1. Hey, it's the first round! I'm really excited to see what the Browns are going to do here, as there are a lot of great options.
Optimist: The Browns really addressed some positions of need here in the first. The run defense was absolutely atrocious last year, and this defense can not function without production up front, and hogmollies taking up space so that his "kitties" can aggressively flow downhill and cause havoc. Danny Shelton was beloved by the team, wanted to play in Cleveland, and fills the most pressing need on the team. (Aside from QB) Before he ever takes a snap, Shelton shows immediate success with his attitude and work ethic. Cam Erving is a huge man, with the flexibility to play multiple offensive line positions, and provides immediate upside with a chance to replace potential departing 2016 free agents Mitchell Shwartz and opt-out candidate Alex Mack.
The Browns knew that strong O-line play was the common denominator in their 2014 wins, and will refuse to let injuries derail that in 2015. With Michael Bowie returning from IR and Erving in the fold, the Browns boast the deepest and most talented offensive line in the league.
Pessimist: That was one of the safest first rounds i've ever seen the Browns have. Nose tackles are not premium players, as we saw in free agency. The utilization of sub packages means that in order for Danny Shelton to live up to his draft status, he'll HAVE to be more than just a run stuffer. Even if he doesn't get after the passer the way Wilfork and Ngata have, he'll have to create push and pressure; he can't be one dimensional. His 40 time is likely irrelevant to his future prospects, but he'll have to be more of a presence in the pass game than he's shown in limited time in college and at the Senior Bowl. Meh. Cam Erving is a mind numbing selection.
Coach Mike Pettine says that he will, "Compete on the right side of the line" which leads me to wonder what player he's planning on replacing: One of the best OG in the league last year, John Greco, or at right tackle, where he's demonstrably less suited? Are the choices here (with a FIRST ROUNDER) really, "replace an exceptional player under contract for 2 more years" or "Play a position that you're not suited for" ?? If the Browns didn't have the option to trade down in the first, there was a LOT of talent available at 19 to choose from. The Browns planned for 2016 with this pick, which is a defeatist approach to drafting with first round picks. Get better in 2015!** ** I reserve the right to nod sagely and love this pick when Erving plays incredibly well, makes the squad, and keeps the Browns OL rolling in 2016**
2. I'm sure that with Petty and Hundley sliding past the second round, the Browns will grab a guy that they can redshirt and develop.
Optimist: I'm meh and blah about the future prospects of both of these quarterbacks, who both struggled to find accuracy and consistency in a system that was built to make life easier on them. (UCLA didn't actually SUCCEED in making life easier for Hundley, but they tried) Neither of these quarterbacks would have been more capable of playing (if needed) in 2015 than Thad Lewis or Connor Shaw, and i'd like to hope there are better options for playing time in 2016 than both of them. Whatever. This draft just sucked for added QB talent, and no amount of wailing about it is going to change that. Only 7(?) QB's were drafted, total. The 4th best QB was drafted in the 4th round, reluctantly. The class was uninspiring.
Pessimist: The Browns have one of the most unreliable quarterbacking groups in the league, and did nothing to add high-ceiling talent. This draft doesn't mean that the team is all-in on the prospect of Johnny Manziel developing this year, but it sure isn't a death knell for his chances of playing this season. If anything, the Browns punted the QB decision for anything beyond this season until after this year. If Haslam was pounding the table to address the position this offseason and ended up getting a McCown/Manziel camp battle, there's going to be an overwhelming amount of pressure to make changes next year if the QB position AGAIN is the delimiting factor for winning games in 2015.
3. This WR adventure...
Optimist: The Browns have vociferously defended their WR corps the last two years, and in large part, have been correct. in 2014, despite the media (and fans) taking potshots at the group, they performed admirably. When the passing offense failed, it was normally a result of open receivers not getting the ball into their hands, and a failure of the play-action scheme to draw defenders to the line of scrimmage. As the offensive line sputtered, so did the running game, and as a result.....so did the passing game. The WR's were actually very good, with Miles Austin finding the fountain of youth and Andrew Hawkins/Taylor Gabriel providing sparks. The coaching staff finally found a way to utilize Travis Benjamin's blazing speed, using him on slant routes and deep drags where he could race the defensive back to open space. The WR's were.....not awful?
Pessimist: The underrated addition to the WR corps last year was Miles Austin. He provided solid, reliable hands with good blocking and quality route running. His injury was another jenga block removed from a precarious tower; everything came crashing down as a result of multiple factors. Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline will succeed at doing the same things that made Austin successful; they're willing blockers, and will run good routes and reel in contested catches. Neither (at this stage of their careers) will demand defenses attention, and both are signed to short term deals. In the NFL, Receivers typically take a year to two years before they begin to realize their innate talent. It's a position with a slow growth curve. Some rookies just explode on the scene, such as Odell Beckham and Keenan Allen, but they are historically exceptions to the rule. Quality organizations slot these high picks in slowly and allow them to settle in without having too much pressure to be a "#1 receiver." This is the Alshon Jeffrey/Michael Floyd/Devante Adams mold.
The Browns should never reach for WR talent to fill a need, and under Ray Farmer, they clearly wont. 2014 was a HISTORICALLY DEEP draft class, and there wasn't a single point in the draft that they felt there was value at WR. For some rounds, I can absolutely agree and understand the logic. As later rounds came and went, I was left scratching my head. If the draft philosophy favors using premium picks for offensive line help and defensive front seven players, shouldn't there be a flier taken on middle round wide receivers? There were THAT many players on the board in front of Donte Moncrief? Martavis Bryant? A trade up for Devante Adams? The 2015 draft featured more of the same. Ray Farmer claims that he loves the state of his WR corps, and passed on a chance to draft a consensus top talent. They drafted a guy with a lot of production in Vince Mayle. (The production theme will become clear as the rounds pass) Again, late round talent with high upsdide such as Chris Conley, Stephon Diggs, Tre Mcbride, and Justin Hardy came and went. The Browns plan is to run the ball and invest a large number of premium picks in building an offensive line that completely mitigates the QB play to the greatest extend possible, as well as find players that can make life uncomfortable for the opposing quarterback. At some point, the Browns WILL have to throw the ball, and the only teams i've seen find success with the type of team Farmer is building (in the modern NFL) are New England and Philadelphia. That's really it. When Ray says, "We're doing things differently here" i'm both impressed and concerned. I'm not ANGSTING over the lack of activity, but I do worry about the future.
4. Starting to detect a theme here....
Optimist: The Browns are clearly targeting a specific type of player based on their college track record, for better or worse. The players targeted in the 2015 draft are high on character and work ethic, beloved by coaches and team mates, and capable of producing at a very high level in college. They're selecting guys they feel can emulate the "Play like a Brown" mentality.
Pessimist: Sometimes, drafting high character guys exclusively can backfire. Some times find success despite the proclivity to draft/acquire problem children (New England, Baltimore, San Francisco) while others flounder because of the propsensity to fill the roster with Nice Dudes(tm), like Atlanta. Mike Pettine wants to fill the building and playing fields with guys that will outwork the other team and will love the game above anything else. At a certain point, you'll have to take risks on players that have elite athletic traits and haven't proven squat on the field.
5. What position group is going to see cuts because of this draft?
Optimist: The Browns drafted a horde of defensive lineman and cornerbacks, which they already carry an abundance of on the roster. The defensive line features Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, Armonty Bryant, John Hughes, Billy Winn, Randy Starks, Kitchen, and Jamie Meder. The Browns also signed Christian Tupou, Calvin Barnett, and Jacobbi McDaniel to futures contracts. They added Shelton and Cooper, bringing in a large total for OTAs and camp. The defensive backs group already had Joe Haden, Tramon Williams, Pierre Desir, Justin Gilbert, and K'Waun Williams. They also feature Reggie Nelson and Jordan Poyer, who have taken snaps at both safety and cornerback. They've added Charles Gaines and Ifo Erekpe-Olomu, and carry Jonathan Bademosi for special teams. They also brought in Varmah Sonie with a 3 year contract.
Pessimist: Who cares? The Browns have added talent to the pool, and love to have competition. They will throw some rookies to the fire in training camp, and see who is able to outperform the incumbents. This is a good problem to have.