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Slone’s sidelines: Browns draft needs

May 2, 2014

Chris Slone


cslone@civitasmedia.com


This is the first installment of the NFL Draft scenarios, which will feature both Ohio franchises. This article will feature the Browns needs while a story focusing on the Bengals will appear in an edition of the Daily Times in the subsequent days leading up to the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday, May 8.


During this time of year, with the NFL Draft quickly approaching, many fans think they are professional scouts. I do not pretend to think I know everything about scouting but I have coached football, and I have spent most of my life studying prospects.


And since we live in a football community, I am going to breakdown prospects for the Cleveland Browns and who I would select on draft night with the team’s top picks, if I actually had a say in the matter.


Cleveland has struggled to field a winning football team since returning to the NFL in 1999. Last season’s edition of the Browns struggled mildly as the Cleveland faithful watched their team finish with a 4-12 record, which was last in the division.


That is the bad news. The good news — Cleveland has five of the first 83 picks. Among those selections, the Browns have two first round picks (No. 26 overall arriving via trade of running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis), one second round pick and two third round selections.


The Browns have the most flexibility in the draft, which should suit them well, especially considering Cleveland has many holes to fill.


Most mock drafts I’ve seen has Cleveland selecting Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel who I really like — as a fan. Manziel is the most exciting prospect in this draft. However, I would not select him with the third overall pick.


I am not debating the need for a quarterback. I just don’t see the value at No. 4 for the Browns. Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins would make a better choice. He is the best wide out in this year’s draft and the Browns would be immensely better on offense after he walked onto the podium.


If Cleveland had star receiver Josh Gordon playing on one side of the formation and Watkins on the other, opposing defenses would not be able to dictate their coverages toward one side or the other. Gordon would no longer face double teams, which would immediately open up the possibilities for the Browns.


There is a distinct possibility of the Jacksonville Jaguars drafting Watkins with at No. 3 overall. If that scenario become a reality, Cleveland needs to select Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. The 6-foot-5-inch, 231-pound wideout would become an immediate red zone threat because of his size.


Evans also ran a 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash, which is respectable for a man his size. Evans is rated as the second best receiver in the draft and is a Top 10 prospect, according to CBS.


With the 26th pick, the Browns can look at several different possibilities. Trading down is always an option but I doubt Cleveland will want to garner future picks. If Manzel fell to No. 26, the Browns should waste no time selecting the redshirt sophomore.


However, I doubt Manzel would free fall to the Browns next selection. Therefore, Cleveland should look at a cornerback to pair with perennial all-star Joe Hayden. Senior defensive backs Kyle Fuller a Virginia Tech standout, and Jason Verrett, who starred at Texas Christian University, should still be on the board.


Fuller is more of a physical corner back who could line up in the slot and blitz off the edge at any given time. Verrett is more of a cover corner who primarily lines up on the outside. Fuller and Verrett are rated as the third and fourth best corner backs.


With their selection in the second round, the Browns should look at a quarterback. Some people have Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater falling into the second round. I doubt Bridgewater would be available for Cleveland’s round two pick, they could always trade up, but as it stands, the Browns should look at Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage or Georgia signal-caller Aaron Murray.


Murray is slated as a fourth-round prospect but I feel that is a low-ball ranking, which was predicated on the torn ACL Murray suffered during his senior campaign. If he is healthy, which is a big if, I believe he would be worthy of a second round selection.


Those are the Top 3 picks for the Browns, and in my opinion, Cleveland would be a much better football team with those selections. After the second or sometimes third round, the draft is more illogical. It’s not always about selecting the best talent. More often than not, teams address needs in the middle rounds. Therefore, I predicted Cleveland first three picks only.


Sit back and enjoy the spectacle as we are less than a week away from gaining answers to many football questions.


Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or on Twitter @PDTSportsEditor.