July 23, 2014

Mike Pettine: Josh Gordon is a Cleveland Brown

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In a recent interview with The Akron Beacon-Journal, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine reiterated that the team has no plans to cut maligned wide receiver Josh Gordon in the wake of his troubled off-season.

“We’re firm,” said Pettine. “We want to find that middle ground. Josh is a Cleveland Brown. We want to do what’s best for him. We have a player that potentially needs help. Whether it’s him or whether it’s anybody else that wears the uniform, if we can help, we’ll help. We want to make our decisions always, what’s best for the player, and you try to marry it with what’s best for the team. So that’s why I don’t think that cutting him, while it may have worked for some other people, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best option here. It might be the worst option for both — for us and for him. We’re going to wait and see what happens and then act accordingly.”

Pettine would not get into details regarding how the team can, or will, help Gordon as the league is allegedly sensitive to substance abuse issues. Coincidentally, it’s the league that has yet to determine whether or not Gordon—who reportedly violated the league’s policy earlier this offseason—will miss any games for the 2014 season.

Coming off of a Pro Bowl season wherein Gordon led the league in receiving (despite missing two games), the 23-year-old was expected to be the top target for quarterback Brian Hoyer or newly drafted Johnny Manziel this coming year. The Browns added veterans Nate Burleson, Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin to help bolster an already top-heavy unit. If Gordon misses any time, or even a full season, Pettine iterated that the team will not be able to replace such a talent, but will instead have to draw up creative schemes that will help hide their considerably weak receiving corps.

“You don’t replace him,” said Pettine. “I think you have to get creative. It’s got to be a committee approach, and I think you also have to get creative in how you run your offense whether it’s an extra tight end — that’s where adding Jim Dray and having a veteran like Gary Barnidge helps — [allowing] you to maybe move Jordan [Cameron] around a little bit and play with groupings that maybe involve less wide receivers. You don’t become as wide receiver dependent… I think we have more options there than maybe people think.”

The team believes they will hear word on Gordon’s future within the next 10 days.  The two years remaining on his contract will be tolled if he is indeed suspended. The Browns, theoretically, could have an elite talent at salaries of $825,000 in 2015 and $1.06 million in 2016. Training Camp is set to begin on Saturday, July 26.

 

 

Jordan Cameron to “drive a hard bargain” during contract talks

Gordon and Cameron

While the Cleveland Browns are still looking to lock up their No. 1 draft selection in cornerback Justin Gilbert, all eyes will be aimed directly at tight end Jordan Cameron who will reportedly “drive a hard bargain” when it comes time to ink an extension.

Cameron is coming off of a season where he hauled in 80 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also coming into a season where he’s hired super agent Tom Condon (his third agent this offseason) and will be the focal point of an offense that will be without Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon for an undefined amount of time. He’ll be leaving a system that was extremely friendly to tight ends (thanks, Norv Turner!) and entering one that is predicated upon the run game. This said, Kyle Shanahan has molded career years out of tight ends like Owen Daniels, Chris Cooley, Fred Davis and Jordan Reed—the most recent finishing with 45 catches, 499 yards, and three touchdowns despite missing the final six games of the season.

Sure, Cameron could be tagged in 2015 rather than going through all of the bound-to-be-painful extension talks. But it goes without saying that Cameron, who lined up in the slot many times this past season, will keep an eye on the ruling over New Orleans and their tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints tagged Graham as a tight end, but the NFLPA is arguing he should be paid as a wide receiver after lining up in the slot or outside on 67 percent of his 2013 snaps. The tight end tag is worth $5.3 million less than the wideout tag.

Cameron will likely look to better the deal signed by Jared Cook a little over a year ago, as the tight end inked a deal with the Rams for four year and $35 million, with $19 million guaranteed. He is set to make just $645,000 as he enters the final season of his rookie contract.

(Photo: Pioneer Press/Sherri LaRose-Chiglo)

Browns ink Terrance West, discuss extension with Jabaal Sheard

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As the Cleveland Browns inch toward the completion of minicamp, they have officially signed third-round running back Terrance West to a four-year, $2.796 million contract, including a $527,400 signing bonus.

