Cleveland Browns: Weighing the options in the first round

Jan 25, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns talks with players during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 25, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns talks with players during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns are on the clock for the 2017 NFL Draft and with two top-12 picks this year the team needs to strike gold to turn things around.

“Cleveland Browns” and “Super Bowl” tend to not be used in the same sentence frequently. The Browns have grown quite comfortable watching the annual event from the location of their choice, not reaching the postseason since 2002.

Although, this season it was different. Super Bowl LI featured five former Browns players and even more personnel from both the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. Meanwhile, the Browns won just one game in 2016 as they cheered for former teammates in the biggest game of their life.

The conclusion of another NFL season opens up the beginning of a new one and that starts with the Browns. They not only own the first selection in 2017, but also the No. 12 overall pick as well as two second-round picks. With picks worth such high value, the Browns simply cannot afford to whiff as they did in 2014 (Johnny Manziel, Justin Gilbert).

Head coach Hue Jackson has already guaranteed fans the team won’t replicate another 1-15 season in 2017 and even offered to jump in Lake Erie if it happens. To keep things short and sweet, the 2017 NFL Draft is critical to the Cleveland Browns future as a franchise and the success their fans deserve.

The 2017 NFL Draft class doesn’t offer an Andrew Luck or Matthew Stafford, which is certainly disappointing for the Browns. However, this draft class offers an immense amount of defensive talent, starting with the No. 1 prospect Myles Garrett.

Garrett, the Texas A&M edge-rusher, has been the consensus selection for whoever holds the first selection. Of course, the quarterback-needy Browns will always have rumors circulating around them opting to take a quarterback at the top of the draft.

Building around Myles Garrett

Although Cleveland will entertain all options with the first pick, there is no doubt Myles Garrett should be the choice. Garrett immediately boosts the defense and with 2015 first-rounder Danny Shelton vastly improving last season, the Browns find themselves a defensive-identity. The team can place Garrett and 2016 second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah on the edges with Shelton and someone else in the middle.

Who that other player will be is an intriguing question. Desmond Bryant, who missed the 2016 season with a pectoral injury, is an option. He had six sacks and a forced fumble in 2015 and can be a viable option at tackle next to Shelton. But like any other position there are other ways to bring in new talent.

Cleveland has an NFL high $101,881,997 in cap space, according to Sportrac. With money to spend the team may elect to invest in a free agent defensive tackle. Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski pointed out that for free agency, there are a number of talented tackles on the market.

Any of those players listed can help redefine this teams strengths and give the Cleveland Browns a premier defensive line. Something that has been missing for the latest decade.

On the other hand, the Browns can elect to use one of their other top picks to draft a defensive tackle to start as well. One scenario that is quite realistic is Garrett at No. 1 and Stanford’s Solomon Thomas at No. 12. Thomas displays great versatility and is an explosive prospect that would seemingly fit well with the Browns’ direction under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Whether or not he will be available at the Browns’ second selection remains unknown but it would be difficult to pass on if the opportunity presents itself. The No. 12 pick is just as important to hit on as the first, due to the fact the front office desperately needs to hit on both first-rounders.

The No. 12 pick

If not Solomon Thomas, other options can be one of the top-three ranked quarterbacks who may drop to No. 12.

DeShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson are all under consideration at this point, but this team is also not a quarterback away from being good. If one did happen to fall to the Browns there is no doubt they heavily consider taking one. However, there are other pressing needs especially considering they spent a third-round pick last year on Cody Kessler. Also, the Browns recently hired former Buffalo Bills assistant David Lee, so let the Tyrod Taylor rumors begin.

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Defensive back is a high priority for the Browns and this draft is plentiful in that department. Although safeties Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker would be fantastic fits, it’s unlikely they drop to Cleveland’s No. 12 pick. Cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Quincy Wilson, and Marshon Lattimore would support Joe Haden on the outside and would be a good route to follow in improving the defense via drafting. After all, recent Super Bowl teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and Denver Broncos all had superb defenses.

Another area the Browns can replenish with the No. 12 overall pick is running back or wide receiver. Despite being a less likely option, it’s still a possibility nonetheless. LSU’s Leonard Fournette was once the prized possession of the draft but Florida State’s Dalvin Cook has quickly gained ground. The Browns rushed for just shy of 5 yards per carry in 2016, as Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson ran well. So the need isn’t necessarily there to invest such a high pick in a running back.

Lastly, Clemson’s Mike Williams made life easy for Deshaun Watson the previous two seasons and he will do the same for whoever his quarterback will be in the NFL. He is a phenomenal receiver who has the physical attributes to succeed at the next level. Corey Davis of Western Michigan is the other top receiver prospect in this draft class and could catch the eye of Hue Jackson. He is a natural playmaker who is fueled by his competitiveness and playmaking ability.

However, the Browns already drafted Corey Coleman in the first round last season and repeating that is unlikely. Terrelle Pryor was also a standout in his first full season at WR and the Browns will no doubt look to see if he is worthy of being a number one receiver in the NFL.

Next: Could Fournette fall to the Browns

At the end of the day, the Cleveland Browns now own the spotlight. The Browns must hit on both first-rounders in order to continue in the right direction of their latest rebuild. Building a defensive identity seems like it might be the best route to invest in but the Browns never fail to surprise the world. Despite this, the Cleveland Browns are now officially on the clock for the 2017 NFL Draft.