Cleveland Browns Draft Stocks: Who Is Rising and Falling on the Draft Board?
We are still about 45 days away from the NFL draft, but the Cleveland Browns remain a mystery. While most teams have given hints or shown interest in certain players, the Browns have remained coy and are being cautious not to tip their hand.
Browns general manager Ray Farmer told the media on Monday, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
Right now the systems that we're using are based on keeping everybody in the dark. I like the idea of, the more we tell everybody, the more of a disadvantage we put ourselves at. The fact that people are guessing as to where we're going and where we've been, it's a good thing in the sense that when you're too visible about certain things, it becomes obvious, and obvious is not good for us.
Farmer is right. Secrecy is the best friend you can have when you own two first-round picks and the ability to jump up and grab anyone you want. Unfortunately, it is the worst enemy of guys like me who have to write about the team for a living.
So based on reports, workouts and creative reasoning, these are the players who might be rising and falling on the Browns' draft board.
Rising: Jake Matthews
You may be surprised to find an offensive tackle at the top of the first round on this list, but here he is. Jake Matthews, the tackle from Texas A&M, could be available if the Browns choose to shock the world and take an offensive lineman early.
Rob Rang from CBSSports.com has the Browns selecting Matthews in his latest mock draft on Monday. While I personally do not think this could happen, Rang is not alone.
Tony Grossi from ESPNCleveland.com had the Browns selecting Auburn tackle Greg Robinson in his latest mock draft as well. The only evidence to support this theory is that the Browns made just one journeyman signing on the offensive line.
They need massive upgrades and signing utility lineman Paul McQuistan is not going to fix those issues. This is still very far-fetched to me, however.
Falling: Carlos Hyde
This one is going to break the heart of Ohio State fans in the greater Cleveland area. Unfortunately for them, the chances of the Browns drafting Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde seem very slim.
They just invested $7 million over two seasons in Ben Tate to make him the feature back in the offense. It would seem counterproductive to take Hyde in the first three rounds and then have him waste away on the bench. Plus, he is a similar to Tate as a one-cut runner.
Hyde’s hamstring injury at the combine did not help matters either. When the Browns select a running back in this draft, and I expect them to, it will be someone who can be an insurance policy to Tate as well as a complement on third downs.
In the later rounds, I see the Browns drafting a smaller, shiftier runner who can pick up blocks on blitzing downs.
Rising: Khalil Mack
It is quite obvious that Browns head coach Mike Pettine is very serious about his linebackers. First he signed Karlos Dansby and then he reportedly went after his former player Arthur Moats, per NFL.com's Aditi Kinkhabwala. Dansby was a hit, but Moats was the worst kind of swing-and-miss.
Steelers have signed unrestricted free agent linebacker Arthur Moats to a one-year contract, the team announced.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 24, 2014
With Moats going to an in-division rival and the Browns being so secretive about the fourth overall pick, it would not be that big of a surprise if they selected Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
He was a freak at his pro day. Per CBSSports.com, he ran a 4.54 second 40-yard dash time and showed game-changing athleticism.
Falling: Dri Archer
By no fault of his own, Kent State speedster Dri Archer is probably tumbling down the Browns' draft board. After running a 4.26 40-yard dash at the combine, he opted not to run at his pro day and instead stick to positional drills.
He told Ryan Lewis of The Akron Beacon Journal that scouts said he did well. For the Browns, however, the issue is not his performance. It is who they just signed.
By signing Andrew Hawkins to a four-year, $13.6 million deal, they have already snagged their shifty speedster. He will join Travis Benjamin as the Browns' small but versatile offensive weapons. There just is not room for three of those little guys on an NFL roster.
Rising: Kelvin Benjamin
When all 32 teams show up to your school’s pro day, then you know there is some serious talent. Perhaps the biggest talent at Florida State’s pro day was wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Many felt as though he was a fringe first-round pick, but after his impressive combine and pro day, he has probably cemented himself as a late first-rounder.
The Browns will be looking closely at him with the 26th pick if he is available, and rightly so. After posting impressive numbers at the combine, he added a 33-inch vertical at his pro day, per NFL.com.
The Browns are in desperate need of a dangerous second receiving option, and Benjamin is certainly on the radar. So much so that both Pat Kirwan and Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com have the Browns selecting him with the 26th pick in their latest mock drafts.
The only worry for Cleveland should be whether or not he actually lasts that late into the first round.
Falling: Teddy Bridgewater
Conventional wisdom would say that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s stock is definitely on the decline after having a reportedly shaky pro day. He opted not to wear the glove on his throwing hand, which has become his staple. He told Jon Gruden during his QB Camp on ESPN that it was a mistake to make the change.
The scrutiny is hitting him hard now—so much so that Rob Rang of CBSSports.com has him tumbling all the way down to the Browns with the 26th pick.
I don’t buy it.
Ray farmer told the media on Tuesday that he is not attending Johnny Manziel’s pro day because they get overblown and overhyped. Most NFL general managers would agree.
Farmer said in a sitdown with Browns beat writers on Monday, via Cleveland.com:
No, I will not (attend). I will tell you that. I will not be going to Johnny Manziel's workout. There's definitely a schedule conflict, and definitely opportunities to talk to all parties that we may or may not be interested in...A Pro Day of orchestrated throws, I don't know what that tells you. It's a piece of it that people blow up into this great thing. I went to a lot of games and practices this fall. I've seen them throw the ball.
While the poor pro-day performance was something that Bridgewater would have liked not to happen, it is just a blip on the radar. If the Browns had him pegged as their guy before that day, then not much would have changed.
So his stock may be falling just slightly with the Browns.
Rising: Stanley Jean-Baptiste
The Browns will need to draft a cornerback this year, and one of the best prospects who should be available in the middle rounds is Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste. He tested off the charts in everything except the 40-yard dash at the combine, which he ran in 4.61 seconds.
At his pro day in March, however, he improved that time to 4.46 seconds and flashed the speed that many had seen on tape. He told the media after his pro day that he was just tense at the combine and felt more relaxed at his pro day.
With the Browns’ need for a second cornerback after failing to land Darrelle Revis in a trade with Tampa Bay, they should be targeting Jean-Baptiste. Unfortunately, he is another guy they need to worry about being scooped up sooner than expected.
If he falls into the third round, the Browns will be in play for the ball hawk.
Combine results courtesy of NFL.com.