The 5-foot-9, 230-pound bowling ball of a running back was the 94th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. He rushed for 2,509 yards and 42 touchdowns last season at Towson before declaring for the NFL draft following his junior year. He finished with 4,854 career rushing yards and 86 touchdowns. He is largely expected to back up Ben Tate, but is seeing his stock rise after the team has appeared to focus a lot of their offensive emphasis on the running game as led by the Kyle Shanahan zone-blocking scheme.

The Browns have also reportedly discussed a contract extension with outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard. Sheard is due roughly $995,000 this season as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

“Hopefully it works out,” Sheard said. “I’m just going to take it one step at a time. I can only worry about this year. I love it here, I love the fans here, I love the support I’ve been getting, the teammates. The locker room is growing on me. I feel more comfortable now than I did when I first got here.

“I want to be here when this city erupts. I just know it’s coming. Hopefully this year is the year.”

Nate Burleson on Browns-Lions preseason game: “I’m going to get a fine.”

Nate Burleson Cleveland Browns

On August 9, the Cleveland Browns will face the Detroit Lions in their annual Battle for the Barge—The Great Lakes Classic.  While this overblown preseason game will get lots of burn for its contrived tradition, it’s also going to be a focal point for Browns fans as wide receiver Nate Burleson plans on making the most of his return back to his former home stadium.

“Man, I’m wracking my brain figuring out what celebration I’m going to do — because I’m going to get a fine,” Burleson said, laughing, in an interview with MLive.com. “I’m going to get a fine, period. I’m going to go to my coach and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to get a fine. I’m going to do something crazy.’

“It’s going to be a little bit of an appreciation celebration to the fans and the city of Detroit. But it’s also going to be a poke in the back, saying, ‘You should have kept me because I’m still balling.’”

Though productive when healthy, the veteran receiver played just six games in 2012 due to a broken leg, then just nine last year after suffering a broken arm. He’s currently rehabilitating an injury to the same arm that occurred earlier this offseason. Taking Burleson’s spot in Detroit—across from All-World receiver Calvin Johnson—is Golden Tate, the leading receiver for the 2013 Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.

Burleson was added to the fold in Cleveland to help mentor an otherwise young receiving corps that has since been subject to potential suspensions and releases. He’s expected to line up alongside fellow free agent additions Andrew Hawkins, Earl Bennett and Miles Austin, as well as holdovers Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson. While a full season out of the oft-injured veteran would be nice, Burleson plans on making the most out of his preseason reunion, jokes and all.

“I plan to get off that game,” he said. “It might be the best game of the year for me. Guarantee it. I’m going crazy that game. Probably like 200 yards. Fantasy points through the roof, man.”

[Related: "Nate's Room" now resides in Cleveland]

Photo: Mark Duncan/AP

Chris Carter on Josh Gordon: Not everyone is in a position to be saved

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Having dealt with his own struggles with substance abuse before turning out a Hall of Fame NFL career, former wide receiver Chris Carter spoke candidly about maligned Browns receiver Josh Gordon and his potential suspension for violating the league’s policy on illegal drugs.

“It’s fairly obvious that [using substances] is more important to him than anything else,” Carter said to Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot. “It’s always been very, very important to him. It’s well-documented that it’s been primary since early college. Maybe it even goes back to early high school.”

Carter, dealing with both drugs and alcohol early in his career, bottomed out after being cut by Buddy Ryan and the Philadelphia Eagles. It wasn’t until this moment when he went onto a long and stellar career with the Vikings, hauling in over 1000 passes for 12,000 yards and 111 touchdowns.

Gordon was recently the subject of a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines which said the receiver tested positive for marijuana. It is believed that Gordon is in Stage 3 of the NFL’s drug policy and another test could very well make him unavailable for all of 2014. Gordon’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus is in the process of appealing the suspension.

“If the building is on fire and the person decides to stay in there, I don’t run in there and get him out,” said Carter. “If you see them breaking the glass, if you see them struggling and trying to get out — that’s my analogy of how I help out the guys in the league and the kids that really, really need help.

