July 25, 2014

NFL Draft 2014: Quick thoughts on QBs before Browns finale

campbell brownsWe’re hours away from the end of another disappointing Cleveland Browns season.

Somehow, impressively, the Browns are again 4-11 and on the verge of a top eight draft pick. It’s maddening how consistent this franchise is at being among the bottom-fourth worst teams in the NFL. And it’s time to look briefly at the quarterbacks that might be around at the top of the draft.

Today, the Browns can knock the Steelers out of the playoff race for good. That’d be fun. Winning is generally ideal. But in the Cleveland world we live in, winning might not be the preferred option for many fans as we dive into the quarterback rankings.

For the third straight season, the Browns ranked among the five worst teams in passing, per Pro Football Focus. It’s also gotten worse, from No. 28 in 2011 to No. 29 last season and No. 31 this year. That’s an issue and it’s not that surprising anymore when Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell throw 85% of the team’s pass attempts through 15 games. The quarterback position is in shambles. Is a better draft position the most important goal right now?

As Jared Mueller broke down at Factory of Sadness, there are a number of games to watch this afternoon for draft positioning. Based on a possible win and the strength of schedule tiebreaker, the Browns could end up in a number of different spots from No. 3 to No. 8. Most likely, with a loss, it’s No. 3 or No. 4. With a win, and nobody else winning, they could fall from their current spot of No. 5 to No. 7 or worse.

Those other teams that could end up higher than the Browns in the draft: Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Oakland, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Minnesota. Conceivably, almost all of those teams could use a well-established future quarterback. St. Louis could be OK with a healthy Sam Bradford. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan isn’t going anywhere. But the others could be desperate, just like the Browns.

Per established rankings, here are the consensus top seven quarterbacks in the 2014 draft:

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville*
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M*
Blake Bortles, Central Florida*
Brett Hundley, UCLA*
Derek Carr, Fresno State
AJ McCarron, Alabama
Zach Mettenberger, LSU

Thus far, some fans have been skeptical of the future prospects of those quarterbacks. Their shine has waned over the past few weeks with many struggling under the spotlight. Teddy Bridgewater had a final possible last game with Louisville, yet Derek Carr struggled for Fresno State in their bowl game. Notably, all four of the top players all are underclassmen, which could hamper the Browns’ decision set even further.

Would I be thoroughly disappointed with McCarron or Mettenberger? Maybe. It’s perhaps too early to tell. But realistically, the Browns could get blocked out of the elite QBs with a win and some misfortune today. It’s possible that three quarterbacks could be among the first four picks in the draft, and with Brett Hundley being the most doubtful player of going to the pros, that would take away the top half of this list.

Deservingly, Terry Pluto called out the Browns defense in his Sunday notes column today. It’s fair to say that the Browns organization needs a lot more talent across the board as opposed to only quarterback. Skill positions like cornerback, inside linebacker and running back still are not strengths. They could be boosted with a mid-round pick, perhaps a non-quarterback with that first selection or with Indianapolis’ slot later in the first round.

Something I much prefer: Having a young quarterback to again rely upon for the future. For example, Ryan Tannehill went No. 8 to Miami in that dreaded 2012 draft. He hasn’t been spectacular, but at only 25 years old and in keeping the Dolphins in the playoff race, his future looks just fine. The Browns only had 30-year-old Weeden, 31-year-old Campbell and 28-year-old Brian Hoyer around this season. A young QB presents hope and a plan for the future.

As we look at one final regular season game, the draft positioning and the ramifications of a win relate to the team’s ability to draft that enchanted future quarterback. At No. 3 or No. 4, the Browns should be able to have a choice of at least one of the top three players. Anywhere else and the options might be slim. That’s where my mind will be during today’s game in Pittsburgh.

Photo: John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer

  • EdgewaterJoe

    From what I’ve heard, the top three QBs on the Browns board are Bridgewater, Carr, and Mettenberger. Bortles and Boyd are supposedly on the second tier, and the rest they aren’t interested (to which I say, PHEW! on Manziel). Based on that, I wonder if they’d be willing to use that first pick on the best player on the board (Clowney? The best ILB? A wide-out? A trade-down?) and use the Indy pick on Mettenberger …

  • whosevelt

    It’s really hard to get hung up on the specifics when seven previous regimes have proven expert in blowing the ballyhooed top pick, the slightly lower solid prospect, and the mid-round flyer; and the current regime has done everything they can to look as similar as possible to the previous regimes.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Just from my own amateur observation I think Bortles is 100x better than Carr and Mettenberger. I’d be disappointed if we took either of them with Bortles on the board.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Our 2014 QB, and the QB I believe has the ability to take this current roster as is to the playoffs is rehabbing his knee. The “regime” deserves credit from me at least for bringing him into the fold.

  • mgbode

    Beat Pitt!!! I want to beat pitt. Plenty of time the few months for draft stuff.

  • @TheDeePagel

    add Sammy Watkins at WR…..then a RB late ist round….dare I say Hyde? Come out with Hoyer, Gordon-Watkins-Little-Bess, Cameron, Hyde-Lewis…and I am excited.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Then watch how great our defense becomes when there is a potent offense on board. It changes everything…

  • whosevelt

    At this point I honestly don’t care if they beat Pittsburgh. I have been too busy watching the Browns unravel to focus on Pittsburgh but it is really tempting to root for a team that starts 0-4 and is in the playoff hunt in December, over a team that… is the Browns.

  • whosevelt

    I have no more potential-based excitement left in me. I was already out by the beginning of the next year. The only time I will get excited is when the Browns are above .500.

  • @TheDeePagel

    With all due respect, and fan to fan, I don’t respect that. Not trying to be snotty, just don’t understand that mentality. Why even be a fan if you can’t take the losing? There are only two outcomes in sports….you win, or you lose. That is the complete composition of every game. In my opinion being a fan means you realize that and accept it as part of the experience. When you win, you don’t say “okay I’ll stop being a fan now cause we won”….so why on earth would you say that when you lose?

  • whosevelt

    I don’t know man, I’m not proud of it. I’m just reporting how I feel. You go through thirteen years of incompetence and then the team doubles down on incompetence with B***S***, it just wears on you. I got the sense that Browns fans generally were far less optimistic with the new regime than with the previous five, despite the change being more fundamental, and if that’s true, it turned out they were justified, as we immediately fell into a swirl of embezzlement, cockiness, and losing. I suspect that I will be excited again when I see something positive, but I, and I think most Browns fans, have been conditioned to not think “change”, whether it’s a new regime or a new QB prospect, etc. is a positive thing.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Fair enough. I guess I’m in the minority. We all want winning, so I guess we can agree on that and leave it.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    A win today means absolutely nothing, in a symbolic sense or otherwise. As is usually the case for this team, our draft position has more chance to help in the long term. I’m not worried about winning being an issue though, because our opponent has something to play for, unlike us. As I’ve said earlier in the week, this one will be over for us quickly.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Losing breeds losing. I’ll cheer for a win today as being more important then a couple of spots on the draft board. This team will learn a whole lot more from beating a team on the road then bringing in more rookies who need to learn the exact same thing.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Losing breeds losing. I’ll cheer for a win today as being more important then a couple of spots on the draft board. This team will learn a whole lot more from beating a team on the road then bringing in more rookies who need to learn the exact same thing.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Much like the end of season win streak under Mangini turned it all around, yeah? 5 wins will teach nothing to anyone that 4 won’t: we are what we are either way, a bad team. We won on the road this year already, so this would hardly be groundbreaking. As always, your enthusiasm is applauded, but here your logic is soft at best. I’ll take my chances with new blood and improved talent–or at least the chance for it. Who knows whom among these players and coaches will even be here next year for recent lessons to matter anyway?

