Cleveland Browns Complete, 7-Round 2014 NFL Mock Draft
At some point in time, the Cleveland Browns were expected to be major players for one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft. Rumors ran rampant about former front office mates Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi and their seeming attraction to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
When owner Jimmy Haslam rid the franchise of Banner and Lombardi and replaced them with highly regarded first-year general manager Ray Farmer, the door was again opened for the Browns to find the right players to fit within a system developed by new coach Mike Pettine.
Entering the free-agency period with $51.1 million in salary-cap space, the Browns made significant strides in bolstering an already-productive defense—acquiring Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner and Isaiah Trufant—and adding complementary skill players Ben Tate and Andrew Hawkins to the offense. Most recently, the Browns addressed a hole in the offensive line by signing free-agent guard Paul McQuistan to a two-year deal.
Now heading into the draft, the Browns are in position to make the Browns a contender in the AFC North. If Farmer can avoid reaching on a potential bust at quarterback at the top of the draft, Cleveland has a rare opportunity to become the biggest winners in the 2014 draft.
The following slides show a mock draft for all seven rounds. Each of the selected players has incredible upside, addresses a significant need and has the potential to be available at the slot in which they are placed.
No. 218: De’Anthony Thomas
De’Anthony Thomas is nothing more than a gimmick player at the next level.
Much like Darren Sproles with the San Diego Chargers, Thomas is a kickoff guy who should average 8-10 touches per game in the NFL. He has an unrivaled playmaking ability, and his explosiveness is extremely valuable in today’s NFL.
Widely known for his speed and big-play skills, the 5’9” and 174-pound Thomas saw his draft stock fall after posting a disappointing 4.50 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. Scouts and coaches immediately began to question whether or not he has the speed necessary to succeed at the next level.
According to Tyson Alger of The Oregonian, Thomas rebounded favorably during his pro day and posted a 4.34 unofficial time in the 40-yard dash. His unique skill set is most like Kent State’s Dri Archer in this draft and, perhaps, would be similar to current Browns gimmick specialist Travis Benjamin.
Despite his pro day performance, Thomas could still fall deep into the seventh round. On the off chance Thomas does turn into a Sproles-caliber contributor, Farmer should strongly consider grabbing his second running back of the draft at No. 218.
No. 180: Michael Sam
Michael Sam is obviously famous because he is the first openly gay NFL draft prospect, but he is far more than that on the football field.
After struggling through a variety of drills at the combine (running a 4.91 40-yard dash and recording just 17 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press) Sam rebounded well during his pro day. The 6’2”, 263-pound prospect chopped his 40-time down to 4.69 and completed 19 reps on the bench press.
As the Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year last season, Sam would be a major steal this late in the draft. Though he is probably best suited as a weak side rusher in a 4-3 defense, Sam led the SEC last season in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (18) and is versatile enough to play outside linebacker for the Browns.
Outside linebacker is one of the Browns’ deepest positions but, given the time to develop in coach Mike Pettine’s 3-4 system, Sam could be a difference-maker on the Cleveland defense.
No. 145: Cyril Richardson
Cyril Richardson is a perfect fit for the Cleveland Browns.
As of the end of February, the 6’5” and 329-pound guard from Baylor was still rated as a first-round talent by NFL.com. His draft stock has since plummeted due to concerns about his lateral agility and motivation and passion for the game.
On the other hand, Richardson has outstanding size and strength. He is dependable in the passing game and, because he was conditioned in an up-tempo offense, Richardson is capable of generating movement in the run game. While he is not the fleetest of feet, Richardson would be an outstanding addition to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking running scheme, as he possesses the coordination and foot speed to pull and trap effectively.
If Richardson completes an epic fall down draft boards and remains on the board for the Browns at No. 145, general manager Ray Farmer will have to think twice about passing up such a quality performer at a position of need.
No. 127: David Fales
The Browns could pick their second of two quarterbacks selected in the 2014 draft with the No. 127 overall pick.
San Jose State product David Fales is one of two quarterbacks (Derek Carr) in this draft who threw for 4,000-plus yards in both 2012 and 2013. At 6’2” and 212 pounds, Fales excels on play-action and is at his best making short to intermediate throws.
Critics have honed in on his inability to make consistent throws over 15 yards but, ultimately, Fales is an efficient scorer. With 66 touchdowns over two seasons in San Jose, Fales would give the Browns a quarterback with a knack for finding the open man and putting up points in bunches.
While he is not yet a polished quarterback who is ready to start in the NFL, Fales could be incredibly efficient for the future Browns if they elect to deploy a quick-hitting, smashmouth style offense.
No. 106: Tre Mason
At No. 106, the Browns have the ability to draft their first of two running backs in the 2014 draft.
