USA TODAY Sports
Will Johnny Manziel turn the Browns around?
Needs: QB, CB, WR, OL
Notable Selections: CB Justin Gilbert (Round 1), QB Johnny Manziel (Round 1), OT Joel Bitonio (Round 2), ILB Christian Kirksey (Round 3), RB Terrance West (Round 3), CB Pierre Desir (Round 4)
It's hard to fault the Cleveland Browns for sticking to their draft board despite recently added wide receiver Nate Burleson re-fracturing his arm, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, and No. 1 receiver Josh Gordon failing another drug test and facing a season-long suspension, per ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Don Van Natta Jr., in the same day.
The Browns evidently didn't plan to select a wide receiver before the news of Burleson and Gordon's situations surfaced, and even afterward, they did not draft one. Cleveland must have felt that Burleson and Andrew Hawkins, signed in free agency, and Greg Little were enough weapons for new quarterback Johnny Manziel.
After Round 1 of the draft, Browns fans were ecstatic with the franchise's first two selections. Justin Gilbert is widely considered the best cornerback in this class, and though the Browns didn't reach for a quarterback at No. 8, they did give up a third-round pick to move to 22 to land Manziel.
Gilbert is the "prototype cornerback in today's NFL," per NFL analyst Mike Mayock. By pairing him with Joe Haden, general manager Ray Farmer created one of the NFL's strongest secondaries.
Though it's helpful to have Gilbert to pair with Haden in new head coach Mike Pettine's complex blitz packages, the selection of Desir in Round 4 felt more like a luxury than a need.
Pettine, a former defensive coordinator, will be able to get creative with Gilbert and Desir, snagged at great value at 127th overall, in the defensive backfield. Christian Kirksey, a nice pickup at 71, will play inside.
Manziel was a risky selection at 22, but no more so than Blake Bortles at No. 3, Teddy Bridgewater at 32 or Derek Carr at 36. All will need two or three years in the league before assessments of their value can be made.
Manziel may not start Week 1 if the Browns want him to sit behind Brian Hoyer, and he'll need to focus on becoming a professional quarterback—both in his play and in his off-field demeanor. The days of Johnny Football are over.
After the elation of Day 1, Day 2 began with the somewhat polarizing pickup of Bitonio. Though offensive line was a need, the Browns could have taken Marqise Lee or Jordan Matthews with that pick.
But the move improved the right side of Cleveland's offensive line, where tackle Mitchell Schwartz struggled and guard Shawn Lauvao departed in free agency. Bitonio can play either guard or tackle.
So why did Cleveland only earn an honorable mention? First of all, its trade scenarios were puzzling at times. The Browns traded the No. 4 pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for the No. 9 and Buffalo's first- and fourth-round picks in 2015. Then, perhaps fearing it would lose Gilbert, Cleveland moved one spot up from No. 9 to No. 8, giving up a fifth-round pick.
Later in Round 1, the Browns gave up the No. 26 pick and a third-round pick to acquire No. 22 from the Eagles to select Manziel, even though they possibly could have gotten him at 26.
Then, Cleveland gave up a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick to select running back Terrance West with No. 94. He's a good addition to Ben Tate in the backfield, but it's hard not to think perhaps the Browns gave up some picks they could have used at other positions (like wide receiver) to get him.