The 2014 NFL Draft is a little under three weeks away and the pre-draft visits by the prospects are coming fast and furious. Teams are still trying to get their draft boards set and these pre-draft visits might be the final determination before their final board is set. On the other side, players are putting their final impressions on the teams that might select them.
- The Cleveland Browns have been extremely busy meeting and working out all the top prospects that they are considering. During the past week the team had workouts with many of the top quarterbacks. According to multiple reports, the Browns worked out Alabama QB AJ McCarron on Wednesday and this past weekend the Browns were down in Texas working out Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel.
- This coming week is a huge week for the Browns and the city of Berea as the team hosts many of the top prospects from the draft at the Browns Training Facility. The team will be centered on the quarterback position. According to multiple reports, Manziel, Central Florida QB Blake Bortles, Fresno State QB Derek Carr, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, and McCarron will all make their visits this week to Berea to meet with the team.
- This year’s draft is considered a very deep one with lots of talent in many positions—the wide receiver, secondary, and offensive line positions are loaded with talent from top to bottom. There will be great value in the later rounds because of the depth of these positions. Luckily for them, the Browns have their biggest needs in some of these rich positions. So do not fret that the Browns did not address one of their needs early in the draft, because they can still get quality players later on.
- Look for the Browns to address the quarterback position with one of their first three picks. Just by looking at their recent draft visits, it is very clear that the team is targeting a quarterback high. The hard part is to determine which one of the top quarterbacks they like the best. Early on in the draft process, Johnny Manziel was linked very strongly to the Browns, but this may have changed after the front office reshuffling. Now which quarterback will be playing in Cleveland next season is all a huge unknown. The quarterback position is the big wild card in the draft. Many believe that there could be one that falls in the draft like Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater; others say that someone might rise into the first round that is a complete surprise like Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage or Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The way the draft will ensue all depends on where the quarterbacks land and how early they may go.
- The Browns are in a very unique position in that they have multiple first-round picks and an early second-round pick. They can target players they are high on and have enough trade chips to go wherever they want to get the players they covet. The Browns have two first round, two third-round, and two fourth-round picks that give them the ability to maneuver around and get the prospects that are high on their board. The Browns have talked to numerous teams about moving up in the draft as well as trading back. I believe the Browns will use their multiple picks to move around in the early rounds to snag a player that might be falling and that is high on their draft board.
- Cleveland will be addressing a lot of their needs during the draft. I believe the team will look to fill the quarterback position first and foremost. This is the biggest need on the team and they will look very hard at all the top quarterbacks to hopefully find their franchise quarterback. The other positions that they will probably try to fill are cornerback, offensive guard, wide receiver, inside linebacker, and maybe a safety. Obviously, the team will probably not be able to fill all of these needs perfectly, but I believe they will draft at least one for each of these needy positions.
- Though not necessarily a position of need, the Browns continue to be linked to Buffalo’s insanely talented linebacker Khalil Mack. Mike Pettine is a big fan. Conveniently, Mack is also rumored to now be ranked ahead of South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney on some boards.
- The AFC North is up for grabs and the 2014 NFL Draft could be a deciding factor in getting one of the teams over the top. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in need of wide receiver, linebacker, and secondary help. They will look to try to get some help for Ben Roethlisberger after losing WR Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. The Baltimore Ravens will be looking for safety, offensive lineman, and defensive lineman help in the draft. They will need to bolster their defense to try to get back to their hard-nosed defense they had for so many years. The Cincinnati Bengals will be trying hard to improve the front seven of their defense. They must replace defensive lineman Michael Johnson, who left in free agency. This draft will be a big component in the way the division will pan out.
- My name is Joe Gilbert and this is my first article for WFNY. I am a Lakewood kid who is a die-hard Cleveland sports fan. Over the next couple of weeks, as WFNY continues to tackle all of the other items regarding the Browns, I will be covering the NFL Draft. Please continue to check out my articles if you’re a draft fanatic. I look forward to writing for you all.
Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY