Cleveland Browns: Five things to watch in the 2017 NFL Draft

Sep 24, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

As the 2017 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, we take a look at five things to watch for when the Cleveland Browns are on the clock.

The 2017 NFL Draft will take place April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

The Cleveland Browns will enter the weekend with 11 total draft picks – including the No. 1 and No. 12 selection in the first round – and five of the draft’s first 65 selections.

With less than two weeks to go until the draft, here are five storylines surrounding the Browns to keep an eye on.

1: Why the sudden red flags on the consensus No. 1 overall prospect and what to make of them.

Myles Garrett has long been pegged as the only player worthy of the top spot and the player the Browns should pick. Analysts and experts alike have recently been pointing out flaws in Garrett’s game, however. This is the case with all clear-cut top end prospects. Have a look at what some were saying about Peyton Manning before the 1998 draft, according to an article by Bob McGinn of The Journal Sentinel:

"“Florida intimidated him,” an AFC personnel director said. “You really like him because of the personality and all the intangibles but, boy, you’ve got be a little mobile in this league. He has been so well-coached, too … He’s a self-made player, let’s put it that way. I don’t know how much better he’s going to get.”"

Basically, this source was saying he thought Manning had possibly reached his ceiling at Tennessee. Also that Manning didn’t play well in the big game against the rival Gators. Here is another quote on Peyton leading up to the draft

"“He grew up in a football family,” an NFC scout said. “He’s got football genes. He studied the hell out of the tape … If we’re playing with Erik Kramer, you’d have to think that he could start in the league. This kid’s intelligence, work habits, leadership probably are going to take him a long, long way. But I don’t know how much more Manning will improve in pro ball.”"

Again, this scout is saying that Manning may not improve much as a pro. This is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, but leading up to the draft some thought Ryan Leaf should be the No. 1 pick as he had greater measurables and upside than Manning. Obviously, the Colts made the right call.

Related: Browns draft profile Jonathan Allen

So, is Myles Garrett the real deal?

Now, in 2017, experts and pundits are trying to do the same with Garrett. They say his motor is not always running, he gets washed out by the better tackles, does not show up for the big games, etc. One has to remember that he was playing with a high ankle sprain for the majority of the 2016 season, but he was still on the field competing. These sprains have knocked established NFL players out for weeks at a time. The sheer fact that he played through this injury tells you about his commitment to the game.

Garrett’s athleticism, size, speed, strength and production at the college ranks all point to him being a top defensive end in the NFL. The fact the Browns have brought in Gregg Williams as their defensive coordinator will only help the young star further develop his game, while also motivating him to be the best.

Williams uses a base 4-3 defense but will constantly shift throughout games depending on the situation. He is also known to scheme to his players’ strengths while covering up any deficiencies they may have.

If Cleveland stays at No. 1 overall the selection should be obvious, which leads us to the second thing to watch.

2: Rumors say there is discord between the front office and the coaching staff on who to select with the first pick.

With the recent rumors going around that the Browns front office is torn between picking Myles Garrett or Mitchell Trubisky everyone has to remember one thing: as the draft gets closer these rumors are more than likely smokescreens. Teams do this for a variety of reasons, but when the team with the No. 1 pick leaks out info it is usually to gauge another team’s interest in moving up.

As this is more than likely just that, a smokescreen, being put out by the Browns. The question then becomes what if they receive an offer they can’t refuse? It is hard to see the Browns trading down from No. 1, but what if a team such as the Tennessee Titans called?

The Titans finished 9-7 last season, have their franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariotta, and are a team that is not far from playoff contention. If the Titans offered their two first-round picks (No. 5 plus and No. 18) this season and next year’s No. 1, would that be enough for the Browns to consider trading down? This may be over and beyond what the NFL Draft Value Chart says the first overall pick is worth, but Garrett is not your average No. 1 overall prospect either.

