The NFL draft is one of the highest intensity sporting events of the year, and it does not even take place on a field. A good general manager can set up his team for years of success by maneuvering and drafting the right players. First-year general manager Ray Farmer will be doing that maneuvering for the Cleveland Browns this season.
While Farmer has had plenty of experience scouting and grading players, this will be his first time manning the phones. The best general managers know when players fall into their value range and pounce to move up the draft board. They also know when there is more value in moving down and acquiring extra picks.
It is a delicate science.
The Browns have set themselves up nicely for this draft. In fact, the old front office of Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi repeatedly pointed to this draft as the one they were eyeing.
While they will not be around to make the selections, they did leave behind the stockpile of picks the Browns now have at their disposal. They have two first-round selections and three in the first 35.
They also have two third-round sections and two fourth-round selections. If the Browns choose to make a deal, they have plenty of ammo.
Here are two deals Farmer should consider on draft day.
Trade up for a QB
The Browns currently have the fourth overall selection and sit behind two other teams who could draft a quarterback. The St. Louis Rams, who hold the second overall pick, do not need a quarterback but could certainly trade out of that spot with someone who does.
If the Browns covet one of the quarterbacks in this draft, they need to do everything they can to make sure he ends up in Cleveland.
Farmer told Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer that he has a quarterback in mind, but they have not made a final decision. He also shed some light on where he would select that quarterback.
“I'd say that No. 4 is not necessarily where I would take the guy that I like,” said Farmer.
Many people took that quote to mean he was not fond of the top quarterback prospects. But there is another way you can view that quote.
He very easily could have meant that they may need to move up in the draft to get the guy they want. It is so tough to tell this time of year, however. This is the season of the smokescreen.
One way or the other, if the Browns love a quarterback at the top of the draft, they need to make a move to make sure they lock him up.
The Browns will need to get into the Rams’ spot if Bortles is not the guy they like. If he is, however, then they need to convince Houston that they like someone else and trade into the top spot of the draft.
This is chess, not checkers.
According to the WalterFootball.com's NFL draft value chart, it would cost the Browns about 1,200 points to move into the top pick of the draft, or their fourth, 26th and 35th picks. They could always use a future pick in place of one of those selections.
To move into the second pick, they would need about 800 points, or just slightly more than the 4th and 26th picks combined.
While the decision is still months away, the Browns need to be considering all options. A franchise quarterback is far too valuable to roll the dice on him being available with the fourth overall pick. If they fall in love with a quarterback, they better do everything in their power to get their hands on him.
On the flip side, if there is no quarterback that knocks their socks off, then they should stand pat. There is no need to reach for a pick on a hope and a dream. It has to be someone they truly believe in.
Trade up for Mike Evans
While mock drafts are a fluid entity, the majority of them still have Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel going to the Browns. If this is the case, then the Browns have to seriously consider moving back up in the first round for his partner in crime, wide receiver Mike Evans.
Heck, even if they do not select Manziel, they should still go after Evans. I understand this is an extremely deep draft at wide receiver, and there is plenty of talent to be had later—but Evans is a freak.
This 6’5”, 225-pound monster caught 69 passes for 1,394 and 12 touchdowns last season. He would be a crazy compliment next to All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon.
If the Browns do not take a quarterback high and opt not to draft Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 4, then this trade becomes an absolute must. They have to find more playmakers to surround whoever plays quarterback next season.
Evans’ combination of size, speed and hands resemble that of Gordon when he entered the supplemental draft two years ago.
The New York Jets, who own the 18th pick in the draft, are the first team who has a glaring need for a wide receiver outside the top 10 picks. So let’s assume the Browns would need to get ahead of them.
For the Browns to jump from the 26th pick to the 17th pick, they would need about 250 points. This is the equivalent to their high third-round selection—a small price to pay for the second half of a lethal pass-catching combination and an insurance policy if Gordon ever slips up again.
If the Browns have already used their 26th pick to move up for a quarterback, it would cost them 400 points to jump from their 35th pick to the 17th. This would be both of their third-round selections or a combination of one third-rounder and some future picks.
Are you still with me?
While it’s confusing, these are just two of the dozens of trade scenarios that will be proposed to and by Farmer on draft day. The best thing for Farmer to do is trust his scouts and be confident in his selections. He cannot wait for players to fall to him.
He has been afforded the rare luxury of a glutton of draft picks. He needs to use them, but he needs to use them wisely.