Thursday the Browns were bounced by an AFC North foe in the Baltimore Ravens, pushing the team's record to a lowly 0-4. With the way things have been going it doesn't appear as if the win column will fill up anytime soon.
There are a variety of issues haunting the Browns right now. Let's examine the biggest issues that are all but ensuring the Browns will be picking first in the 2013 NFL draft.
Mediocre Pass Protection
While it may be easy to put the blame for the Browns' offensive woes on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, the real problem lies in the trenches along the offensive line.
Weeden has been inaccurate at times, but most of those occurrences have been while under pressure because his line cannot give him enough time to progress through his reads and make a solid throw.
The offensive line is not having issues running the ball, but the interior of the line has been giving up a ridiculous amount of pressure. Pressure up the middle is drastically more detrimental to a quarterback, because if it were coming from the edges, Weeden could just step up in the pocket.
Weeden by no means has been perfect, but the offensive line has been worse.
Lack of a Passing Game
The above issues with the offensive line and Weeden are a major part of the mediocre passing game that ranks in the lower end of NFL through four weeks, but there are other issues contributing as well.
While the running game has Trent Richardson to carry it along, the passing game has no major playmakers that are contributing effectively on a regular basis.
Greg Little continues to have major issues simply catching the football, adding five drops to his 2012 total against the Ravens Thursday night, including a touchdown pass.
Mohamed Massaquoi cannot stay healthy, and rookies Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon have yet to establish themselves as serious threats.
If the Browns could manage to catch the football consistently, the passing game wouldn't be an issue. A perfect example would be against Baltimore on prime time—had the receivers not dropped so many passes, the Browns could have pulled off a major upset.
Head coach Pat Shumur has had a rough go of it so far this season. He decided to go with Weeden at quarterback, which appears to be the right decision to this point.
The problem is how Shumur has handled Weeden. There is no reasonable explanation for a running back like Richardson to only receive 14 carries and Weeden attempting a ridiculous 52 passes like they did in Baltimore.
An ideal strategy would be to run heavily with Richardson because of his outstanding talent, and ease Weeden into the pro game.
Shurmur has done the opposite.
Running backs have one of the more simpler transitions to the NFL from the collegiate level. Quarterbacks have the most difficult.
Shurmur is handling the team the wrong way, and if the 2012 season continues in this fashion, he won't have a job when the season concludes.
2013 NFL Draft Strategy
With the Browns a likely candidate for the top pick, it is not too early to think about what they should do with the valuable pick.
What position should the Browns address in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft?
Picking a quarterback again would be a mistake, no matter how talented they happen to be. Weeden is good, but needs pieces around him—just like Colt McCoy did before the organization took Weeden.
Upgrading the interior of the offensive line is a viable option, as is grabbing the most talented receiver available.
An underrated option would be selecting the most talented cornerback available to put across from the elite Joe Haden. The defense is great already, but adding another talented defensive back to the secondary would give the Browns a perennial top-five unit.
If the organization truly believes Weeden is the quarterback of the future, it has to surround him with proper weapons. The best offensive lineman or wide receiver available makes the most sense with the top pick.