Finally. After what has felt like an eternity of speculation, deliberation and refutation, the 2014 NFL Draft is upon us.
Your Cleveland Browns have done a masterful job of keeping their cards in tight, and while they’ve been linked to countless players, who they’ll be taking with their first-round selections remains a mystery. Jimmy Haslam, Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine appear to be the only men who know exactly what the team’s draft plans are. That won’t stop us from doing our best to discuss the options and give our final thoughts on Thursday night’s festivities. Pull up a chair and join us, would ya?
Put on your faux GM hats for a second. What do the first four slots of your “Big Board” look like and why?
Scott: I’ll start things off. My first slot is cemented with Jadeveon Clowney—I think you could put him at tight end if you wanted and you would still have one of the best players on the field at any time. The next three have waivered over the last week or so. Since I have to put something in writing, I’m going with Johnny Manziel at No. 2, Khalil Mack at No. 3 and Jake Matthews at No. 4. Like Craig and others, I’m all about adding Manziel to this team. If they pass on a QB, give me the best guy available—the pass-rushing assassin or the bloodline blocker. There are about six or seven guys I would be happy with (including Greg Robinson and Sammy Watkins), but some I would simply prefer more than others.
Colin: Hopefully this faux hat comes with a gas mask given the amount of smoke coming out of Berea. Smokescreens aside, the top four picks in the draft seem as ambiguous as any group in recent memory. That said, my top four of the entire bunch are Clowney, Manziel, Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack. After a full year of experiencing the ESPN Hype Train followed by six months of nitpicking each and every play, Clowney’s hype has come back full circle. Although it’s unlikely he slips to No. 4, check out his high school highlights. They raise the unintentional comedy scale to a new high.
On the other three… The Browns have enough talent at key positions to offer Manziel every facet necessary for success in this league. He brings all the baggage that may scare some teams, but this is a place where the talented quarterback can shine. With Watkins and Mack, you have two players who could step in and contribute at a play-making level immediately.
Kirk: If I’m setting it up for the Browns, it goes Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Greg Robinson and Mack, in that order. Clowney is a great talent, but I don’t think he fits in Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme and the Browns already have a wealth of talent on the line and at linebacker. I already spoke in detail about my concerns about Johnny Manziel and this quarterback class. Adding a second No. 1 receiver makes any quarterback look much better.
TD: My top four go Jadeveon Clowney (a once-in-a-generation talent), Watkins (he may be under 6-2, but he’s a beast), Robinson (a plug-and-play left tackle for the next 10 years), and Jake Matthews (the bloodlines don’t lie).
Joe G: My top four players are Clowney, Mack, Watkins and Teddy Bridgewater. Clowney is hands down the most talented player in the draft. Mack is the best pass-rushing linebacker. Watkins is the best play-maker. Bridgewater, in my opinion, is the best quarterback in the draft. It’s that simple.
Craig: Clowney, because he’s a freak; Johnny Manziel, as I’ve said 100 different ways—he’s your best shot at finding a star quarterback in this draft; either offensive tackle; then Sammy Watkins.
Andrew: I pretty much agree with the experts here. There are four players above the rest: Clowney, Watkins, Mack and Robinson. If you’re tailoring it for the Browns, however, I’d go Watkins, Evans, Robinson, and Manziel. Personal preference more than anything. I think Watkins is the real deal; Evans is a great wide receiver, though more of a Gordon clone. Adding Robinson could give the Browns the best offensive line in the league and would provide them with the heir to Joe Thomas. And if the Browns are going to go with a quarterback, I want it to be Manziel. He’s the only one who makes sense for me.
Forget the reports for a minute. If the Browns do take a quarterback at No. 4, regardless of player, what position do you want addressed at No. 26?
Andrew: I still want another wide receiver. I know everyone is happy with Josh Gordon, and with good reason, but we can’t pretend he’s still not a risk to be suspended. I hope he turned the corner, but I don’t think the Browns can bet on it. Give me a guy with good hands who can maneuver in traffic. It will only make life easier for whichever quarterback is picked.
TD: If the Browns do take a QB at No. 4 (which I don’t think will happen), then I’m taking the best available cornerback. As improved as Buster Skrine was last year, he is so much more valuable as the slot corner. Pair a stud across from Joe Haden and you could see a huge difference on defense.