If the Browns were to accept such an offer they would have three of the top 18 picks this year and another No. 1 for next season. It has been no secret how this regime values draft picks, as evidenced by taking on Brock Osweiler’s $16 million contract to add a second-rounder next season.

With three picks in the first round and six of the top 65 selections overall, Cleveland could focus on the strength of this draft, namely defense, which brings us to the third thing to watch.

Deshaun Watson Browns next QB?
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

3. Cleveland needs to fix the defense but also need a franchise QB. Will they be able to accomplish both?


Since their return to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have lacked an elite signal caller. Is this the draft to go after that guy?

While there are some intriguing quarterbacks this year, most analysts believe that there is not a true difference maker. Analysts have been wrong before of course, but when the majority says it then we need to take notice.

Related: Browns draft profile: Deshaun Watson

Cleveland has improved the offensive line through free agency. They traded for Osweiler, who is still on the roster, plus they have second-year quarterback Cody Kessler, a surprise third-round pick last season who got to play in eight games due to injuries.

When Kessler did play he wasn’t bad, considering the lack of protection he had. Head coach Hue Jackson said “trust me” when Kessler was drafted. What could have changed his opinion on him in the limited time he got to play and lead the Browns to select a quarterback again this year?

Defensive Line

The Browns defense was atrocious last year, ranking 30th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed. They have a few good players on the defense, but need to prioritize on improving several positions.

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The defensive line has to get better as the pass rush was non-existent. This put pressure on the secondary when having to cover receivers. When the quarterback is not rushed, then his receivers have all the advantage as they have time to get open.

Related: Browns draft profile: Myles Garrett

The Browns ranked 31st in the NFL in rush yards allowed, which allows opponents to sustain long drives. The new defensive scheme will help to alleviate some of these issues, but they need the players in place to do so. The 2017 Draft is very deep in defensive linemen, so Cleveland can add help to the line.

Danny Shelton improved greatly in his second season and should continue to develop with coach Williams, but the line needs another edge rusher and a three-technique tackle. They can get both of these in the draft.


The Browns have a few quality corners in Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Another cornerback would help, but it is the safety position that is the bigger need. Ed Reynolds and Ibraheim Campbell figure to be the starters, which is not a good scenario. Neither are starters let alone game changers. This class is loaded with quality safeties for Cleveland to improve.

Related: Browns draft profile: Malik Hooker

If the Browns use an early pick on a quarterback it could be losing out on a better defensive player. Both are needs, however with a revamped offensive line and a better defense, it stands to reason that a quarterback should be able to perform better as the team could rely more on the run game and would not be looking at so many early deficits to overcome.

It will be interesting come draft weekend to see which way the front office goes.

Sashi Brown Browns EVP
Mar 1, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown speaks to the media during the 2017 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

4. Will the front office continue the draft day trading frenzy?

Last year the new regime traded out of the No. 2 overall selection, bypassing the opportunity to draft quarterback Carson Wentz.

The jury is still out on Wentz, of course, but that trade was just one of many as the Browns continued the trend of stockpiling picks. Will they play the same game this draft?

With five of the top 65 picks and 11 total, they do not need to. The Browns should true to their board, so if a player they covet is no longer there they will not hesitate to pull the trigger on someone else. This regime is not shy about trading and shaking things up. The rumors say there has been talk of trading out of No. 1 overall and also trading up from No. 12.

One thing is for certain: when the Browns are on the clock anything can happen.

5. The fans reactions!

It’s always fun to watch the fans react to any moves made by the Browns.

Who can forget this from 2014? (Editor’s note: Of all the things we wish we could unsee, this is at the top of the list.) As exciting as it was then we all know how that story turned out.

One can only imagine the reaction if the Browns select Trubisky at No. 1 overall, or if they trade up from No. 12 to grab a quarterback or perhaps Ohio State standout Malik Hooker.

Next: Browns draft profile: T.J. Watt

If nothing else the anticipation, anxiety and fear (to an extent) is always a part of draft weekend for Browns fans.