Cleveland Browns: Complete 2014 NFL Draft Wrapup and Analysis
Unfortunately, perhaps the biggest storyline of the draft for the Browns wasn't about a player they picked. It was about Josh Gordon and his reported upcoming suspension.
Gordon is perhaps Cleveland's best, and certainly its most exciting, player. Losing the 23-year-old All-Pro wideout is a huge blow to the team, and it could spell the end of Gordon's career.
The draft itself provided plenty of storylines, as well, of course. Between drafting Johnny Manziel and making five trades, Cleveland had a draft built for headlines.
This was the highest-profile draft of 2014 and perhaps the past few years. So suffice it to say, there is plenty to discuss.
Round 1, Pick 8: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Round 1, Pick 22: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Round 2, Pick 35: Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada
Round 3, Pick 71: Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
Round 3, Pick 94: Terrance West, RB, Towson
Round 4, Pick 127: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
A few things about this class stand out, aside from the number of "J" names. For one, Cleveland targeted value with each pick, refusing to reach for a single position. Some may argue that the Gilbert selection was a reach, but the Browns didn't see it as one, and they had bigger needs to address.
Additionally, this is a class full of athletic ability. Gilbert ran a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash, and Manziel is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in recent memory. Bitonio is a terrific athlete for an offensive lineman, and Kirksey ran a sub-4.6 in the 40-yard dash. To finish the class, West ran a 4.5 despite weighing in at 5'9", 225 pounds, and Desir has outstanding size and range.
While the Browns may not have always addressed their biggest need, they did target a need with each pick. Cleveland needed physical, athletic cornerbacks with size to play on the outside in Mike Pettine's scheme. Both Gilbert and Desir fit that profile. The Browns needed a quarterback; enter Manziel. Kirksey is the much-needed coverage inside linebacker to play next to Karlos Dansby. West gives the Browns a second capable runner. Bitonio fills a huge need at guard.
There is a plan for every player Cleveland selected, and every player is a terrific fit in the team's scheme. Kyle Shanahan loves mobile quarterbacks, and not many are more mobile than Manziel. And in a zone-blocking scheme, West is in the perfect scheme for him. The same applies for Bitonio, whose athleticism ideal at guard in the offense.
This wasn't just Cleveland drafting players it thought were good values. All of these picks fit the idea of what the Browns want to do on both sides of the ball. Bitonio and West show that Cleveland wants to run the ball. Gilbert and Desir are ideal playmakers on the outside. Kirksey is a linebacker Pettine can move around and trust in coverage.
And, of course, Manziel is the much-needed franchise quarterback. That was always the biggest need for Cleveland, make no mistake. So while fans may be disappointed that the Browns didn't draft a wide receiver, there wasn't a bad pick here.
It is also important to remember how well the Browns set themselves up for the 2015 draft, as they added three picks for 2015. Adding Buffalo's first-round pick while moving back just five picks was the best move Cleveland made. The Browns still added a top-10 player, but they also picked up a potentially high draft pick for next year.
Throughout this draft, Cleveland acquired talent and value with every selection. It is plausible that all of these players see significant playing time in 2014, and they are all in the team's long-term plans.
The Browns entered the 2014 NFL draft knowing what they were doing, and they managed to get these players while also picking up three 2015 selections.
Not a bad weekend.
Combine and workout statistics are courtesy of NFLDraftScout
Best Pick: Johnny Manziel
The best single move Cleveland made in the 2014 draft wasn't actually a pick, it was the trade back to acquire Buffalo's 2015 first- and fourth-round picks.
But the best pick? Without question, Johnny Manziel.
Yes, this is the most high-profile selection, and it is a bit cliché to say it was also the best, but sometimes, that is just how it happens.
The best thing a team can do in the draft is add a franchise quarterback. Now, whether Manziel will actually develop into a franchise quarterback is impossible to say. He has the potential to do just that, though, and that is what matters.
There is nothing conventional about Manziel as a quarterback. At 6'0", 207 pounds, he is undersized, and his style of play is completely off the wall. He improvises like few ever have, sometimes seemingly running around with no plan at all. And somehow, it works for him.
An exciting player isn't necessarily a good one, but Manziel finds a way to be both. That combination is exactly what the Browns need.
Manziel's unconventional play makes him risky. It is difficult to project a player unlike any the NFL has seen before.
It can be said, though, that Manziel is entering a near ideal situation. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan did a fantastic job with Robert Griffin III in the star mobile quarterback's rookie season. Shanahan is an offensive coordinator creative enough to take advantage of Manziel's unique skill set.
The first-year Cleveland offensive coordinator will use Manziel's mobility to put him in a position to make plays while also limiting the difficulty of the throws and reads he needs to make. And with Cleveland's offensive line and potentially strong running back group, Manziel shouldn't have to carry the load too much.
A franchise quarterback is the key to success in the NFL, and if Cleveland got one here, this pick made the draft.
Worst Pick: Pierre Desir
A preface here: the selection of Pierre Desir was not a bad one. It is simply the least impressive in a group of superb picks by Cleveland.
