Injuries at Quarterback Leave Browns in Driver's Seat for Top 2014 Draft Pick

Kristopher KnoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 24:  Safety Will Allen #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers picks up a fumble by quarterback Jason Campbell #17 of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

If the 2013 NFL season has taught us anything, it is that having a solid backup quarterback is always a good idea.

If the 2013 Cleveland Browns have taught us anything, it's that having a serviceable backup to the backup doesn't hurt either.

Through 13 weeks, the Browns have started three different quarterbacks and have seen four quarterback changes—three of them due to injuries.

Opening-day starter Brandon Weeden was lost in Week 2 with a finger injury. He was replaced in Week 3 by hometown kid Brian Hoyer, who provided Cleveland with a feel-good story and (technically) three wins in his three-game stretch as starter.

Of course, the brief Hoyer era seems like a lifetime ago, as the former Tom Brady understudy was lost for the season in his third appearance with a torn ACL.

Weeden regained the the starting job. However he was benched after back-to-back losses in favor of Jason Campbell, only to regain the job after Campbell suffered a concussion in Week 12 (still following?).

Due to a concussion suffered by Weeden in Cleveland's most recent loss, the Browns may be forced to turn to a fourth quarterback—former Dallas Cowboys practice squad member and YouTube trick-shot sensation Alex Tanney.

Undoubtedly, the Browns will soon be looking to the 2014 draft for yet another quarterback (unless, of course, the NFL starts awarding points for hitting trash cans).

The prospect of Cleveland taking a quarterback in the first round next spring likely became an inevitability the moment Hoyer went down.

The Cleveland native and former undrafted free agent showed promise, leading Cleveland to two wins in his two starts before his injury against the Buffalo Bills in his third (the only game Weeden has managed to not lose this season).

Thanks to Hoyer's limited playing time, however, the Browns will have to wait until next season to see if he has the potential to be a long-term solution at the quarterback position. You can bet they use an early draft pick to give him some youthful competition.

If there is a silver lining in Cleveland's bizarre quarterback story this season, it is that the injuries to Hoyer, Campbell and Weeden have likely set Cleveland up in prime position to select the rookie quarterback of its choosing next May.

Browns Quarterbacks This Season
Brian Hoyer39657615533-0
Jason Campbell415387933631-3
Brandon Weeden52671411,731990-5
through Week 13

The Browns have won just one game in which Hoyer did not appear and now sit at 4-8. Only six teams—the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins (pick owned by St. Louis Rams), Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons—currently hold a worse record than Cleveland.

There is a realistic chance that if the Browns are forced to start Tanney, they won't win another game this season (the team travels to face the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers with a home game against the Chicago Bears thrown in between).

They may not anyway as Campbell and Weeden have combined for a 1-8 record as starters this season.

This means that Cleveland is most likely eyeing a top-10, or even a top-five selection in next year's draft.

Trading up to obtain a pick as high a first overall is entirely conceivable thanks to the collection of draft picks the Browns have accumulated over the past year.

This, of course, is assuming Browns owner Jimmy Haslem and CEO Joe Banner feel the need to trade up from whatever slot the team winds up with.

The 2014 draft is expected to feature a high number of top-tier quarterback prospects—including Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.

If the decision-makers in Cleveland feel that the talent gap between the top two or three signal-callers is small enough, they may choose to stand pat and draft at their current position.

However, the Browns certainly have the ammunition to move up and grab the guy they want if necessary.

The bottom line is that the Browns do not know if Hoyer can be the quarterback of the future. They can now feel pretty certain that neither Weeden nor Campbell is.

Had Cleveland enjoyed a little more luck—and health—at quarterback this season, having its pick of prospects next May would be an unlikely possibility.