside their own state.
Let’s hope the Browns front office is paying attention.