In contrast with the NBA, the prevailing notion over the past decade in the NFL draft is that the number one pick is a burden. It saddles what is already a terrible team with an unproven player, often a quarterback, that uses up a disproportionate amount of the team’s cap space. Browns fans know this as well as anyone – watching their team consistently miss at the very top of the draft has left the team languishing for a decade.
The past two drafts, however, the Browns found themselves at the 5 and 7 spot with the overwhelming front office and fan favorite targets – Aaron Curry and Eric Berry – off the board and just out of reach (missing out may have worked out for the best, but there was certainly an unsatisfactory feeling on draft day when they came off the board). This April, the Browns once again find themselves in that exact range, with the 6th overall pick. While we’re right in the heart of the evaluation process, with the mix of needs and prospects for teams choosing around them, the Browns should have a ton of flexibility on draft day to either fill a position(s) of need or move picks.
As Tony Grossi writes this morning, the Browns move depends in large part on how the quarterbacks at the top of this draft grade out over the next month. Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are widely considered to be top ten picks – with both potentially going first overall. The Browns have plans to workout Newton and will likely go through the same process with Gabbert. At least one team ahead of the Browns, Arizona, is likely to take a QB with as many as three others potentially in the market for these two QBs.
The decision makers in Berea claim to be committed to Colt McCoy. I think everyone understands that QB is not this team’s first priority need and the fan base would likely lose their minds if the Browns took a QB. As Grossi mentions, therefore, fans should monitor Gabbert and Newton over the next month and hope they light it up, solidifying their top 5 status and leaving the Browns with stock of “1st overall” talent to choose from at 6.
This week’s Mel Kiper mock has the Browns taking Georgia wideout AJ Green at 6, with Newton going 4th to the Bengals and Gabbert first overall to the Panthers. His board also has Da’Quan Bowers and, most notably, LSU CB Patrick Peterson available at number 6. NFL.com’s Steve Wyche has Newton, but also both Green and Peterson, available at number six as well. Wow – I’ll be more than pleased if you tell me the Browns have their choice of Green or Peterson come draft day. The upshot – if these quarterbacks can hold on, the Browns will have a shot at the best WR, best CB, or the debatably no.1 DL among a group of Bowers, Nick Fairley, and Marcell Dareus.
This quality and variety of options and that flexibility is exactly what you want come draft day. One thing that’s almost a guarantee to be included in the next CBA, obviously not in place by April but whenever negotiations begin with these picks, is a rookie wage scale – making those first few picks a little less crippling financially.
If the quarterbacks do not come off the board before the Browns pick, Grossi notes that there will be QB needy teams behind the Browns looking to move up. San Francisco, Tennessee, and Washington are all teams in the market for a QB – a scenario which would land the Browns some extra picks if they try to leapfrog one another and move up to 6 in order to take a QB, likely Newton.
There’s still more than a month to go in the evaluation process but Browns fans have to be encouraged with the likely scenarios potentially playing out within the top ten. Now, the owners and players just need to get their act together so we can see this pick on the field come September.
Brendan is a weekend editor at WaitingForNextYear. He has been writing for the site since March of 2009. He went to college in Boston during a run of insufferable Beantown championships that only served to reinforce his Cleveland allegiance and fandom which he transcribes to you here at WFNY.