Even after a breakout season for the Auburn Tigers in 2013-14, Tre Mason is widely considered a product of the system, as many believe he reaped the benefits of offensive tackle Greg Robinson’s dominating season.
Mason was just a piece of Auburn's running back by committee in the first three games of the season, when he averaged just 13 carries for 68.7 yards and scored just two touchdowns. After asserting himself as the feature back, Mason rattled off 1,610 yards and 21 touchdowns on his way breaking Bo Jackson’s rushing record.
The acquisition of Ben Tate reduces the Browns’ need for a franchise ball-carrier, but Mason would be an outstanding option to help Tate carry the load next season and provides excellent value at No. 106 overall.
No. 83: Yawin Smallwood
The Connecticut linebacker has garnered some interest from teams across the league, but he missed an opportunity to impress by putting up an average performance at the combine.
With the Huskies in 2013, the 6’3” and 244-pound linebacker recorded 118 tackles and four sacks. Smallwood would be a great complement to newly acquired Karlos Dansby, who is known more for his ability in coverage.
Smallwood is an excellent run defender in the interior and has the ability to make plays in the backfield, but he is not close to being a finished product as a player.
His terrific instincts and consistency as a tackler would be a breath of fresh air for Browns fans. Smallwood would be a viable option to split time with linebacker Craig Robertson and eventually turn himself into a three-down player.
No. 71: Aaron Murray
General manager Ray Farmer does not seem to be sold on an immediate impact player at the quarterback position at the top of the draft, but he will need to address the team’s lack of a passer at some point.
According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there are 12 teams in the league who have shown interest in Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.
The Browns are—and should be— one of them.
Murray enjoyed the best season of his college career in 2012, when he completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 3,893 yards for 36 touchdowns. Before his 2013 season was cut short due to a knee injury against Kentucky on Senior Night, Murray threw for another 3,075 yards and completed 64.8 percent of his passes in the best defensive conference in college football.
Coach Mike Pettine has acknowledged that the Browns’ might select two signal-callers in this draft, and they could get an absolute bargain with Murray at No. 71, with San Jose State quarterback David Fales coming at No. 127 (see slide 4).
No. 35: Cyrus Kouandjio
Cleveland has an opportunity to add first round talent at a position of need with the No. 35 pick in the draft.
Alabama offensive tackle/guard Cyrus Kouandjio falls down the draft board due to questions regarding the health of his knee. If the Browns deem him healthy, general manager Ray Farmer could land a huge steal with Kouandjio at No. 35.
At 6’7” and 322 pounds, Kouandjio is built to widen holes in the running game, as he made a habit of consuming defensive ends and linebackers while playing in the best defensive conference in college football. While his pass protection technique is a little raw, Kouandjio uses his length and brute strength to slap edge-rushers to the ground.
No. 26: Darqueze Dennard
Cleveland shopped around in free agency to find a true No. 2 cornerback to pair with Pro Bowler Joe Haden (thereby moving Buster Skrine to his more natural nickel-back position), but it was unsuccessful in doing so. According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, coach Mike Pettine has set his sights on the draft to find a starting-caliber cornerback.
Look no further than Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
Though he was slowed by injuries with the Spartans, Dennard was incredibly productive at the college level. He is a physical cornerback with great speed and exceptional anticipation who recorded four interceptions and 10 passes defensed with the Spartans in 2013. He is an instinctive press-man corner who, at 5’11” and 197 pounds, has the ability to match up with bigger receivers.
After addressing a major offensive need with the No. 4 pick in the draft, it will be extremely difficult for Farmer to pass up on a difference-maker like Dennard on the defensive side of the ball.
No. 4: Sammy Watkins
If all goes well for the Cleveland Browns, general manager Ray Farmer will make wide receiver Sammy Watkins the newest member of the Browns with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
As Ohio State fans witnessed when the Clemson wideout torched the Buckeyes for 227 yards and two touchdowns on 16 receptions in the Orange Bowl, Watkins can flat out fly. He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball and is most effective in the open field on bubble screens, slants and other quick, short passes.
Watkins would serve as an outstanding complement to All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon and help to form one of the most dynamic receiving corps in the league. Watkins would be essential in freeing up Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron in the passing game, as his game-changing skill set would morph last season’s 27th-ranked scoring offense into perhaps one of the most potent units in the league.
For Farmer and rookie head coach Mike Pettine, Watkins represents an opportunity to jump-start an organization that has sputtered since its return to Lake Erie in 1999. With newly acquired receiver Andrew Hawkins and running back Ben Tate in the fold as well, Browns fans could finally look forward to watching an exciting offense on Sundays.