With the NFL Draft getting closer and closer the rumors and speculation about what the Cleveland Browns will do continues to be debated, especially with the fourth overall pick. The Browns did a nice job supplementing and adding key pieces in free agency but obviously there are still holes on the roster, holes that (hopefully) will be filled starting on May 8th. With that being said, consider the following Cleveland Browns Draft Guide for what I’d like to see them walk away with at the conclusion of the NFL Draft.
Round One, Pick 4- Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville
If Jadeveon Clowney somehow manages to fall here I may reconsider this pick, however I’m not going out on a limb here by saying the Browns need a quarterback who can both play immediately (or at least compete to play immediately) and be a part of their long term plans. Teddy Bridgewater has the skill set to be an effective starter for an NFL team from the start. He can read defenses, he’s accurate, can extend plays and pickup first downs on his own, and has enough of an arm to succeed in the NFL. Bortles, in my eyes, is more of a project than what the Browns need (although I wouldn’t hate having him either) and Manziel has red flags all around him (and not just for his size or off the field “issues”). That’s not to say Bridgewater comes without risks, but he was the looked at as the best of the bunch throughout the 2013 season and, unless I missed something major (a pro day is not major), nothing has changed this in my eyes.
Round One, Pick 26 – Marqise Lee WR USC
This pick could’ve also been an offensive lineman or a cornerback, but Marqise Lee will more than likely be available to the Browns at number 26 and they would be wise to jump at him. Lee is a dynamic receiver who runs very good routes and has a reliable set of hands. He has enough speed to get downfield for the big play and he shows good vision with the ball in his hands (averaged 26.1 kickoff return yards on 50 attempts at USC). There are some durability concerns with Lee, but landing a receiver of his caliber at pick number 26 would be a major win for the Browns.
Round Two, Pick 35 – Bradley Roby CB Ohio State University
There is a chance Bradley Roby is gone by the time the Browns pick at 35, but should be available the Browns land a fantastic compliment player to Pro Bowler Joe Haden. Roby came off of a down year for Ohio State, but part of that was due to the defensive scheme. Don’t let 2013 fool you, Roby is talented. He has the strait line speed to stay with virtually any NFL receiver and help close the gap should he need to. Roby also has good ball skills, intercepting 8 passes and breaking up 41 in his career. Should the Browns land Roby, he and Haden would make a formidable duo for the Browns defensive backfield.
Round Three, Pick 71 – Shayne Skov ILB Stanford
Despite adding Karlos Dansby in free agency, the Browns desperately need to upgrade the other starting linebacker position. Shayne Skov would be an excellent fit. While he does have some coverage issues it’s be hard to believe he’d be any worse than current starter Craig Robertson. And Skov’s upside is huge. He is an instinctive player and a very sure tackler who can stop the rush at the line of scrimmage. Skov also rushes the passer very well. Many times at Stanford Skov would time the snap and be in the backfield before the quarterback completed his three step drop. He’s a leader on the field and his intensity is second to nobody. Skov would compete for a starting spot immediately and having Dansby as a veteran presence would help him develop.
Round Three, Pick 83 – Terrance West RB Towson
Despite signing Ben Tate to a two year contract, the Browns still have a need at running back. Tate has never been “the guy” in an offense before and does have a history of injuries. Even if Tate does succeed as the main back for the Browns, having depth at the running back position is not a bad thing, and something the Browns don’t have much of. Enter Terrance West. West ended up at Towson mainly because he didn’t qualify academically out of high school and wasn’t able to walk on other places (Clemson most notably). That shouldn’t discourage the Browns, however. West rewrote the record books at Towson, leaving the school with a record setting 4,854 career rushing yards. He set FCS single season records in 2013, rushing for 2,509 yards and 41 touchdowns (yes, 41 in a single season). He also showed he was able to catch the ball out of the backfield, notching 26 receptions for 258 yards and a touchdown in 2013. West has good speed, can make defenders miss and has the power to run over a would-be tackler. There may be some concerns over his use at Towson (802 carries in three years, including 413 last season) but West has the talent to at worst add quality depth to the position and can more than likely shoulder a load if needed.
Round Four, Pick 106 – E.J. Gaines CB Missouri
Let’s get the negatives for E.J. Gaines out of the way right first. He’s a smaller corner (5’10” 190 pounds) and at times struggles to tackle because of this. That’s about it. Gaines has 4.4 speed and agility, always staying with his assignments all over the field. He has good hands, intercepting five passes last season, and can play both press and zone coverage. Despite his tackling struggles, Gaines doesn’t shy away from making a tackle. E.J. Gaines in the fourth round is a steal.
Round Four, Pick 127 – Aaron Murray QB Georgia
The Browns take a page out of the Washington Redskins book, drafting two quarterbacks in one draft. Those thinking Alex Tanney will remain on the Browns roster are delusional and, while a veteran quarterback may make more sense than a second rookie, Brian Hoyer has been in the league long enough to help fill that void. Not that Aaron Murray is inexperienced. The Georgia signal caller appeared in 52 games in his four year career with the Bulldogs. While his 2013 season was considered a disappointment (before he tore his ACL), he was forced to play without his top two running backs and receivers as they suffered injuries throughout the course of the season. Despite that, he still completed just under 65% of his passes for 3,075 yards, 26 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. The ACL injury is obviously a concern, but it’s also the only reason he’s fallen this far as he is smart, athletic and has enough of an arm to succeed in the NFL.
Round Five, Pick 145 – Brandon Coleman WR Rutgers
Cleveland takes advantage of an extremely deep wide receiver class this year, landing the 6’6″ 225 pound Rutgers receiver. Brandon Coleman doesn’t come without issues. He doesn’t accelerate all that well and he sometimes struggles to separate from defenders. Coleman will drop an occasional pass, however his massive frame creates obvious mismatches and he could be a tremendous asset in the red zone. Coleman probably wouldn’t see the field right away, giving him a chance to polish his routes and overall game. The potential is there however, as at one time in his early college career scouts thought of him as a sure fire first round pick.
Round Six, Pick 180 – Russell Bodine OG North Carolina
There’s a good chance the Browns don’t wait this long to pull the trigger on an offensive lineman, but adding Russell Bodine wouldn’t be a bad thing. He played a lot of center for the Tar Heels but saw some time at guard, so his ability to play multiple positions is an asset. Bodine plays tough, is extremely strong and also moves well for an interior lineman. He might not have ideal size and will struggle against some of the larger DT/NT in the NFL but Bodine is a reliable blocker who flashes some athleticism.
Round Seven, Pick 218 – Vinnie Sunseri SS Alabama
It may be unlikely that the Browns take two players with torn ACLs (Vinnie Sunseri and Murray) but in the final round of the draft the Alabama safety is worth rolling the dice on. Despite bringing Donte Whitner in this off-season Cleveland needs to at least create some depth at the safety position. Sunseri might not be starter material in the NFL (for sure not right away) but he could be a very reliable backup and a special teams contributor. He isn’t very athletic but he is very intelligent and can quickly recognize what the offense is doing before the snap. He is a willing tackler and tracks the football very well in the air. He isn’t the fastest defensive back out there, but he plays with a lot of heart.
In the interest of full disclosure I don’t fully expect the draft to fall this way, however this plan fills several key needs for the Browns while also adding some quality depth. As mentioned earlier, Farmer and company may pull the trigger on an offensive lineman earlier than the sixth round (especially if Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio is still on the board at 26/35) and if Clowney somehow manages to fall all the way to number four it would be nearly impossible for them to pass on that kind of talent. However, if Ray Farmer follows this blueprint the Cleveland Browns draft will be a successful one.