As the Cleveland Browns and their fans begin to turn an eye to the 2014 season, you can’t help but wonder what might have been. Could things have been different?
What if the Browns had a franchise quarterback this season? What if they had another weapon at wide receiver to compliment Josh Gordon? What if the protection would have been better?
An improved offense certainly may have helped the defense out by keeping them off the field and may have even won a few games on their own.
Last season the front office revamped the defense and this year a complete overhaul of the offense is anticipated.
If there is a quarterback the Browns like, they have the ammunition to go get him. They will most likely add another weapon or two at wide receiver and focus on improving the run and pass blocking.
The Browns do not have to address all of these needs with their 10 draft picks because they also have about $23 million in salary cap room to spend in free agency. But as Browns fans saw with outside linebacker Paul Kruger, big contracts don’t always equal big production.
So here are five players the Browns could target in the 2014 draft to help them make the leap from perennial loser to legitimate franchise once again.
The quarterback position is such a crapshoot at this point because no one knows who is actually going to be available. What once looked like a deep and uber-talented draft class has become sparse and covered in warts.
The Browns currently hold the fourth overall draft pick. With the Houston Texans needing a quarterback and holding the top pick it seems highly unlikely that they would trade out.
If the Texans select Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater like everyone expects, then the Browns would be left to fight it out with the Jacksonville Jaguars (who currently hold the third overall pick) for the next best guy.
That is assuming the Browns even like any of the quarterbacks remaining in the draft, which is a large assumption.
Last week we looked at Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr and UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. This week we look at the most polarizing signal caller in the draft: Johnny Manziel.
He threw for 3700 yards each of the last two seasons and combined for 88 touchdowns over that period, as well.
There will be big questions surrounding his height, his lower than ideal release point and off the field issues that have followed Manziel throughout his college career.
Do the Browns view Manziel as a franchise quarterback? It looks like they may have the opportunity to tell the world come May.
According to a scouting report on Manziel, Eric Galko of SportingNews.com said, “He’ll need at least one, big-bodied target, as (Mike) Evans has been for him in his Texas A&M career.
If the Browns roll the dice on Manziel at the top of the first round, they might as well go and get his favorite playmaker for him in the middle of day one.
Evans is projected to go in the mid-teens so the Browns would need to move up from their spot later in the first round to do so. Fortunately, they have extra third and fourth round draft picks, which could be used to make that move.
While drafting a quarterback like Manziel would be a risk, it would be much less risky if they surrounded him with big, powerful weapons. If he had wide receiver Josh Gordon, Mike Evans and a legitimate running back like soon-to-be Houston Texans free agent Ben Tate, then that would be a heck of a start.
Evans is 6’5” and 225 pounds of spectacular. Manziel found him for 1105 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2012 and then dwarfed those numbers in 2013. This year they connected for 1322 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
Evans would also serve as insurance if Gordon were to be suspended for a season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy again. That scenario is always in play and the Browns must forge ahead just in case.
The long-locked playmaker from the Clemson Tigers has been thought of as the next Pierre Garcon. Sammy Watkins would probably prefer to be thought of as the first Sammy Watkins.
The 6’1”, 205-pound junior is a dizzying blend of speed, power and football IQ. He can beat you deep, beat press coverage with ease and find the soft spot in a zone to move the sticks.
Watkins is projected as a top-ten pick in most mock drafts and would probably only be an option for the Browns if they decided that there wasn't a quarterback they wanted to select at the top of the first round.
He caught 85 passes for 1237 yards and 10 touchdowns this season and helped lead the Tigers to an Orange Bowl berth against Ohio State. He was held to less than 90 receiving yards only three times this season.
He would be a dangerous weapon across from Josh Gordon and could help make his quarterback’s life easier, especially if the Browns decided not to draft someone high and it was Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer quarterbacking.
Watkins would cost the Browns their high first-round draft pick but would also allow them to use their later first-round pick on a lineman or any other need they would want to fill.
This 6’3”, 205-pound freak from Penn State named Allen Robinson could be a target for the Browns if they choose to use their later first-round pick on a wide receiver.
He is currently projected to go in the mid-twenties and that would be exactly where the Browns would be selecting with Indianapolis’ pick. He is very similar to Josh Gordon but lacks some of the strength that Gordon displays.
He has big play potential on every snap and safeties always have to be weary of him winning his battle over the top on jump balls.
Two things that will bother scouts in the draft, however, are his bumbles against Michigan this year. He fumbled a ball in overtime and dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the end zone, as well.
His production is undeniable, as he hauled in 77 passes for 1018 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012 only to come back with 97 catches for 1432 yards and six touchdowns this season.
He had less than 98 receiving yards just three times this season, but had a hard time finding the end zone. He finished the regular season on a five game streak without a touchdown.
Cedric Ogbuehi was a bulldozer of a right tackle for Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M the past two seasons. He was a cornerstone of a 2012 line that led the SEC in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense.
They finished third in the nation in total scoring and offense.
In 2013 he and the other big fellas did not slow down. They led the SEC in total offense and passing offense and allowed Manziel to be sacked just 21 times, which is astonishing for such a mobile quarterback.
The Browns currently have Mitchell Schwartz as their starting right tackle, but Dane Brugler of CBS Sports thinks they would consider moving Schwartz to guard and select Ogbuehi late in the first round.
This would alleviate two problems on the offensive line that gave them fits all season long.
The Browns quarterbacks were sacked 46 times—fourth worst in the NFL.
This would also improve the run game to the right side, as Schwartz is an above average run blocker but struggles against outside speed rush. Ogbuehi, on the other hand, is a bull on the right side and a very good run blocker.