Scott: This is going to sound like a cop-out, but if I have a quarterback in tow, I’m going best player available. Wide receiver and cornerback would be my go-to in the event of a tie, but they could walk away with anyone and I’d be thrilled assuming they got the quarterback whom they coveted—as long as his name isn’t Derek Carr.
Joe G: Like TD, I want a cornerback at No. 26. The Browns have been looking for a CB to pair with Haden for years. The wide receiver group is loaded—if they still want to address this position, they can do so at No. 35.
Colin: If the Browns select a quarterback at No. 4, they should focus on bringing in a cornerback at No. 26. However, a full selection of wide receivers seem like a strong possibility that make sense as well. Everything revolves around the quarterback in today’s NFL, yet the Seattle Seahawks showed how a group of ultra-talented defensive backs are able to topple a star if combined with a scary pass-rush.
Craig: In an ideal world, I’d love to see that inside linebacker who get to learn the ropes from Karlos Dansby. I know there will be temptation to draft a wide receiver or guard, but I’m looking up the middle of my defense.
Kirk: If the Browns go quarterback at No. 4, my first glance is to wide receiver. This draft is incredibly deep at the position and I’d like to see them come away with Kelvin Benjamin, Cody Lattimer or an Allen Robinson type. Like Craig, I’d also look at inside linebacker. I’d consider offensive tackle or cornerback, but not Bradley Roby. Never Bradley Roby.
Not many Derek Carr fans around these parts.
If the Browns go non-quarterback at No. 4, who’s your guy in the second half?
Scott: I’ll admit that this question is tricky given that we don’t know who’s going to have been selected at No. 4 or throughout the rest of the first 25 picks. That said, look at the recent mocks that have a slew of players going toward the latter half of the draft.
TD: To your point, it’s hard to answer this without knowing who does go at No. 4. If they take Watkins, I still go best cornerback or consider CJ Mosley. I do not want to take a quarterback at No. 26 unless Teddy Bridgewater somehow falls there. My guess is he won’t be around—I’d rather have a guy like Aaron Murray at No. 35.
Andrew: I still like Teddy Bridgewater as well. I think landing him at No. 26 would be great. All year long, I was nothing but impressed with him every time I saw him play. I started to doubt myself with all of the downgrade talk, but man—if you go back and watch the games, he sure looks like a really good quarterback with skills that would translate to the NFL.
Joe G: My guy, as he has been all offseason, is Teddy Bridgewater. He is my top-ranked quarterback and could possibly be there at No. 26. he has everything you want in a quarterback—accuracy, intelligence and mobility.
Kirk: If the Browns go non-QB at No. 4, then I expect them to either select one at No. 26 or trade up from there to get one. I really don’t see them waiting until Day 2 to address such a glaring need. Like TD and Joe, I’m a Teddy Bridgewater guy, and while I don’t want to see the Browns dip into their surplus of picks to trade up, I realize it may have to happen.
Colin: The scenario of the Browns not selecting a quarterback at No. 4 scares the daylights out of me because they’re either targeting or they believe none of the passers are worth their time. In your scenario, however, it would make sense for them to target and I completely support it. After the first round, drafting a quarterback turns into a crapshoot that Colt McCoy and countless others inhabit. Good quarterbacks are rarely diamonds in the rough.
Craig: If they skip a quarterback at No. 4, it means they grabbed a lineman, wide receiver or pass-rusher; maybe even traded down. If they pass on a quarterback, I wouldn’t want them to take one at No. 26, so I’ll say offensive line assuming they took Watkins at No. 4. This one’s tough.
Scott: All solid answers. Craig, I get your point that if they’re not your guy at No. 4, then they shouldn’t be at No. 26. That said, I’d have to go with the top-ranked quarterback here. If it’s Bridgewater, great. If it’ Carr (who I’m far from sold on), then go for it. Otherwise, I’m looking at a wide receiver (assuming Watkins isn’t selected at No. 4) or a cornerback.
Joe G: Yep, Sammy at No. 4 and Teddy at No. 26. The Browns get another target to pair with Gordon and the quarterback they have been looking for so, so many years. These two would change the entire offense and could put it up there with the best in the league.
Kirk: I’ll pile on with Watkins at No. 4 and Teddy B at No. 26 without a trade being needed. I would also love them trading back to No. 6 (Atlanta) or No. 7 (Tampa Bay) and still getting Evans while adding a pick on Day 2.
Andrew: Add me to the list with Watkins at No. 4. At No. 26, though, I don’t have a dream scenario. Unlike most fans, Brian Hoyer doesn’t scare me. I just keep going back to the Seattle model. Build your team with as much depth as you can, then insert the quarterback later. The San Francisco 49ers did much of the same. If I have to pick a guy, I’m still going with Teddy Bridgewater at No. 26.
Scott: I’ll see your Sammy Watkins and raise you a Johnny Manziel. Manziel falling to No. 26 may be unlikely, but this is my dream, dammit.
Craig: I’m a very capable dreamer as well. In my scenario, the Browns trade back into the first round, end up with three picks and select Johnny Manziel, get one of the top-flight offensive linemen and then use the Colts’ pick on a receiver—say, Marqise Lee. Manziel starts camp third on the depth chart, by the way. Make the kid work his way up.
Colin: A realistic dream scenario involves Ray Farmer calculatedly rolling the dice on Johnny Manziel at No. 4 and selecting a falling Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard at cornerback or O’Dell Beckman at wide receiver with the No. 26 pick. This scenario would allow my dreams of Johnny Manziel in orange and browns to be realized while still landing a stud cornerback or a bona fide number two receiver.
And finally, what is your nightmare scenario?
TD: What would make me absolutely ill would be taking Derek Carr at No. 4, or even No. 26. I just cannot understand the fascination here. I look at Carr and see nothing more than a younger Brandon Weeden. his biggest knock? He’s not very good under duress. He also spent the majority of his time in the shotgun. Sound familiar? No thanks.
Colin: If the Browns shocked the world and selected Derek Carr with the No. 4 pick, feel free to immediately put me in counseling. I simply cannot wrap my head around the amount of buzz he gets as a potential high first-round pick. A combination of Carr and reaching for someone like Chris Boreland at linebacker or another player we overvalued at No. 26 would completely devastate me.
Joe G: Greg Robinson at No. 4 and Derek Carr at No. 26. I believe the team can get a lineman with their later picks—taking one here is not something they can afford based on all of their needs. And while Carr may have the arm, I don’t trust that he has the intelligence to last in the NFL. I echo TD in that he is similar to Weeden, another guy with the arm but lacked the savvy to throw under pressure.
Craig: The Browns trade up from No. 4 and then trade the No. 26 pick for Kirk Cousins—something like that. I’m sick of the Browns looking desperate and taking a position of strength and making it look weak. The team and it’s fans paid dearly last season and were rewarded the fourth and 26th pick for their troubles. The fans have earned something north of a nightmare and then some. The Browns were ripped off in trading up for Trent Richardson and I’m hoping the bad poker died the day Ray Farmer was named general manager.
Kirk: My nightmare scenario involves any quarterback being selected at No. 4 who isn’t Johnny Manziel. It would appear to be quite a reach for Teddy (who I like a lot), Carr, Blake Bortles or anyone below them.
Andrew: The Browns trading down and taking Taylor Lewan is my absolute nightmare. Not just because he went to Michigan, but because of his off-field issues. Plus, I hate the idea of trading down, period. As I said earlier, there are four players who have set themselves apart from the rest of the class—Clowney, Robinson, Watkins and Mack. They should be able to get an elite player and any maneuvering that prevents them from doing so is a nightmare in my eyes.
Scott: Let’s assume that Derek Carr at No. 4 is impossible—like Freddy Kruger and Jason tag-teaming you impossible. OK, good. With that out of the way, I’m not on board with any trade-down scenarios, but I’ll absolutely obliterate this front office in any instance where they trade down past the No. 9 selection (Buffalo). Worse off, if they do so without recouping a top-40 pick in return. I’m with Andrew. You have a top-four pick for a reason—you were AWFUL last season. Take what you’ve been given, acquire an elite talent and move on to the next opportunity.