Cleveland Browns Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades
Cleveland has 10 draft picks, two in the first round, and enough holes on the roster to use them. While the Browns could stand to upgrade many positions, one in particular stands out above the rest.
Brian Hoyer showed some ability in limited playing time, but is the team ready to commit to the 28-year-old as a long-term option? It seems unlikely. But that does not mean the Browns will look to draft a quarterback with the No. 4 pick.
Cleveland's team is not nearly strong enough that it doesn't have a plethora of options with its first pick. Right tackle, linebacker and wide receiver are all legitimate possibilities.
At right tackle, the Browns could look to either Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews. Mitchell Schwartz didn't impress in 2013, and one of the two is almost certain to be available. Either is a reasonable value in the top five, but Robinson is the more likely option, though he could easily be off the board.
The only linebacker likely to be in consideration is Khalil Mack. The Buffalo product can play inside or outside in a 3-4 scheme, but given Cleveland's need, he would likely play inside next to Karlos Dansby. Though he may be better off playing outside, Mack offers a huge upgrade over Craig Robertson. Mack would be a versatile weapon with the ability to rush or drop back in coverage. Again, though, he could easily be picked before the Browns come onto the clock.
Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins are both possibilities as well. Depending on who you ask, either one could be considered the draft's top wideout, and the Browns are speculated to have Evans rated highly. The 6'5" wide receiver is a physical target with tremendous catching ability. He and Josh Gordon would give the Browns a tremendous set of big wideouts with vertical ability.
Finally, there is the quarterback position. Johnny Manziel has received the most hype, and he could easily be the pick. The former Heisman winner is a dynamic playmaker with the ability to throw from the pocket and make plays on the run.
Teddy Bridgewater is the technically sound option, with great accuracy and intelligence. He may not have the upside some of the other passers offer, but he is ready to start right now. Bridgewater could also be an option later in the first round.
Finally, there is Blake Bortles. At 6'5", 240 pounds, Bortles looks like the prototypical quarterback. His footwork and throwing motion need work, but the potential is there to be a great starter.
All of these players, and probably more, are options for the Browns at No. 4. And here's the thing:
They have nine more picks.
The Browns Select Justin Gilbert
After trading back with the Bills and landing a first-round pick in 2015, the Browns selected Justin Gilbert. Not a pick many people were projecting, at least not with the Browns' first pick.
Clearly, Cleveland is not comfortable moving forward with Buster Skrine as its starting quarterback. Gilbert is a tremendous athlete with terrific size. Few defensive players in this draft have more upside than the Oklahoma State product.
At 6'0", 202 pounds, Gilbert is big with closing speed and ball skills. With Gilbert opposite Joe Haden, Cleveland's cornerbacks could be picking up plenty of interceptions in the upcoming years.
That's not to say Gilbert is perfect, though. His footwork and technique both need work, and he may not be ready to start. He will take time to develop.
However, the Browns had the opportunity to go a number of directions, even after the trade. Johnny Manziel was still on the board and would have filled a huge need.
Cleveland Gets Johnny Football
This was the pick many were expecting at No. 4. Then, the Browns surprised most of the free world by taking Justin Gilbert, but they still got Johnny Manziel in the first round.
No player in this draft inspires emotion—positive or negative—quite like Manziel does. His fans are adamant—they will shout in his support. His detractors are equally passionate however, as they are convinced he will not work in the NFL.
It’s impossible to say who is right. But one thing is certain: Manziel will bring excitement to Cleveland.
The former Heisman winner was the most exciting player in college football, and he will bring that same improvisation and athleticism to Cleveland.
Manziel is an incredible athlete who can turn a broken play into a touchdown. But he isn’t just a runner. The Texas A&M star is more than capable of throwing from the pocket, and he excels in all aspects of the game.
With Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron already on the roster, the Browns have the makings of a dynamic and productive offense.
For the first time in a while, Browns fans have legitimate reason to be excited.
The Browns Go with Bitonio
Even before the news of Josh Gordon's suspension, many suspected the Browns would go with a wide receiver at No. 35. Clearly, Cleveland decided to go a different route by selecting offensive lineman Joel Bitonio.
The 6'4", 302-pounder can be a great guard, but Bitonio could possibly stick on the outside. He will compete with Mitchell Schwartz for the starting right tackle spot, and the loser will kick inside to guard.
Bitonio is a terrific athlete who can pull and dominate in space. His skill-set is ideal in Cleveland's zone-blocking scheme, and he will start as a rookie, whether it is at guard or tackle.
The Browns' offensive line is set to be one of the league's units, and with the addition of Ben Tate, subtraction of Josh Gordon and overall lack of wide receiver talent, they are set to run the ball often and effectively.
Cleveland still has a clear need at wide receiver, but this is still a good pick. Bitonio addresses a need and is a good player who will help the Browns win.
Cleveland Takes Christian Kirksey
Once again, Cleveland passed on a wide receiver. At this point, the position is a huge concern for the Browns, and it will be a huge issue entering the season.
Instead of taking a wideout, Cleveland elected to select a linebacker in Christian Kirksey. There's no denying that inside linebacker is a need for the Browns, but it isn't a priority over wide receiver.
With that said, Kirksey is a solid player. Though he weighs in at just 6'2", 233 pounds, he has the potential to start at inside linebacker. Kirksey is a great athlete with tremendous ability in coverage.
Last year, Craig Robertson was abused in coverage, and Kirksey offers a huge upgrade in that aspect of the game. It's difficult to say how much Kirksey will play as a rookie, but he should be able to contribute as at least a situational player early.
The only problem with that pick is how huge of a need Cleveland still has at wide receiver. That is an issue that needs to be addressed.
The Browns Add Terrance West
This has been heralded as one of the deepest wide receiver classes in memory. The Browns have a huge, gaping hole at wide receiver. Yet, through three rounds, Cleveland has not drafted a wideout.
Cleveland traded up into the third round to draft Terrance West, a running back. The Towson product is big, weighing in at 5'9", 225 pounds. West possesses impressive patience, as well, making him an ideal fit in Cleveland's zone-blocking offense.
Additionally, West is an adept receiver out of the backfield. He lacks top-end speed and quickness, but he can find holes and break tackles. As a rookie, West should see plenty of carries as he spells off Ben Tate.
The problem with this pick is not the player. West is a reasonable value at this point. And running back is a need for the Browns. It's the fact that Cleveland still has not added a wide receiver.
Cleveland Selects Pierre Desir
Despite already drafting Justin Gilbert, the Browns drafted another cornerback in Pierre Desir. Like Gilbert, Desir is a length corner, measuring in at 6'1" with excellent athleticism.
After adding Gilbert, Cleveland already had a strong cornerback unit, with Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and Leon McFadden also on the roster. Now, the Browns' cornerback depth should be impeccable.
Desir is another terrific scheme fit in Mike Pettine's defense. Pettine wants to press on the outside, and Cleveland has targeted cornerbacks who can make plays. Desir had 25 interceptions throughout his career and can take advantage of bad throws.
At this point, it seems clear that the Browns either don't see wide receiver as the huge need the public does or they have another plan for the position. Regardless, the Browns added a good player whom many expected to be drafted much higher than the fourth round.