Ray Farmer Plays His Cards Well: Do you know what the Browns are going to do at No. 4 overall? We have an idea, but the coaching staff and front office have done a great job throwing curve balls as to who their primary target is. Consider the possibility of the team taking OT Greg Robinson, for example. Earlier this offseason, we heard about the team considering RT Mitchell Schwartz at right guard. When voluntary minicamp took place last week, head coach Mike Pettine said said, "We’ll potentially address it in the draft, but I don’t really see tackle right now as a position of need."
At the same time, the Browns had just come off of using at least 11 of their allotted 30 visits in Berea on quarterbacks. They also held private workouts with at least 10 quarterbacks. General manager Ray Farmer was busy talking up WR Sammy Watkins. The belief is that if one of the top two defenders -- DE Jadeveon Clowney or OLB Khalil Mack -- fell to the Browns, they would be under strong consideration. What happened to all of Schwartz' struggles, though? Despite what the statistics say, he played poorly last year, getting help from TE Gary Barnidge on a high percentage of snaps. What if the attention these other guys are getting is just a diversion to really take Robinson after all?
Do We Need an OL That High? I think other people are starting to jump on the "offensive lineman to Cleveland" option. If we were absolutely certain that we could secure one of the top three quarterbacks with another first-round pick, then I'd love to have OT Greg Robinson. It's not a sexy pick in the least -- I know that from when I selected him in the SB Nation Writer's Mock Draft. That is when both Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater were already taken. Is that a realistic possibility? In my panicked mind, "yes." But what about all of these media reports lately that say Manziel won't go that high, or that Bridgewater could fall to No. 26 overall? Seriously? Haven't we seen drafts where guys like Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, and hell, even Brandon Weeden get drafted higher?
Back to the offensive line, though -- I think Robinson is an excellent consolation prize at No. 4 overall. What I am not so hot on is the thought of getting OT Jake Matthews at No. 4 overall. Matthews is good, but if we're talking about getting the offensive tackle of the draft, Robinson is worth it at No. 4...and yet, in his once-a-year mock draft, NFL Network's Mike Mayock has Cleveland going with Matthews. If everything worked out great for Cleveland, though, we wouldn't need to take an offensive lineman at No. 4 overall. Instead, we can sit patient at No. 26 or No. 35 and hope for a position of greater need than tackle -- offensive guard. I would love either OL Zack Martin or OG Xavier Su'a-Filo with one of those two picks. Martin probably won't fall that far, but Su'a-Filo very well could.
The Browns Will Take a QB, But When? When GM Ray Farmer was asked a couple of months ago whether he knew who his top quarterback was, he said, "yes." He already knew which guy he wanted to target in the draft, and he's done a damn good job of disguising it. One of the components of the disguise? Not going to Pro Days. The other? Visiting with and working out so many quarterback prospects. They have basically told the rest of the NFL, "we are taking a quarterback in this draft for certain," but because they've interviewed so many prospects projected to go in rounds 1-4, we don't know who "the guy will be."
One thing is for certain: a good pocket of DBN wants that quarterback to be Johnny Manziel. I was hell bent on believing that Manziel would be Cleveland's pick at No. 4 overall, but Jay Glazer's tweet the other day was pretty damning. There are reporters who dish mostly rumors (98% of the field), and then there are reporters who dish facts -- Glazer is one of the few who falls in the latter category. He's not going to say something unless he's willing to stake his reputation with it. The hope is still there for Manziel, though -- just because the Browns don't take him at No. 4 overall doesn't mean they won't get him at some point in the first round.
On the eve of the draft, the hottest quarterback name being connected to Cleveland is QB Teddy Bridgewater. If you haven't read Jason La Canfora's article from today yet, do so now. Here is an excerpt:
Further fueling the Browns' interest in Bridgewater is an expensive and thorough analytics study the team commissioned evaluating decades of successful NFL quarterbacks and taking all sorts of variables into consideration, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. ... The quarterback study, at a cost of over $100,000, ultimately pointed to Bridgewater having the best success rate of this year's group of quarterbacks, and the trend to analytics is taken very seriously within the Browns organization.
Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans? I think there's a very good chance that DE Jadeveon Clowney, OLB Khalil Mack, and OT Greg Robinson will be the three picks off the board when Cleveland goes on the clock at No. 4 overall. If we are to believe Glazer's report about the team not wanting Johnny Manziel at No. 4, then I think the pick comes down to two players: WR Sammy Watkins or WR Mike Evans. According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net, "the Browns like Manziel, but they don’t like him enough to use the fourth pick of the draft on him. The name that continues to pop up for the franchise at that selection is receiver Mike Evans."
Pauline also went over two* scenarios that he's heard about recently, regarding the Browns:
- Receiver at pick four (likely Evans) then a trade back into the middle of round one if Manziel slides out of the top ten.
- Receiver at pick four and a quarterback and cornerback with the next two selections. Trading back into the first round to select a quarterback is a consideration. I can confirm Cleveland has contacted teams in the bottom half of round one about making the move if necessary.
I assume that the latter scenario indicates that the Browns would be considering three first-round draft choices, which is something they would be able to swing if they moved up a few picks from No. 35 overall. That's the same scenario that Sports Illustrated's Peter King hinted at this week.
*Pauline actually mentioned three scenarios, with the third being QB Blake Bortles going at No. 4 overall.
Wide Receiver a Sure Thing: This is a very deep wide receiver class. In the previous section, I didn't mention who I preferred between Watkins and Evans, and that's mostly because I don't have a preference. My hunch is that Watkins would be the better player, but if either guy is the pick at No. 4 overall, I'm not going to throw a fit.
If Cleveland doesn't take a receiver at No. 4 overall, the player I would love to see slip to No. 26 or No. 35 is WR Marqise Lee. Cleveland has plenty of options, though: the likes of WR Odell Beckham, WR Brandin Cooks, WR Allen Robinson, WR Cody Latimer, WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Davante Adams, WR Jordan Matthews, and others. That's why it's a little unattractive to take Watkins or Evans at No. 4 overall -- we could take a player at a position that isn't as deep, and still get a quality receiver later on.
Cornerback Being Kept Quiet: I think fans have latched on to the thought of the Browns drafting a cornerback with No. 26 or No. 35 from the pool of CB Justin Gilbert, CB Darqueze Dennard, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Jason Verrett, or CB Bradley Roby. In our draft tracker, we saw that the Browns touched based with cornerbacks projected to go in rounds 3-5, which includes CB Pierre Desir, CB Nevin Lawson, and CB Walt Aikens.
Over the past couple of days, we've quietly seen hints that Cleveland is interested some of the higher-prospect corners, though. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio said, "One player the Browns like very much is Gilbert, a 6-foot, 202-pound corner from Oklahoma State." DraftBrowns.com also recently indicated that the Browns might have had a visit with Dennard. If so, they kept it quiet...which makes you wonder if some of their other unreported visits/workouts were at the cornerback position.
Other Positions at Play: So far, I would say that quarterback, wide receiver, offensive guard, and cornerback are the four most likely positions to be taken by the Browns with picks No. 4, 26, and 35, with the latter two positions only being in play after the team's top pick.
The other two positions Cleveland could consider to a degree are inside linebacker (C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier) and safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, Jimmie Ward). Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer made RB Carlos Hyde's name surface again this week as a possible second-rounder, but with RB Ben Tate on board and the zone blocking scheme being deployed in Cleveland, I see no reason to take a running back any sooner than the third round. The positions I am least interested in during the first two rounds (outside of special teams) include outside linebacker, the defensive line, running back, and center.
What About Outside Linebacker? I couldn't complain too much about OLB Khalil Mack at No. 4 overall, but the reason I've been staying away from his name is the fact that we'd have way too many people at the position (Jabaal Sheard, Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, Quentin Groves). How do you give enough reps to everybody? Mentally, I am selfish and want somebody who would see maximum reps this year (unless they are a quarterback).
Taking Mack would be a good move for the future, though. Sheard and Groves are free agents next year. Kruger's dead money hit is lessened by next year in the event he has another underachieving season. Still, the thought of an outside linebacker isn't intriguing enough to me. If Mack doesn't pan out and Mingo doesn't improve upon his rookie year, that's a lot of dead weight investment at the position.
The Benefit of Plenty of Picks: The Browns re-signed K Billy Cundiff to a one-year deal, but he's not a long-term answer. Since Cleveland has plenty of picks this year, I expect them to burn one of their later round selections on a kicker. They could even be the first team to select a kicker in the draft. Mike Pettine was part of a team in Buffalo last year that drafted K Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round. I also am half expecting the Browns to select two quarterbacks in the draft. Yes, they signed two veteran quarterbacks, but that could be to help move some of the offseason programs along. Neither Vince Young nor Tyler Thigpen, who signed minimum contracts, are viewed as long-term options.
Non-Stop Coverage at DBN: Make sure you keep it here on Dawgs By Nature over the next several days. Each day of the draft, we will have a Live Blog / Open Thread. The live blog will be constantly updated with the latest draft-day rumors, and then we'll have separate posts up for each of the team's draft picks. Lastly, with a lot of fans being frustrated about the draft being moved back this year, what about next year?
Three NFL people that I really trust say the league is giving serious consideration to scheduling the draft a week or two later in 2015.— Bob McGinn (@BobMcGinn) May 7, 2014
Oh, boy. For now, let's just rejoice that this year's draft is about to commence!