BEREA, Ohio--After waiting for months, the NFL Draft is upon us.
For Browns fans, the NFL Draft is the most anticipated day every year because hope springs eternal that the team's fortunes could be turned around by striking gold in the annual lottery.
The Browns drafts have been from below average to horrid over the past decade. We don't need to rehash all of the mistakes they made, especially when they had two first round picks. The Justin Gilbert/Johnny Manziel draft of 2014 still haunts the Browns as the Raiders used that draft to turn their franchise fortunes around by taking Khalil Mack and Derek Carr. Three years later, they were in the playoffs after an 11-5 season.
That is the silver lining of hope for the Browns, but they have to get this draft right.
They have the chance to get the defensive difference maker with the first pick in Myles Garrett and the chance to find that elusive quarterback, whether it be Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, DeShone Kizer or even Davis Webb.
But don't forget about the safety position. The Browns showed their hand at the start of free agency that they know they need a top-flight safety as they threw a boatload of money at Tony Jefferson, who signed for less money with the Ravens. All of the talk in recent days about the Browns talking with teams in front of them about moving up into the top 10, might not have been just for a quarterback, rather the possibility of moving up to draft a safety, such as LSU's Jamal Adams or Ohio State's Malik Hooker.
Here are my thoughts on what the Browns should do with their first three picks in the draft. Right now, No. 1 and No. 12 are in the first round and No. 33 is the first pick in the second-round, but for this discussion, I'm including No. 33 in the first day. (Not that the Browns decision makers care much what I have to say, but I did say to take Sammy Watkins or Mack and Carr or Teddy Bridgewater in 2014 with their two first-round picks).
Much of the talk has been about the Browns moving up to draft Trubisky. I think Trubisky and Deshaun Watson are at the top of the Browns draft board for quarterbacks, but think they like Mahomes and Webb, as well and could be targets in the first round as long as they don't trade up to No. 22 to take them (Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Manziel were all taken at 22). Also, I don't think you can rule out that the Browns might take two quarterbacks in this draft.
However, I just can't get Hue Jackson's words out of my mind when I asked him the day after the 2016 season what he was looking for in a quarterback--long before draft talk was on us.
“We have characteristics that we look for, but obviously, the guy has to be able to win and win consistently and elevate the play of their team," Jackson said. "That is what the real good ones across the league have done for years. We will be no different here as we move forward and continue to build our team. We will build it with a guy that has that kind of mindset. We are still not sure that he is not on our team right now. We have to continue to evaluate and go through it, but I know that position, that is what it has to have in order for us to be successful here.”
Jackson's track record when he had a say in bringing in quarterbacks, when he was at Oakland he drafted Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. He brought in Robert Griffin III last year and was high on Colin Kaepernick when he came out of college. The point is he seems to like a mobile quarterback that can roll outside the pocket and can run the zone read option.
Watson seems to be the closest to the type of quarterback that Jackson has liked in the past. He also seems to check the boxes of his statement after the season of being a winner and being able to elevate the play of his teammates after a 33-3 record at Clemson, including a national championship.
With that said, my plan would be to take Garrett at No. 1 and then evaluate the opportunity to either grab the quarterback by trading up from 12 or taking a safety.
I know this might go against the grain of recent thinking, but the Browns need a starting safety--if not two from this draft. If they pull off a trade with the Titans or Jets at No. 5 or No. 6, they just might be looking to add Adams or Hooker, if they were still there.
If not, then they zero in on their quarterback.
Depending on what they value the highest, they could use their 33rd selection to try and move up to get a quarterback. If they trade up from 12 to get the quarterback, they can use the 33rd pick to take the next highest safety they have on their list. It could be those considered as the next tier of safeties, among them being Connecticut's Obi Melifonwu, Washington's Budda Baker, Texas A & M's Justin Evans or Michigan's Jabril Peppers.
It never goes as planned, but think the bottom line is the Browns need to come out of the first 33 picks with Garrett, the quarterback they think is the best available--whoever that might be--and a starting caliber safety.
It all begins tonight.