Why was the pick of Desir unimpressive? It was the only selection that did not address a truly urgent need. And that's it.
In the fourth round, Desir presented an outstanding value. Some analysts, such as Dane Brugler, projected Desir to go as high as the first round. The rangy cornerback is a terrific fit in Mike Pettine's defensive scheme, and cornerback wasn't a necessarily a position of need before his selection either.
After all, Cleveland had a fairly deep cornerback unit. Joe Haden is a great defender on the outside, and the Browns had just drafted Justin Gilbert with the No. 8 overall pick. Additionally, Buster Skrine is a capable nickelback, and Leon McFadden was a third-round pick in 2013. The team also signed Isaiah Trufant in free agency.
The problem was that none of the last three cornerbacks were fits on the outside in Pettine's scheme. Cleveland's head coach requires cornerbacks with length who can press on the outside and make plays. Neither Skrine, McFadden and Trufant is taller than 5'9". The three also have a combined two career interceptions.
Desir had 25 interceptions in college and stands at 6'1", 198 pounds.
However, with Haden and Gilbert on the roster, the Browns didn't really need another press cornerback with playmaking ability. The team didn't have anything beyond those two, but it did have those two.
Cleveland wasn't comfortable with just those two, though, and felt the need to add Desir, who, again, provided a terrific value in the fourth round.
Yeah, most of that explanation was talking about how good of a pick Desir was. Whatever.
Undrafted Free Agents
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Perhaps the draft's most talented running back, Crowell went undrafted because of major off-field issues. The 5'11", 225-pounder has superb vision to go along with good speed, quickness and power. He isn't a perfect player, but he is at least a second-round talent on the field. This signing has huge potential.
Willie Snead, WR, Ball State
Weighing in at 5'11", 195 pounds, Snead is undersized but was extremely productive in college. In 2013, Snead caught 106 receptions for 1,516 yards and 15 touchdowns. It is difficult to imagine a player with Snead's combination of size and speed becoming too much of a player, however.
Anthony Dima, OL, Massachusetts
Dima is a big-framed offensive tackle who could kick inside to offensive guard. The 6'6", 290-pounder isn't a great athlete and would be better off at guard, where he wouldn't have to spend as much time playing in space.
Ray Agnew, FB, Southern Illinois
The son of the defensive tackle of the same name, Agnew is a stout fullback, measuring in at 5'10", 247 pounds. He is also a decent athlete, though, and could have the skill set to develop into a contributor.
Chandler Jones, WR, San Jose State
Jones' 2013 season was an extremely productive one, as he caught 79 passes for 1,356 yards and 15 touchdowns. The 5'9", 183-pounder is probably limited to playing out of the slot, but he is fast and quick with soft hands. Jones has a chance at competing for a roster spot with Cleveland.
Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina
A broke man's Johnny Manziel, Shaw is an athletic passer, standing at just 6'0", 206 pounds. If he develops, Shaw could serve as an ideal backup for Manziel, as Cleveland would be able to run the same offense should Manziel go down with an injury.
Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State
A defensive tackle with the ability to penetrate, Barnett picked up 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2013. The 6'2", 317-pounder's size suggests he could play nose tackle, but his style of play is better suited for defensive end in Cleveland's 3-4 defense, where the team already has plenty of depth.
Carlo Calabrese, LB, Notre Dame
Though he has decent size at 6'1", 236 pounds, Calabrese isn't much of an athlete. The Notre Dame product did have 91 tackles in 2013, though, and it is possible that he could make up for his athleticism with superior intelligence and work ethic.
Blake Jackson, TE, Oklahoma State
The undersized Jackson isn't a fit as an in-line tight end. The 6'4", 230-pounder is athletic enough to move around the field, but he may not be dynamic enough to make up for his lack of size. Because of an injury, Jackson played in just four games during 2013. In 2012, Jackson caught 29 passes for 598 yards.
Jacques Washington, S, Iowa State
At 6'0", 207 pounds, Washington has terrific size at safety. He isn't a strong athlete, though, and will have to overcome a lack of range. Washington recorded an impressive 119 tackles in 2013.
Alex Bazzie, LB, Marshall
Over the past two years, Bazzie had a combined 146 tackles. The 6'1", 244-pounder has terrific size at inside linebacker in Cleveland's 3-4 defense but may be too slow for the NFL. Mike Pettine demands his linebackers be able to cover, and Bazzie may not have enough range.
Christo Lisika, LB, Southern Nazarene University
The 6'1", 235-pound Lisika is a solid athlete who demonstrated huge playmaking ability in college. His 18 tackles for loss in 2013 is a truly impressive number, though it obviously happened at a small school. Regardless, production should be taken seriously, and Lisika will have a chance to prove he can play against stronger competition.
Robert Nelson, CB, Arizona State
A great athlete, Nelson weighs in at just 5'10", 175 pounds. The Arizona State product was a star cornerback in college, but he projects best as a nickelback due to his size and quickness. In 2013, Nelson picked up 44 tackles and six interceptions, demonstrating some playmaking ability.
