NFL Draft: My top three first-round scenarios for the Browns


I don’t engage in much draft speculation. The fact is, I don’t get to watch a whole lot of college football. I don’t spend hours and hours studying film of each prospect. So rather than completely guess, or just spit out what the rest of the world says on Twitter or ESPN, I generally don’t say or write much of anything.

I don’t even really root for certain players I like to get picked. I generally wait until the team makes the picks and then hope like mad that they were the right choices.

That said, I get asked all the time what my opinion is: Who SHOULD they take? What SHOULD they do?

So I thought I would do something a bit different and give you what I think would be the top three scenarios that could play out on Thursday night. By putting this “in print” as it were, I am of course dooming all three possibilities. Either they won’t happen or one of them will happen and it will be a disaster.

Here are my top three first-round scenarios for the Cleveland Browns.

Scenario No. 1

Off the board: DE Jadeveon Clowney, OT Greg Robinson, OLB Khalil Mack

In this scenario, the Browns have their choice of quarterbacks or wide receivers. The two players that I discuss here are Sammy Watkins and Johnny Manziel. Obviously, those are my choices for the best at their position. I’ve leaned towards Watkins for months. To be honest, I wasn’t really sold on Manziel as the QB I would take until recently. I’ll get more into that in a minute.

Even though Manziel is my top quarterback, Watkins is the top player on my board. Not only is he a dangerous pass catcher, but he seems to have a lunch pail mentality at a diva position. Pairing him with Gordon sounds fantastic, and let’s be honest—he is also protection in case Gordon ends up doing something else to get himself suspended.

With the fourth pick: The Cleveland Browns select Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson

The second half of the first round is where the Browns do what they have to do to get a quarterback they like. I don’t think they will have a shot at Manziel if they pass on him at No. 4. Alas, we are looking at the second or third choice.  They like Derek Carr. They have to, or they have wasted a lot of his and their time. The other option here is Teddy Bridgewater.

About a week ago, I saw a chart compiled by Greg Peshek, an analytics guy at Eye test notwithstanding, this was the best comparison tool I’ve seen for breaking down the QB prospects.

QB chart

This is what pushed me over the top on Manziel, and made me want Bridgewater over Carr. There were other quarterbacks on the chart, but none that would ever be considered first round picks. The color coding fades from dark green to yellow to orange to red. The best in each category are green, the worst in red.

With the 26th pick: The Cleveland Browns select Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville

Now, they may have to move up in order to get him. I’m OK with that.

Scenario No. 2

Off the board: Clowney, Watkins, Robinson

Watkins is obviously my top choice for the Browns, so what happens if he is off the board? In that case, the Browns need to move on Johnny Manziel. They can get a wide receiver later. Mike Evans seems to be a good player. He certainly has the measurables. I’ll take the guy who was throwing him the ball.

I was asked about Khalil Mack on Twitter if these three were off the board. I said months ago that I think Mack is one of the safest picks in the draft and could end up having the most distinguished career when it is all said and done. I just can’t see the Browns going with an outside edge rusher with the roster they already have. It just doesn’t make sense.

With the fourth pick: The Cleveland Browns select Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M

With the quarterback in the fold, the second pick is wide open. A wide receiver would make a lot of sense. So would a cornerback. So would a guard. So would an inside linebacker.

The guy I would like at corner is Darqueze Dennard, but I don’t think he’ll be around for the Browns second pick in the first round.

With the 26th pick: The Browns select Cody Latimer, wide receiver, Indiana

Here’s the thing, I picked Latimer because I’ve seen him play well, and he has the height. I can’t imagine taking Cooks or Lee or Beckham. Those guys are all under 6-0, and the Browns  have a couple of those guys already in tow. I’ve seen a couple mock drafts that have the Browns getting C.J. Mosley here. I wouldn’t have a fit about that.

Scenario No. 3

Off the board: Manziel, Robinson, Watkins.

