Cleveland Browns Draft Countdown: Making the Case for Jimmy Garoppolo

Andy McNamaraCorrespondent IIApril 17, 2014

Dec 13, 2013; Charleston, IL, USA; Eastern Illinois Panthers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws the ball during the fourth quarter against the Towson Tigers at O'Brien Field. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns are counting down the days to the NFL draft that begins May 8. This is arguably the most important draft in franchise history, as general manager Ray Farmer has 10 picks with which to make this team relevant both in the present and for years to come. 

The most talked about position in football is quarterback, and for the Browns it's an area no regime has been able to get right since 1999.

One man can end the roulette wheel of signal-callers, and his name is Jimmy Garoppolo. Not Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater, but "Jimmy G" from the NCAA FCS division's Eastern Illinois University.

In 2013, he was selected as an Associated Press FCS first-team All-American, won the Walter Payton Award and led all Division I players in touchdowns. The Panthers' four-year starter was also MVP of the East-West Shrine Game and participated in the Senior Bowl.

His competition may not have always been upper echelon, but those accomplishments are still quite impressive.

Garoppolo also threw for over 300 yards on 11 occasions, five of which were for more than 400 yards. Let's not forget his 53 touchdowns, 5,050 passing yards and the fact he broke most of Tony Romo's Eastern Illinois school records.

Statistics don't mean everything, however. But combining these numbers with Garoppolo's solid 6'2", 226-pound frame and accurate arm certainly helps elevate his profile.

The senior goes through his progressions quickly, releases the ball on time and demonstrates the footwork needed to escape pressure.

Don Banks of Sports Illustrated wrote:

NFL talent evaluators rave about his quick release and his ability to keep his eyes downfield and extend plays, getting passes off despite sitting in the pocket for long stretches. He's not a scrambler, but he's quick enough to escape and buy himself time to make a throw.

Garoppolo does need to improve his pocket awareness and reaction time when pressure is closing in. However, in a perfect world he sits and learns behind incumbent QB Brian Hoyer throughout 2014, just as Hoyer did behind New England Patriots legend Tom Brady.

This gives No. 10 a chance to digest the speed of the pro game and learn to react better when a surging linebacker busts through the offensive line.

Through watching game film and interviews it appears Garoppolo possesses the maturity, intelligence and patience to grow into an impact NFL starter. He's someone the Browns should absolutely key in on come draft weekend.


Andy McNamara is an international sports broadcaster and journalist.

Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyMc81