Now that the college football season has come to a close, players all over the nation will wonder which team will select them in the NFL draft. They won't wonder that half as much as Cleveland Browns fans will, however.
Each year in Cleveland the draft is like a Municipal Holiday. Fans gather all around the city to wait and see which players they can hang their hopes and dreams upon.
The 2014 draft will be more exciting than ever for Browns fans. Cleveland holds the fourth, 26th, 35th, 71st and 83rd picks in the top 100. And that is just in the first three rounds.
The Browns currently hold ten picks overall and have a ton of ammunition to move around. They proved this was the draft they thought could propel them back into contention by trading away fourth and fifth round selections in 2013 for third and fourth round picks in 2014.
“I think that we said all along that we felt like the draft of 2013 did not compare to the draft of 2014,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said via Ohio.com. “We like the talent in the draft of 2014.”
If this is the draft that will launch the Browns back to relevance, then they need to hit on more than a few of their selections. Oh yeah, they might want to hire the right head coach this time as well.
Despite that minute detail, here are the best-case scenarios for the Browns in each round of the 2014 draft. Keep in mind we are still four months away from the draft so tons can and will change.
While the average fan may not think so, it certainly seems like the Browns do. The front office was never high on quarterback Brandon Weeden to begin with and then traded for even more assets in this draft.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated's TheMMQB.com wrote, “I hear Cleveland really likes Johnny Manziel,” and cited it as a possible reason for firing head coach Rob Chudzinski.
One way or the other the Browns need a new quarterback and if they like someone at the top of the draft they will have every chance to get their guy.
If they want Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who most believe to be the most talented quarterback in this class for the better part of two years, they will have to trade up. If they want Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel he will probably be available with the fourth overall pick.
I think this is the direction the Browns will go. They have been rumored to be hot and heavy over Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, according to Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com. They also hope to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Both of those coaches run a wide-open offense with quarterbacks who had less than ideal arm strength. They could groom Manziel, especially if he has weapons around him.
So there it is…
“With the fourth pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.”
Speaking of putting weapons around Manizel, why not add a target that complements wide receiver Josh Gordon, is ranked the second best receiver in the draft according to CBSSports.com and is familiar with your new quarterback?
The young man I am speaking of is 6’5”, 225-pound playmaker Mike Evans. The wide receiver from Texas A&M is a huge target and would instantly free up Gordon from defensive double teams.
Evans caught 69 passes from Manziel in 2013 totaling 1394 yards and 12 touchdowns. That was following an 82 reception season where he also broke 1000 yards receiving. He is no flash in the pan.
During the National Championship Game Monday night, Gordon was openly praising big targets like Evans.
WR's 6'4" & up #MoneyTeam— Josh Gordon (@JOSH_GORDONXII) January 7, 2014
The issue is that Evans will be gone by the 26th overall pick so the Browns will need to burn up the phone lines and make a trade.
Dallas, who owns the 17th pick sits one spot above the wide receiver hungry New York Jets and could wait until the 26th pick to take a defensive player. The Browns would likely also have to give up a future second-round selection but it would be a small price to pay.
Taking a quarterback with the fourth overall pick is a risk. Not surrounding him with big-time playmakers is an even bigger risk. The Browns will hopefully do the right thing.
So there it is…
“With the 26th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.”
The Browns desperately need to bolster their offensive line and will attack this problem from multiple angles this offseason. First, they will most likely go after a big name guard in free agency.
Then in the second round of the draft they will add even more depth with Baylor guard Cyril Richardson. This 6’5”, 340-pound mountain of a man has the power to improve the run game but is “surprisingly nimble” according to Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com.
Right about now you are probably screaming at your computer screen that the offensive line will be way too big for the barely 6’1” tall Manizel to throw over. This is why I research and write while you read and enjoy your delicious donut.
During the 2013 season, Manziel’s guards at Texas A&M were 6’4” and 6’5” tall. So the Richardson’s height should not be an issue for the sure-footed quarterback.
So there it is…
“With the 35th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Baylor guard Cyril Richardson.”
One of my biggest pet peeves is when Ohio State fans try and push players they love in college on their favorite pro teams. Well this year they can rejoice.
When Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde slips to the Browns at the 71st overall pick they wont be able to get their selection card in fast enough.
The Browns will most likely try to sign Texans free agent running back Ben Tate this offseason, as Adam Schefter of ESPN reported back in September. They also still have Dion Lewis and Edwin Baker in the fold. All of those runners have a similar style, however.
Hyde is a 6’0”, 235-pound wrecking ball that will add a bruising style of attack to the Browns backfield. In 2013 he rushed for 1521 yards and 15 touchdowns on 208 attempts.
He could end up being a workhorse type back for the Browns but they wont need him to be right away.
So there it is…
“With the 71st pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde.”
So far all the selections have been on the offensive side of the football but that is about to change. One of the Browns biggest weaknesses in 2013 was the inside linebacker position.
While they will need to replace both inside linebackers in the next two years, they will start by replacing Craig Robertson. As proven by their selection of outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo last year, the Browns front office loves fast, athletic defenders.
That is why they will select Florida State inside linebacker Christian Jones with the 83rd overall pick.
Jones is 6’3”, 232 pounds and ranked the fourth-best inside linebacker according to CBSSports.com. While he has the size and strength to fend off the run, he has much more ability in the area the Browns need him most.
Running backs, tight ends and slot receivers in the passing game eviscerated the Browns in 2013. Jones not only covered all of the above, he did it very well.
Against Clemson, he covered wide receiver Sammy Watkins for part of the game. Watkins is projected as a top-15 pick in the draft this season.
So there it is…
“With the 83rd pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Florida State linebacker Christian Jones.”
The Browns are not done in the third round, however. I agree with Bleacher Report’s Lead NFL Draft Writer Matt Miller that the Browns will go for a cornerback here as well. I also agree with whom they will take. They will just have to be creative to get there.
The Browns will trade both of their fourth-round picks to grab a guy who has top-100 talent at the cornerback position. Indianapolis, who has plenty of defensive holes to fill and no fourth round picks, will gladly move down 14 spots and be their trade partner.
Buster Skrine was effective and had a break out year for Cleveland in 2013 but the Browns need someone who can move him back to his natural position of nickelback. They also need added depth so they are not playing guys like Jordan Poyer in the final few weeks of the season.
That is why the Browns will select cornerback Vic Hampton with the 88th pick in the draft (acquired from Indianapolis). Hampton snagged three interceptions and was named All-SEC Second Team in 2013 by the Associated Press.
“Hampton has a good blend of awareness, ballskills and read/react ability to be left alone on an island against both the pass and the run. He lacks ideal height and his overaggressive nature will lead to mistakes, but his confidence and fast-paced playing style fit what NFL teams want at the position.” according to NFLDraftScout.com
So there it is…
“With the 88th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select South Carolina cornerback Vic Hampton.”
At this point the Browns will have selected six players in the top-88 picks. They will have filled needs at quarterback, wide receiver, guard, running back, inside linebacker and cornerback.
In the fifth through seventh rounds the Browns can sit back and focus on building depth and taking character issue guys with high ceilings like they did in 2013 with defensive lineman Armonty Bryant. That gamble paid off as he had two sacks in his rookie year.
The first late-round risk the Browns will take in the 2014 draft will be a calculated one. As we saw in 2013, the Browns need pass-rushing depth.
As the season wore on, they went from one of the league leaders in sacks to a team that could barely generate a pass rush. Quentin Groves will most likely be gone and they will need a stable of young pass-rushers to bolster that position.
That is why the Browns will select Montana outside linebacker Jordan Tripp with the 133rd pick. Scouts are raving about the 6’3”, 237-pound pass rusher’s upside.
Bleacher Report’s own draft guru Matt Miller wondered how things may have gone if Montana used Tripp more effectively.
“It's fun to imagine how dominant Jordan Tripp could have been at a major program or even at Montana if used better. A fluid, impressive athlete in space, Tripp was never unleashed on the offense. His numbers may not be special, but his upside is.”
So there it is…
“With the 133rd pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp.”
The Browns will need to bolster their offensive tackle position in 2014 and will probably address it through a mixture of free agency and the draft. Adding Vanderbilt tackle Wesley Johnson with the 164th pick would not just be adding depth but also a possible starter.
The 6’5”, 290-pound tackle has been reliable, starting all four years at Vanderbilt, and versatile, playing four different positions on the offensive line.
He was flagged for just two holding penalties in his career and was named to the 2013 All-SEC First Team, as voted by the coaches.
“He is smart with astute awareness to pick up defenders and is a clinic for combination blocks,” per NFLDraftScout.com
This is a very important attribute for the Browns as they struggled mightily with complex blitz pickups last season.
So there it is…
“With the 164th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Vanderbilt tackle Wesley Johnson.”
At this point the Browns will take the best athlete left on the board who also has the most upside. Despite having tight end Jordan Cameron on the roster, the Browns will select Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pedersen.
Pedersen is a 6’4”, 240-pound athlete who caught 39 passes for 551 yards and three touchdowns for the Badgers in 2013. It’s not just his pass-catching ability but also his willingness to block that will attract the Browns brass.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com had this to say about Pederson:
He has soft hands with excellent body control to easily make the correct adjustments on the move to reel-in poor throws, but he does have the bad habit of looking upfield before securing the catch and needs to consistently finish. Pedersen gives top notch blocking effort, but needs to better understand when to disengage to avoid holding calls. He lacks the power or length to be a consistent mauler as a run blocker, but he gives excellent effort in this area and projects to the NFL as a dependable joker-type tight end.
So there it is…
“With the 195th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pedersen.”