“Not everyone is in a position to be saved.”

Strange clouds loom over Josh Gordon’s ongoing situation

Gordon

So maybe Josh Gordon didn’t fail a drug test after all? As the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver’s drug-related situtation continues to unfold, more and more wrinkles keep popping up. The latest comes from former Browns receiver Greg Little, who recently spoke about his friend’s alleged policy violation, calling it a “mistake.”

He’s a guy that’s going to work to get back and show this is a mistake,” Little told co-host Bill Polian and me about Gordon on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It’s something that wasn’t in his control, so to speak. I don’t want to get into too much detail about it.”

ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported earlier this month that Gordon was headed for a year-long ban after failing a drug test for marijuana. Immediately following this report, Gordon’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, stated that his client did not fail a drug test. FOX Sports 1 NFL insider Mike Garafolo reported that Gordon had hoped to have the suspension reduced to four-to-six games upon appeal. But it is FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez who speculates that Gordon may have simply missed a drug test, as opposed to failing one.

Unfrortunately for Gordon and the Browns, a missed test is automatically considered a positive result under the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Neither the Browns nor Gordon’s camp have provided details on what exactly happened. Gordon has been taking part in team OTAs while he awaits the NFL’s ruling on the matter. In 2013, he hauled in 87 receptions for a league-high 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing the team’s first two games. He eventually represented the Browns in the Pro Bowl.

Photo: Candice Vlcek/WFNY

Josh Gordon appealing suspension, will participate in OTAs

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Does the T stand for “tease?” Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine recently told Cleveland media that Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon will participate in organized team activities (OTAs) this week as the team awaits word from the NFL regarding the player’s looming suspension. Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot reports that “the expectation” is for Gordon to be hauling in passes from both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel as the league continues to deliberate on—well, who knows what.

Gordon was recently the subject of a report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines which said the receiver tested positive for marijuana. It is believed that Gordon is in Stage 3 of the NFL’s drug policy and another test could very well make him unavailable for all of 2014. Gordon’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus is in the process of appealing the suspension. If Gordon is suspended indefinitely, he would have to apply for re-instatement with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL’s leading recevier in 2013, Gordon was suspended for two games for what was reported to be codeine.

In the wake of the report, the Browns have added veteran wide receviers Miles Austin and Earl Bennett in addition to several undrafted free agents.

“We have to build this team so that no one player drives the ship,” Pettine said. “That we can be insulated losing players for extended periods of time potentially is part of the game. Successful franchises are the ones that have enough depth built and enough options to account for it.”

Johnny Manziel’s workout with the Browns “was a mess”

Welcome to Cleveland, Johnny Manziel

In what is a very Cleveland-heavy Monday Morning Quarterback from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the long-time reporter reveals that Johnny Manziel’s workout with the Browns, just 19 days before the NFL Draft, was an absolute mess.

The Browns must have really loved the Manziel tape—because his workout with Cleveland brass 19 days before the draft was a mess. On Good Friday night, Browns coach Mike Pettine, GM Ray Farmer, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains went to dinner with Manziel and Burkhardt at a country club outside of College Station, near the Texas A&M campus. “We worked out 10 quarterbacks and ate with all with all of them,” Pettine said Saturday night. “That’s the only meal we didn’t pay for.” The workout was set for 8 a.m. Saturday morning, so the Clevelanders and Manziel could make it home comfortably for Easter. One problem: no receivers. So a high school buddy, Shanahan and Burkhardt—in jeans and sneakers—were the pass-catchers. After the workout, which included some clanks off Burkhardt’s hands, the agent said to Manziel: “I’ve seen you better.”

“I’d be better,” Manziel said with a laugh, “if you could catch.”

“One thing I liked about our meeting,” said Pettine. “We talked about being prepared to handle the pressure and the demands of being an NFL quarterback, and he told us, ‘I’m equipped to handle it. I think I’ve handled it already.’ I think he’s right.”

One day after being selected, Manziel came to Cleveland and received his very copy of the Browns’ playbook. Having a playbook will be different for Manziel, as Texas A&M didn’t give out playbooks—just weekly game plans. Alas, Manziel has reportedly been studying it as he prepares to compete with Brian Hoyer this summer.

