Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Cleveland Browns' Top 3 Picks
The Cleveland Browns are in pretty good shape as draft day approaches. They are armed with two first-rounders and the third overall pick in the second round, putting them in quite an advantageous position.
It's obvious that quarterback, cornerback and tackle are all positions that could be addressed with the team's first three picks, but the order in which they'll be rang in is a mystery. There's quite a few ways to go, but some are better than others.
When it comes to quarterback, they'll likely try and find the answer to their troubles with the fourth overall pick, but they should stray away from Johnny Manziel and take aim at Teddy Bridgewater—if he's available, that is.
They need a face of the franchise, and Bridgewater can provide that, along with a great arm and an athletic skill set. It's evident the Browns have some important decisions to make in the next three weeks, and they'll need to choose carefully once May 8th rolls around.
Best: Round 1, No. 4—Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater is largely considered to be the best quarterback in this year's draft class, but the eyes on him have lessened as Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel have made their ascent up draft boards.
Despite the other quarterbacks' rise up rankings, Bridgewater is a tremendous passer and exactly what Cleveland needs at the position.
There's a notable amount of doubt surrounding Manziel and Bortles, leaving Bridgewater as the safest pick. Granted, he may not have the same ceiling as Bortles or the same athletic ability (and celebrity friends) as Manziel, but No. 5 is a nonetheless a blue-chip prospect.
Bridgewater's stock has taken a hit with his disappointing private workouts (per Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports), but how often does a pro day truly define a player's ability, or even properly display how his skills will translate at the next level?
Admittedly, it was pretty spot-on for Da'Quan Bowers a few years back, but remember when Brady Quinn stole headlines with his workout? Projected as a top-three or top-five pick according to Walter Football, we all see how that's working out now: He's played for three teams in eight years, is currently a free agent and has a career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 12-17.
The bottom line is this: Out of the top-ranked quarterbacks in this year's class, Bridgewater is the best quarterback as of right now, and if he falls into the Browns' lap at four, they absolutely must draft him.
Worst: Round 1, No. 4—Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel wowed many pundits while in college, but the holes in his ability have been well documented since being put under the microscope.
In B/R's Ryan Lownes' scouting report of Manziel, he notes that Johnny Football possesses "questionable decision-making and ability to read defenses." Aside from that, Lownes also describes him as "reckless" and borderline arrogant. His issues off the field also raise a concern and decide one thing: he should not go in the top five.
This is not to say that he's not a unique quarterback with a strong skill set, but he's more of a college quarterback than an NFL passer. What he lacks is exactly what is needed by starters in this league, and depending on him as the future of the Browns franchise would be a mistake.
Manziel is a tremendous athlete, but he won't be able to get away with the things he got away with in college now that he'll be an NFL quarterback. He would be a fine pick later in the first round, but at fourth overall, he'd be a reach.
Best: Round 1, No. 26—Zack Martin, Notre Dame
The Browns tried to find a true No. 2 corner in free agency but failed to do so, leaving them with a hole across from Joe Haden. Because of this, they'll likely be looking for one in the draft.
Considering the fact that there may not be any at the bottom of the first round, Cleveland should do their best to nab Zack Martin of Notre Dame. He's a physical tackle who could step in and start right away opposite of Joe Thomas. That potential pair looks pretty great on paper and could come to fruition if the Browns get the chance to draft the former lineman for the Irish.
They'd immediately have a much better offensive line and will have formed a solid wall for the newly signed Ben Tate to run behind. Once Tate gets going, the passing game will open up and will surely see more production.
Drafting Martin could have a domino effect on Cleveland's offense in an extremely positive way.
Worst: Round 1, No. 26 —Bradley Roby, Ohio State
First off, let me say that I do believe Bradley Roby is a talented player, but he shouldn't go in the first round. The Browns may be smitten by some of the things they saw from him at the combine, but the tape is much more important.
He had an underwhelming season during his final year in college, and that should be a cause for concern. Cleveland can address another need with the 26th overall pick and can feel much better about it. A viable option would be to address the right tackle position and draft a guy like Zack Martin, but I digress.
If Darqueze Dennard and the other top corners are gone, the Browns should pass on Roby with the 26th overall selection and opt for a corner in the second or third round.
It could end up being Kyle Fuller or possibly Keith McGill, but the next guy on this list would be a knockout selection.
Best: Round 2, No. 35—Jason Verrett, TCU
Jason Verrett doesn't get the respect that he deserves because of his smaller stature (5'9", 189 pounds), but as B/R's Matt Miller notes, he plays much bigger than his size. Verrett has great speed and is a very physical corner.
He would greatly benefit from playing across from Joe Haden and would more than likely develop sooner than later. Haden's only two inches taller than him, meaning Verrett actually isn't too far away from being the same size.
Haden is regarded as one of the best corners in the league, further crumbling the height argument against Verrett.
He would make the Browns' defense that much better and could give them a solid corner tandem for the next several years.
Worst: Round 2, No. 35—Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
There was a time when you'd get laughed at for mocking Cyrus Kouandjio outside of the top 10, but he has since suffered a dramatic fall down many draft boards and rankings. It's not that he had some red flags on tape as much as his battered knees are of major concern to the teams considering him.
If Kouandjio turns out to be healthy, then he will certainly prove his worth in the NFL, but the risk regarding his knees is too great to ignore. Cleveland needs to refrain from taking a chance on an injury-plagued player and take the safe route.
They're not far away from being a good team, and the draft will be key to them rounding out an overall solid free agency/draft season.