Nickoe Whitley, FS, Mississippi State
With 15 career interceptions, Whitley is clearly a playmaker. The 6'0", 205-pounder has good size but lacks great athleticism, and his poor tackling limits him to playing free safety. In order to last in the NFL, Whitley's intelligence and instincts will have to be excellent.
Jason Hendricks, SS, Pittsburgh
In 2013, Hendricks picked up 85 tackles, showing a nose for the ball. However, the run-defending safety weighs in at just 5'10", 182 pounds and lacks the size to play his type of game in the NFL. Hendricks would have to be special to make it, given his lack of size and coverage ability.
Greg Blair, LB, Cincinnati
Blair racked up 106 tackles in 2013, including seven for a loss. The 6'1", 244-pounder has excellent size, though he isn't anything exceptional athletically. It is possible, though, that Blair can overcome his lack of ideal speed and compete for an inside linebacker spot in Cleveland's 3-4 scheme.
Corey Robinson, QB, Troy
A four-year starter, Robinson was productive during his college career. The 6'0" quarterback isn't nearly as athletic as most the passers on Cleveland's roster, though he is undersized. Robinson threw for over 3,000 yards in his each of his seasons at Troy.
Gerald Ford, WR, Valdosta State
A 6'3", 223-pound wide receiver, Ford is a good athlete with tremendous size. Ford didn't play during the 2013 season, but in 2012, he caught 69 passes for 1,026 yards and 13 touchdowns. It is difficult to properly evaluate Ford given the level of competition he faced, but he is definitely talented.
Taylor Gabriel, WR, Abilene Christian
At just 5'8", 167 pounds, Gabriel is tiny, even by slot receiver standards. Gabriel is a tremendous athlete, though, with a 40" vertical. Though Gabriel was productive at Abilene Christian, gaining 1,060 yards in 2013, he will struggle to make an NFL roster, if only because of his size.
Antonio Gillespie, DT, Troy
With four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2013, Gillespie showed a definite ability to penetrate and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. The 6'1", 297-pounder lacks ideal length, but his style of play could work as a defensive end for the Browns.
Michael Philipp, OT, Oregon State
Throughout his career, Philipp started 48 games at left tackle. The 6'4", 316-pounder probably isn't long enough to stick on the outside, but he has excellent size for a guard. Philipp's athleticism is less than impressive, though, and he could struggle to make a roster.
Jonathan Krause, WR, Vanderbilt
Another potential slot receiver, Krause measures in at 5'11", 187 pounds. He was productive in 2013, catching 42 passes for 714 yards. This is despite playing opposite second-round pick Jordan Matthews, who drew many of Vanderbilt's passes as he dominated competition.
K'Waun Williams, CB, Pittsburgh
A 5'9", 183-pound cornerback, Williams is another player limited to covering the slot. His seven deflections and two interceptions in 2013 is nothing special, but Williams is a solid athlete. He will struggle to compete for a roster spot, given Cleveland's excellent cornerback depth.
Randall Harris, OT, Towson
Harris spent his college career blocking for Cleveland third-round pick Terrance West, and he joins his running back with the Browns. Harris lacks the size to play tackle in the NFL, measuring in at only 6'3", 296 pounds. His size is sufficient at guard, though, especially in the Browns scheme.
Darwin Cook, S, West Virginia
A good athlete, Cook had an extremely productive 2013 season, wracking up 74 tackles and four interceptions. The 5'11", 194-pounder has decent size for a free safety, though it wouldn't hurt if he added a few pounds.
What's Next for Cleveland?
Despite an extremely productive draft, Cleveland probably still isn't ready for playoff contention. If Josh Gordon somehow isn't suspended for the entire season, that would certainly help, however.
With six picks, the Browns managed to address nearly all their needs, except wide receiver, which remains a huge issue. If Gordon isn't playing, Cleveland doesn't have a single player good enough to be even a No. 2 wideout.
Andrew Hawkins could be a good slot receiver, but he is far too small to play on the outside. The lack of talent at wideout will decimate the Browns' offense if nothing is done. Fortunately, there is still time to add a wideout, and talented players such as Miles Austin remain available.
With that said, Cleveland's future and present are both significantly brighter looking than they were a week ago. Between a talented roster and a brilliant defensive mind in head coach Mike Pettine, the team's defense should be rock solid.
The Browns' offense is shakier, but there aren't many glaring weaknesses. Wide receiver is certainly one, but running back now looks like a strong position after being dreadful last year. Additionally, the offensive line is improved after drafting Joel Bitonio.
Of course, the biggest change is at quarterback. In 2013, Cleveland fans were subject to the putrid play of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, Now, they will get to see some combination of Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, which is both vastly superior and more exciting.
Cleveland is well set up for the future. Needs are slowly being filled, and the team's talent level is actually high for a team with a sub-.500 record. This is still a young team, though, and time for development is needed.
But with 10 picks in 2015, including two first-round selections, the Browns could finally be developing into a legitimate contender.