Other notes from King’s column:

  • The Browns were seconds away from turning in the card with Sammy Watkins’ name on it at No. 4. Ray Farmer stated that Justin Gilbert has just as big of a chance as being Patrick Peterson as Watkins does Randy Moss and that the team has no regrets on making the deal with Buffalo.
  • King stated that Farmer’s draft, if the players turn out to be who they feel they’re getting, is “executive of the year” material. Check out this quote from Farmer on not getting a wide recevier: “I’ll be candid here. The real position to get a receiver would have been at 35, and we thought of it. There were receivers there we liked a lot. But we loved [Nevada tackle] Joel Bitonio at 35. He was clearly the highest-rated player for us then. Not another guy of his caliber, or even close, there. We stayed true to our board. Then we hoped one of the receivers we liked would have fallen to 71, but they were gone then. That’s the heartbreaking part of the draft. You like so many guys, and they get picked, and you say, ‘There goes another one.’ It hurts, but you can’t have everyone you want.”
  • Manziel is already eying up the teams that passed on him as they appear on the Browns’ schedule. The only question will be if he’s going to be the one under center when they come to town.

(Photo: Adam Hunger/ USA Today)

What we want from Day 1 of the NFL Draft: A WFNY Roundtable

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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?

[Read more...]

McShay and Kiper have the Browns landing Watkins, Bridgewater

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In what may be the dream scenario for many, both ESPN draft analysts have the Cleveland Browns landing a play-maker and a quarterback in the first round of the impending NFL Draft.

With the fourth-overall selection, Mel Kiper Jr. and Scouts Inc.’s Todd McShay believe the Browns will select wide receiver Sammy Watkins, barring a trade.

From Kiper:

 There’s been plenty of debate over the last week about whether this could be Johnny Manziel’s landing spot, but I think Browns general manager Ray Farmer will settle on the assurance of a young, experienced (even though he’s still just 20) difference-making talent at this slot. Watkins gives the Browns a viable No. 2 next to Josh Gordon, and a player that ultimately could be a star No. 1 wideout. If you get a QB later on — keep an eye on No. 26 — he’s in a better position to succeed with Watkins as a target. A sleeper here could be Jake Matthews, a safe pick, but probably not one the fan base will be thrilled about. 

And from McShay:

 I had slotted Johnny Manziel here in Monday’s mock draft update, but it now seems more likely that the Browns will pass on a quarterback at No. 4 and instead take the fourth of this class’ four elite players. In this scenario, that’s Watkins, who would provide Cleveland with a dynamic playmaker opposite Josh Gordon and potential insurance in the event that Gordon is injured or deals with any more off-field issues. The Browns can look to take a QB later in the first round or in the second.

As Kiper intimated, if the Browns pass on a quarterback at No. 4, look for them to land one with their second pick of the first round. Specifically, both men have the Browns selecting Louiville’s Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 26 pick.

From Kiper:

The Browns didn’t take a QB at No. 4, but with Bridgewater on the board, I don’t think they’ll wait around and assume they still get a guy they think has the chance to start early further down the draft board. What Bridgewater lacks in arm strength, size, and escapability, he gives you back in anticipation, accuracy, smarts and work ethic. I really don’t think there’s a more consistently accurate QB available in this draft, and you have to feel better about his chances if you have Watkins, Gordon and Jordan Cameron as the weapons.

And from McShay:

The Browns passed on a quarterback at No. 4 in this scenario — instead taking Clemson WR Sammy Watkins — but they get one here. We’ve heard that the Browns like Bridgewater more than some other teams do (and more than the Browns like Fresno State’s Derek Carr), and this is a logical spot in the first round for him to come off the board.

There has been plenty of rumblings surrounding Bridgewater and the Browns. Late Wednesday, it was reported that the team commissioned an expensive analytical study that resulted in Bridgewater being the top quarterback in this year’s draft class. If he were to fall to the Browns at No. 26, he would likely represent the third quarterback taken. If the team were to address these glaring needs with just two of their 10 picks, it’s tough to envision any scenario that isn’t met with open arms from a fan base that has long been scorned by this very weekend in years past.

Browns commissioned expensive, analytical study on quarterbacks

NCAA Football: Louisville at West Virginia

Buried in a narrative-based column on Teddy Bridgewater, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports that the Cleveland Browns commissioned an “expensive and thorough analytics study” that ultimately resulted in the Louisville quarterback leading the pack.

I have continued to hear that within the Browns’ headquarters, however, he has been viewed very favorably and that him tumbling a bit due to his pro day or whatever else is hardly the worst thing in the world as far as that club is concerned. […]

Further fueling the Browns’ interest in Bridgewater is an expensive and thorough analytics study the team commissioned evaluating decades of successful NFL quarterbacks and taking all sorts of variables into consideration, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Team president Alec Scheiner was the brainchild of the study, which was then commissioned by Joe Banner, who ran the Browns until being let go when the front office was reorganized in February.

While it appears that former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi was willing to share some of the team’s secrets in the hours before the NFL Draft, the focus on advanced analytics should come as little surprise given the addition of Scheiner last season. Last offseason, WFNY’s Craig Lyndall penned a story on Scheiner and his endeavor to implement analytics on a “project by project” basis.

When people think of analytics, they envision a closed-off know-it-all who thinks on different planes and professes to know everything.  But that would never work. Scheiner and his department seem to know that pretty explicitly. Instead of being some kind of silo of confusing math that spits out self-proclaimed “genius” and expect others to just listen, it will be important to create a cohesive front office through relationship-building. In the world of analytics nothing is guaranteed because the math is being applied to humans which can’t be completely encompassed with variables.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that even the best math won’t guarantee draft success. Nothing can guarantee draft success. I don’t know of any draft class that was 100% successful and I don’t think anyone in football comes close to making that an unrealistic aspiration.

Per La Canfora, the old Browns regime was waist deep in plans to focus on the 2014 quarterback class, having been unimpressed with the 2013 group—this explains the punting and subsequent trades, accruing additional 2014 picks to get in position to get the quarterback whom they desired a year later. The quarterback study, which reportedly cost of over $100,000, ultimately pointed to Bridgewater having the best success rate of this year’s group of quarterbacks. It would appear that the first big “project” was one that involved heavy investment into finding an answer at a position that has plagued this team for much of the last decade.

[Related: Browns reportedly “enamored” with Teddy Bridgewater]

Photo Credit: Andrew Weber-US

Browns reportedly “enamored” with Teddy Bridgewater

NCAA Football: Louisville at West Virginia

All eyes may be on Johnny Manziel, but the NFL Draft’s wild card appears to be his pink Escalade-buying peer, Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater, who has seen his name listed anywhere from No. 1 overall to the second round, appears to be linked to the Cleveland Browns as their general manager, Ray Farmer, is reportedly “enamored” with the Louisville product.

Lest any Browns fans grow concerned, said level of interest, while given a strong connotation, does have it’s limits as Farmer would reportedly like to land Bridgewater with the team’s 26th-overall selection as opposed to the much-discussed No. 4 pick. Alas, in this curious case, “enamored” loses out to “value.”

Bridgewater has slipped on some teams’ draft boards because of a lackluster Pro Day. Farmer, nevertheless, has reportedly had a fascination with Bridgewater since last fall. Naturally, one should grow skeptical of sourced reports leading up to the draft as teams begin leaking information that may or may not be an attempt to toy with opposing general managers—the good ol’ “smokescreen,” as the kids say.

Though widely compared to Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, Bridgewater is ranked as the top quarterback in this year’s class by WFNY’s Joe Gilbert. He finished second in the NCAA in 2013 with a 71 percent completion percentage and set a school record with a career mark of 68.3 percent over his tenure with the Cardinals.

[Related: Over Troubled Bridgewater]

Photo: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde “on the radar” for Browns at No. 35

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Former Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde is “on the radar” for the Cleveland Browns when it comes to their second-round selection. Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot reports that the Browns could use their 35th-overall selection on the Buckeye product, likely making him the first running back selected this coming weekend.

This pick, while decent value, would likely surprise many Browns fans who prefer the team address needs—specifically, wide receiver, cornerback or offensive line. The Browns have been linked to several running backs, but the signing of Ben Tate this offseason led many (including ESPNCleveland.com blogger Tony Grossi) to believe this would be a position addressed in the NFL Draft’s later rounds.

WFNY’s Joe Gilbert ranks Hyde as the top back in this year’s draft class. Other options for Hyde appear to be the Tennessee Titans and No. 42 and Atlanta Falcons at No. 37.

[Related: Several draft day trade scenarios popping up for the Cleveland Browns]

Several draft day trade scenarios popping up for the Cleveland Browns

Farmer

Sure, the Cleveland Browns have the fourth-overall pick in 2014 NFL Draft, but would it surprise anyone if that orange helmet disappears from the corner of the television without a pick having been made? While fans of the Orange and Brown debate the merits of playmakers versus offensive linemen, there’s a considerable chance that the fourth pick is made by a team other than the Browns as national pundits throughout the league peg Cleveland as a likely trade partner for teams looking to move up.

Take Sports Illustrated’s Peter King for example. In his MMQB mock draft, King delivers a few surprises (Khalil Mack at No. 1, for example) in addition to Cleveland moving down from No. 4 to No. 6 in a deal with the Atlanta Falcons who land South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney. The Browns, in turn, land Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, a compliment to Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon and another target for whomever is under center on Week 11, in addition to having seven of the draft’s top 110 picks. What fans may not love, however, is that the Browns appear to have only gained a third-round pick for the move.

In a scenario-based column from Grantland’s Bill Barnwell, the Browns traded with Mike Pettine’s former team, the Buffalo Bills, as he was officially able to sell his peers on Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. In Barnwell’s scenario, the Browns net a future first-round pick in addition to the 2014 pick they obtain in the deal, and move down to the No. 9 pick.

As previously noted, Cleveland already has the most valuable set of picks in this year’s draft, but the opportunity to move up and draft Watkins could inspire somebody to make an offer the Browns can’t refuse. The Bills reportedly have the hots for Watkins; if Buffalo offered Cleveland its 2015 first-round pick to move up from nine to four, I think the Browns would bite.

Pouring on, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport says that the Bills and Detroit Lions have been pounding the phones in hopes of moving into the top five with Watkins  and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron as their targets.2

Many fans (rightfully) despise moving down—the team is terrible enough to garner the fourth-best player in the draft, after all. The 2014 NFL Draft, however, appears to be one of the more undecipherable in recent memory. While there is a top tier of sorts, the first eight-to-twelve players could go in any order and few would bat an eye. If this is the case, and the Browns could muster another first-round pick for their efforts, would fans react negatively? More importantly, would Ray Farmer be willing to pull the strings on a deal in his first rodeo?

If trading down isn’t your thing, but trading up is, you’ll be glad to know that King also reports that the Browns are looking to acquire a third first-round pick in hopes of leapfrogging Houston to start Round 2. And if it’s any silver lining, both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have Cleveland selecting Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel with the fourth-overall pick. Something for everyone!

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. In King’s mock, Blake Bortles falls to Cleveland at No. 26—”As I made my calls in the past few days, I couldn’t find a Bortles lover.” []
  2. Rapoport also adds that “Cleveland scouts “like” Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, and the team could use the No. 26 selection on him,” so there’s that. []

A “real possibility” the Browns select Mike Evans at No. 4 overall

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El Gigànte

CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler reports that there’s a “real possibility” the Browns select Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans at No. 4 overall in next week’s NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-5-inch Evans is universally regarded as a top 10 talent due to his size and ability to catch any football thrown within 10 yards of his hands. Many credit Evans with the numbers racked up by Johnny Manziel, with most mocks have him going No. 5 to Oakland or No. 7 to Tampa Bay; he’s currently ranked No. 7 on ESPN.com’s Big Board and is ranked No. 2 amonst wide receviers by WFNY’s Joe Gilbert.

Evans is one of the biggest freaks in the draft. The 6-5, 231-pound receiver is a former basketball player that uses his body to go and get the ball in the air. The former Aggie is the best when the ball is in the air and he goes up to get it at its highest point. This ability will make him an immediate red zone target for the team that drafts him.

As competitive as his collegiate quarterback was, Evans is right alongside him. He’s a plus blocker who has a bit of a mean streak.  He consistently gets in position and has the ability to keep feet moving even as defenders drape themselves over his giant frame.

Rotoworld’s Josh Norris agrees with Brugler, slotting Evans to the Browns in his most recent mock. The Browns are continually linked to several players with the overriding theme being players who can step in and contribute immediately.

(Photo: Thomas Campbell – USA TODAY Sports)

Todd McShay’s latest pegs the Browns with Sammy Watkins AND Johnny Manziel

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Many times throughout the draft process, many point to draftnik types like ESPN’s Todd McShay and say “If he was so good at scouting talent, why isn’t he employed by an NFL team?” Well, this is because his job isn’t necessarily to scout talent, but to use what he knows, coupled with people he speaks with, and produce lists that ultimately link players to specific teams. Naturally, this is a fleeting, thankless job as months of work becomes useless once the NFL Draft has come to an end, save for those who wish to go back and “grade” how people of his ilk did at their job.

In his latest, however, McShay switches gears a bit and says not what he thinks will happen come May 8, but what he would do if he were the GM of the 32 NFL teams. Using his “Big Board,” McShay bends a bit based on need, but maps out what is mostly a Best Player Available scenario throughout the first round—one which lands the Cleveland Browns two high-profile talents in Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

With high-octane ends Jadaveon Clowney and Kahlil Mack going first and third, resepctively, and offensive lineman Greg Robinson going to St. Louis, the Browns switch gears by going offensive play-maker. Take a gander:

I’m beginning to sound like I’m on repeat here, but the Browns are another team that needs a quarterback that I have waiting until later to draft one, because I can’t justify using a top-four pick on any of this year’s QBs. Cleveland needs an upgrade at the No. 2 receiver spot opposite Gordon, and if Watkins reaches his potential, the Browns will essentially have two No. 1s. He is an explosive and dynamic weapon both as a vertical route runner and after the catch, and he attacks the ball in the air, playing bigger than his size. He’ll have some learning to do as a route runner, but he already knows how to separate from coverage.

Blake Bortles then becomes the first quarterback off of the board, going eighth to the Minnesota Vikings. Arizona scoops up Teddy Bridgewater at No. 20, allowing Manziel to slide all the way to 26th.

This pick made sense to me because Manziel is the 19th-ranked prospect on my board, and the Browns need to address the quarterback position. Additionally, I already addressed a need position with an elite player at the No. 4 pick in Sammy Watkins, and having five total picks in the top 83 frees the Browns up to take a chance here. All of those factors make Manziel worth the risk, because the potential pay-off with him — if he can make the necessary adjustments to his game to consistently win from the pocket and protect his body, while still utilizing his rare improvisation skills — is significant. If Manziel gets past the top eight picks on draft night, I think there could be a good trade market to get in place to draft him.

This scenario would satisfy plenty of Browns fans as a team in dire need of skill positions addresses them with two of the biggest names in the draft. Unfortunately, as McShay iterates, the odds of Manziel falling this far and a trade not happening are very slim—the Dallas Cowboys have been recently linked to the Texas product and the Tampa Bay Bucanneers reportedly have the QB on their “short list.”

McShay’s latest isn’t the first piece to have Johnny Manziel sliding down to the Browns at 26, but I’m not certain this makes the possibility any more likely. Personally, if Blake Bortles is available at No. 4, I’ll be shocked if the Browns pass in hopes of obtaining a passer later on. I also hope I’m dead wrong.

[Related: WFNY on the 2014 NFL Draft: Joe Gilbert’s Top Five Quarterbacks]

NFL Draft Chatter: The Latest on the Browns

Browns helmet

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

Mel Kiper Mock has Manziel to Browns, Bridgewater to Round 2

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Fans of Johnny Manziel will be happy with the latest from Mel Kiper Jr. Though laced with caveats, the fluffy-haired draftnik’s latest mock not only has the Cleveland Browns selecting the first quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, but making that player one Johnny Football, the polarizing passer out of Texas A&M, with the trio of South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney, Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins going first, second and third, respectively.

Manziel is not my top-rated QB, but he is the QB I believe (right now) is likeliest to go this high, as I believe a team like Cleveland, with a number of draft assets and a QB on the roster it feels can create a bridge to a young starter, is in a good scenario to take a chance on Manziel’s ceiling. The Browns owning the No. 26 pick as well as an early second-rounder gives them a chance to take a player like Watkins here if available and consider a QB later, but this is how I see it as of right now.

Regarding the other quarterbacks, Kiper has UCF’s Blake Bortles going eighth to the Minnesota Vikings, but the “Big 3″ officially becomes the “Big 2 and Derek Carr” (as many had been hinting) with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater falling to the first pick on the second day, leading to quite the haul for the Houston Texans. Carr was nabbed 2oth overall by the Arizona Cardinals.

For the Browns’ second first-round selection, Kiper jumps aboard the cornerback bandwagon and pegs Cleveland with Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller.

Depending on which game you’re watching, you could walk away thinking Fuller is as good as or better than any cornerback in this draft, and the Browns can take him expecting a player who will contribute early at a position where they lack enough depth behind Joe Haden. Fuller has good size at 6 feet tall, and not only plays fast, but gets off the ground well to challenge high-point throws against taller pass-catchers. If Cleveland goes another route at No. 4, this is obviously a slot where the Browns could go with a QB.

And to help quench the thirst of the wideout-hungry fans, Kiper closes things out with Fresno State’s Davante Adams being taken with the team’s second-round selection. Adams is a 6-foot-1-inch, sure-handed athlete who helped Carr get bumped in to the top 20.

Consensus appears to have Cleveland pegged with some combination of a quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and offensive lineman being taken very early. While there will likely be countless mocks to unfold between today and the NFL Draft, it appears that the Browns should leave the second day with at least three of four needs having been tackled.

(Photo: Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY Sports)

AJ McCarron will conduct private workout for the Browns

AJ McCarron wins, people

All I do is win win win…

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will reportedly host a private workout for the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday, this according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Oh, boy. People may want to talk about his girlfriend, but get a load of this guy’s body. At 6-feet-4-inches and 220 pounds with 10-inch hands, McCarron possesses the size and stature needed to be a durable quarterback in the NFL. This kid can take—a—hit. He may only have decent arm strength that may require a crow hop to get the ball down field, but this guy…he is a mature, high-motor guy who does nothing but win. He won two—not one, TWO—National Championships while with the Crimson Tide. He’s been labled a ‘game manager,’ but he’ll be the first to tell you that he brings way more to the table. 

McCarron has all the inangibles. He’s a very confident player, yet he’ll put in that extra work in the film room! He was a Human Environmental Science major! He’s one of the few guys I know that has tattoos and bow ties—I mean, I know guys that have bow ties and I know guys that have tattoos; I don’t know many guys that have both. This kid can make all the throws—OK, some of them. But he’s done nothing but win.

[Related: Calling out the worst of all NFL draft clichés]

Browns among teams showing most interest in Michael Sam

In a story that will be bound to pick up steam as the 2014 NFL Draft nears, sources tell the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson that the Ravens, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns are showing the most interest in Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.

Sam was one of the more anticipated players to take to this winter’s NFL Combine, but turned in a sluggish workout where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds, had just a 25-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds just 17 times. Sam did, however, improve on his numbers during his campus Pro Day workout at Missouri, running the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, leaping 30 inches bench pressing 225 pounds 19 times.

As a senior with the Tigers, Sam amassed 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses and was named a first-team All-American and a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection. The 6-foot-2, 256-pound college defensive end struggled during the Senior Bowl during outside linebacker drills as he attempts to transition to a new position.

Given the NFL teams listed, it appears that Sam is pegged to fit in mostly as an edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme. Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, projects to be a third-day selection who will likely have to thrive on special teams to make a 53-man roster.