How could this be a top three scenario for me if two of the three guys I drafted above are already gone? Well for starters, if Watkins is there I take him. My second choice is Manziel. My third choice I’m really fuzzy on. What I love about this particular situation is that the Browns would have the opportunity to basically auction off the right to draft Jadeveon Clowney to the highest bidder.

Why not take him for the Browns? Legitimate question. If this is my draft, I’m not taking Clowney. Of all the red flags that you can label a guy with, the lack of effort flag is a no-go for me. Manziel has his own set of flags, but between the hashmarks, there is no questioning his effort. He is trying to win with every snap.

I would love to see what other teams might offer for Clowney. I can see a team in the teens trying to jump up to grab the physical freak. I’ll take your 12-18 first rounder and your second round pick to go with it. Or possibly your first this year and next year as well. The worst case being you don’t get wowed by an offer and you take someone else at four.

The Browns trade the fourth-overall pick

That being the case, they take their top quarterback with the pick they get in the swap. Paging Teddy Bridgewater. Then they use No. 26 as detailed above, plus they get an extra second-round pick to solidify the offensive line or defensive backfield or take a second wide receiver to compete.

Those are my top three scenarios. Sure, I could offer up some fantasy situation where the Browns get both Watkins and Manziel, but I don’t think that is realistic.

  • boomhauertjs

    Sounds like a plan to me.

  • JNeids

    Just curious Rick, if you’re just using the charted you posted, why don’t you like Bridgewater more than Manziel? Teddy wins that chart 6-3. Is it the 16+ Comp%?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Wondering the same. I’ve loved Teddy ever since I saw this chart, but Manziel – while better than I’d have thought – I’d still wonder if a lot of that, especially the deep ball %, is because he escaped the pocket and plays broke down which let it become a freestyle deeper play. That won’t happen nearly as much in the NFL.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Not bad options, though I’d rather go with:

    4) Watkins, perhaps Mack, if neither available trade down to 6-10 range while picking up a 2nd or 3rd and get Evans
    26) Bridgewater if he’s there, perhaps trading up a few spots to get him, otherwise a G or CB
    35 -> trade into late first to get a G or CB if needed

  • Pat Leonard

    Fun breakdown, thanks Rick. That chart is great… I wish there was one for the QB class of 2012! It would have been fun to see how Brandon Weeden stacked up against Luck, RG3, Tannehill, and Russell Wilson.

  • Harv 21

    Re Scenario #3: You’d pass on Clowney, pass on Mack and trade #4 overall to slip to 12-18 for a second rounder? Yikes, that’s a combo of brass cajones, poor bargaining and some possibly very poor judgement.

    Don’t see that, Rick. We hardly have a dominant pass rush, and it’s quite possible Lombardi misjudged both Kruger and Mingo as dominant players. Pettine seems to be of the opinion that you coach the talent out of recalcitrant attitudes, and that you fit your scheme to your talent. If Mack and Clowney (even at 80% effort) look as dominant as predicted, this may be their best chance to secure that guy in an era where everyone needs QB pressure. It’s overthinking – in a Mangini kind of way – to pass that up for the type of “safe” pick you get in the mid-teens.

    One other thing: look at how many draft picks they already have. How many can make the team? So now you’re requiring that Farmer make more trades, maybe 3 all told. You trust a rookie GM to do that successfully? This may be the last time they pick this high in a long time. If they move so far down that could be another epic draft day fail.

  • Pat Leonard

    You meant to sell Rick, but I can say that you sold me, Harv.

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    Can’t pass on Clowney.

  • mgbode

    if they like Carr, then they need to take them at #4. I firmly believe that the Vikings are planning on taking Carr at #8. Everything lines up for him to be their style of QB and even the news they wanted Bradford (same type of QB) plays into it. So, if the Rams don’t budge on Sam, then I think Derek goes to Minny.

    Oh, and I don’t want us to take him. Just saying where I think he is going.

  • mgbode

    the only issue I have with that chart is sample size and conditions. for instance, