BEREA—It’s Draft Day!
Unfortunately, the NFL Draft has been the Super Bowl for Browns fans for far too long.
Will today begin the start of the long-awaited turnaround for the franchise that hasn’t been able to get out of its own way since the team returned to the NFL in 1999 or will it continue to be the day that the front office makes major mistakes in it’s strategy?
Those calling the shots for the Browns in the draft are new to their positions in Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, Andrew Berry and Hue Jackson.
Brown was promoted from general counsel and salary cap expert to executive vice president of football operations and has final say on the roster. DePodesta is chief strategy officer and was brought in after two decades as a baseball executive. Berry is the vice president of player personnel and is just 29-years old.
Despite the inexperience of the new group, when looking at the Browns past drafts, it wouldn’t be hard to improve upon them.
The Browns already sent shock waves through the NFL by making a blockbuster move a week before the draft by trading the No. 2 pick in the draft to the Eagles and moving down to the No. 8 slot, while picking up a first-round pick next year and a second-round pick in 2018.
The Browns enter the draft with 12 draft picks this year for the seven round draft—the most of any team.
“We are committed to our plan and articulated strategy, which is to find a nucleus of young players,” Brown said last week. “We have a plan. We are going to stick to it. We are confident it will produce results.”
Jackson, who has been in the NFL since 2001 and was head coach with the Raiders in 2011 says he is very confident in the current set up in the front office.
“I am more comfortable with this group that we will get this right than any group that I have ever been with before,” Jackson said.
The question is how will the Browns execute their strategy?
The prevailing thought is they will seek to accrue additional picks by trading down once again, but Brown said the team has identified at least one player that they will select at eight, if he’s still there.
“We’re set, locked in, know who we’ll be taking,” Brown said on the team’s draft preview special Monday on the Browns radio network. “And if that player’s not there, or if we get another offer that just blows our socks off, we’ll know how to react to that.”
Rumors have suggested that the Dolphins at No. 13 or the Titans at No. 15 or the Jets at No. 20 would all be interested in moving up to the eighth spot. Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott might be available for the Browns at that spot, but they might decide to trade down and take the draft’s top rated wide receiver in Mississippi’s Laquon Treadwell.
There is also some speculation that the Browns will still go after a quarterback, despite passing up the chance to draft Cal’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, considered to be the two top rated quarterbacks. Jackson hinted last week that there might be a quarterback that he likes better than the aforementioned.
Could it be Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, the 6-6, 244-pound quarterback with a big arm and athleticism.
“If we see an opportunity to get better at that position, then we will,” Jackson said. “Who that player will be, where they’ll be, what number it will be — I don’t know.”
The Browns know until they get it right at quarterback, they will never become a serious contender in the AFC North and are expected to take a quarterback at some point in the draft.
Other quarterbacks that have been linked to the Browns are Michigan State’s Connor Cook, who could be picked with the 32nd overall pick to start the second round. A name that has been linked to the Browns in recent days is quarterback Jacoby Brissett from North Carolina State, who might be selected as a developmental quarterback. Others in that category as options at quarterback are Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, Oregon’s Vernon Adams, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott.
With the uncertainty of trades, it is hard to speculate on what the Browns will do, but here is a capsule summary of what we think the Browns will do with their first two scheduled selections:
First Round (if keep and pick)
No. 8—Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
First Round (if trade down 5-7 spots)
No. 13-15—LaQuon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
Second Round (if keep and pick)
No. 32—Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Second Round (if first round trade down happens)
No. 32—Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State