Cleveland Browns: Pros and Cons for Each Top NFL Draft Option
All 32 teams go into the NFL Draft with a game plan. They know what players they want on their team, and with a month to go until the draft, they have an idea of who to select with their picks, especially in the first round.
That doesn't stop mock drafts from trying to figure out precisely what each team's game plan is. While they are an interesting look at what is to come, at the end of the day it's not about who fits best on a team, but about which players are both available and likely to be selected.
In the case of the Cleveland Browns, they need help at offense, especially at quarterback. They have a lot of positions that need shoring up, such as the offensive line and secondary, but at the fourth overall pick, quarterback looks like the obvious choice.
Despite that, other players besides quarterbacks are being looked at as possibilities for the Browns. How do these players stack up, not just in the NFL but for the Browns?
Projected players are in alphabetical order, selected due to appearances in major mock drafts. Any stats are from ESPN.
Blake Bortles has skyrocketed from a mostly unknown prospect to likely the first quarterback taken in the draft. In fact, CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan has Cleveland trading up to acquire him second overall in his latest mock draft.
Physically, Bortles looks the part, and he played great in college. Even against tough teams. He has a great arm, is an excellent decision-maker, and he has the ability to read defenses and make adjustments if needed—something I do not often see even in top quarterback prospects.
More to the point, his toughness means that he will not be fazed by having to face the tough defenses in the AFC North six times a year. He was also able to lead UCF to a comeback win in SMU in 13-degree weather, so he has shown the ability to handle cold temperatures—a necessity in Cleveland.
As for his downside, he has not played particularly tough competition while at UCF. He played South Carolina, yes, but the other top teams he played—Louisville and Baylor—were not exactly known for their defense.
If the mock drafts are any indication, Bortles is the least likely of the prospects on this list to be available at the fourth overall spot. If the Browns are sold on him, they will have to trade up, and I'm unconvinced he is worth trading the farm for.
The possibility of Bridgewater to the Cleveland Browns, while prevalent in earlier months, has lost steam. While this may look like it won't happen now, some columnists still note this as a possibility, including Sports Illustrated's Don Banks.
Bridgewater is the type of player who had a very high football IQ, can make all the throws needed, and he played in a pro-style offense at Louisville. He put up great numbers in the process, and he has been considered a first-round talent for years. He has not done anything to change that.
He seemed to play better against tough teams while in college. His bowl performance against Florida is what we remember about his college career, rather than occasional struggles against weak competition, and that should translate to the NFL.
While Rob Rang notes Bridgewater as a good fit for the Browns, he does cite concerns about his slim frame. He was curable in college, but AFC North defenses are going to be a lot more punishing than Louisville's opponents were.
Not only that, but a poor pro day has hurt his stock, and all of a sudden taking him fourth overall might be a reach. If he's the Browns' guy then he should be taken there nonetheless. If Browns fans are souring on him, then the front office is going to have to make sure they stick by him if they go that route.
While mock drafts have stayed away from placing Carr and the Browns together, the Browns are clearly high on him. It would be a surprise if they took him fourth overall, but it's far from impossible.
Derek Carr had more passing yards than anyone else in college football this season. Even though his numbers were inflated due to Fresno State's system, it's still tough to ignore them.
He has elite arm strength, and he would have no problem throwing the ball in cold weather. He also may have had one of the best pro days of the year, and he showed that he has no trouble throwing the ball.
Despite that, the only tough defense he faced this season was USC, and he performed poorly in that game. Not only that, but he mostly played in the shotgun, and will take time to move to solely a pro-style offense. He tends to stare down receivers on top of that.
What worries me most seeing Carr on film is that his elite arm strength, questionable decision-making, and how he handles himself in the pocket reminds me a bit too much of Brandon Weeden. I would have to think the Browns front office would want to stay away from a similar quarterback after how badly that failed.
Of all the Browns' draft possibilities, Manziel is the one that pops up most frequently in mock drafts. Don Banks, Will Brinson, Dane Brugler and Rob Rang all have the Browns taking Manziel. He is a divisive enough player that anyone can make a laundry list of both good and bad points about
There's no question that Manziel's a leader on the field, and is the best dual-threat quarterback available in the draft. In fact, he's an effective passer both in the pocket and on the run, which you do not often see with scramblers, and that's something which should translate well to Kyle Shanahan's offense.
It helps that Manziel has played against tough competition in the SEC, which should translate to competing in the AFC North. Russell Wilson's rise to stardom also bodes well for Manziel, since it shows that a short quarterback can in fact play in today's NFL.
He's already a boom-or-bust candidate to begin with, but playing in Cleveland won't do him any favors. His lack of strength compared to other quarterbacks in the class is going to leave him susceptible to injury. Not only that, but the weather and grass in Cleveland does not bode well for his skill set.
Manziel's personality could be a drawback as well. If he struggles to adjust early on, then he has to be ready for the jeers. He has a big personality and is used to being the big man on campus; it could either be a nice wake-up call, or make his bust status even more pronounced if his career goes poorly.
Every year there's at least one player that ends up in a mock draft for the Browns that takes me completely by surprise. Greg Robinson fits that bill this year, noted as the Browns' pick by both Doug Farrar and Chris Burke.
While Robinson is still developing as a pass-blocker, he can already run block at a top level, and has a prototypical build as an offensive tackle. As a result, he would be able to play either right or left tackle without much difficulty.
He was noted by Farrar as an "optimal right tackle in any system," and he could easily be a day-one starter. Once Mitchell Schwartz moves to guard, all of a sudden that offensive line looks far better, and it would be able to protect any quarterback.
As good as he could be, Robinson is still a project who happens to have a lot of upside. For a top-five tackle, I would expect to see a sure thing like the Browns got with Joe Thomas.
It would be a complete shock for the Browns to draft a tackle with the fourth pick. They already have a left tackle in perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas, so why would they use a top-five pick on a right tackle whose high draft status is based more on upside than what he can do now?
Alongside Manziel, Sammy Watkins has also frequently shown up in mock drafts for the Cleveland Browns. Pete Prisco and NFL.com's Chase Goodbread both have Watkins going to the Browns in their latest mock drafts.
As a wide receiver, he is in my mind, the skill player who is the closest to a sure thing this year. He has great speed, but more importantly, elite route running and body control, which helps turn shorter gains into touchdowns.
The Browns already have plenty of receiving talent in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, meaning that Watkins could contribute and flourish immediately without having to worry about constantly being double-teamed, which could be the case elsewhere.
Watkins may have great speed, but his size leaves something to be desired. He also lacks some physicality, which affects his catching of 50-50 balls. In the AFC North, he will have to be able to make those tough catches, and drops will not be excused.
As great a talent as Watkins may be, selecting a top wide receiver with the fourth overall pick when the Browns already have a No. 1 wideout is an odd use of the pick, since it does not really solve a need. If they are looking at the best player regardless of need, then the selection is fine, just as long as they have a quarterback who can throw to him.