  • @TheDeePagel

    I feel it is okay to disagree, sure, that’s what fans do. But don’t believe it’s fair to question logic….what I am saying makes sense, you may not agree with it, but does not mean it isn’t logical.

  • tnb

    saying ‘winners know how to win’ and calling it logical is really a farce. Butch Davis is clearly a winner at the college level, dude was a joke in his tenure in Cleveland.

    Tim Couch was a winner in College, he couldn’t pull any of those teams out of the gutter.

    Tim Tebow was a winning college quarterback who excelled on the field. In the NFL he isn’t even on the radar for 32 teams.

    JaMarcus Russell was a winner in college, now hes mocked and laughed at.

    The list goes on and on, but for all the talk about ‘bringing in winners’ nobody wants to turn and look at the front office. Haslam, the owner who came in from a very successful steelers ownership group. Banner, a man who helped piece together one of the most successful franchises of the 2000s with the Eagles. Chudzinski, who was the last man to ever get this offense anywhere close to ‘top of the heap’.

    There are 22 players on NFL teams from Rutgers. Players like Ray Rice, a very successful back. New England has 4 of those players on their roster. When you think of college powerhouses is Rutgers even in the first 20 schools you would list? No.
    If you want to say that we need to bring in ‘winners’ well look, we already have, yet people still want to complain about there not being enough of a ‘winning culture’ like that means something. If you bring in people with the tools and ability and put systems in place that are forward thinking and designed to exploit weaknesses of their opponents while highlighting the strengths of your own team you will win, period. It doesn’t matter how many Heisman trophy winners or college national champions you have on your team.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Football is the ultimate team sport. Players and coaches need to learn how to win together. You can’t just bring guys who have won before and automatically think it will be perfect. You need to win together for it to work and that is what this franchise has been lacking for so long. The sooner they learn how to win together as a unit the better we will be. That in my opinion is way more important then bringing in new rookies who then have to go through the same process back at square 1.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Well I didn’t say or mean to imply that you are making an argument that lacks logic. It just that it strikes me as too simplistic, and seems to have been discredited more than once by our beloved Browns. Nothing personal intended.

  • @TheDeePagel

    But why waste your time trying to prove me wrong. It appears you will get your way. I will admit 1000-times over to being wrong if it ended up with a consistent winning Browns team. So take it away….

  • @TheDeePagel

    Okay.

    However, couldn’t someone argue that high draft picks also haven’t been a winning recipe?

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    One could easily (and effectively) make that argument for this franchise, no doubt. I’m saying which is more likely to make a difference: 5 wins instead of 4, or better draft position. And I don’t see a convincing argument for the former over the latter.

    I’m beginning to wonder if there even is a winning formula for this team

  • @TheDeePagel

    There is. There will be. I believe everyone involved has a role including the fans. Once we begin to quit, we shouldn’t expect the players to win. Everything vibes off of each other and a positive fan base is part of the formula. I get that the losing sucks and it has been around well past its welcome….but once the vibe of the fan base changes from support to negative apathy and surrender, the players will feed off of that and nothing will get better.

    People can call what I say dumb, stupid, irrelevant, pointless, etc….I’ve heard it all, but it is something I believe in.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You just let being a fan blind you to the shortcomings of what is one of the worst organizations in the NFL even after an ownership change. Right now there are very few reasons to be optimistic that anything will change. All I have to say is 0-7 after being 4-5. That’s all the evidence needed. That being said it’s pretty difficult for a new head coach to do much with a roster that is so talent deficient. I want to see what this front office does this summer with free agency and the draft. If they don’t bring in talent and I mean top notch talent then all this latest redo will be is a repeat of all of the past failures.

  • Michael J.

    We have 7 choices in the 1st 4 rounds, have to feel a little bit optimistic, of corse we need a new head coach too.

  • Michael J.

    You had it right the 1st time, I’ve been a Brown’s Fan since 1967,(I was four years old) and I have had the highs, and the lows. I’m going to die a Brown’s Fan.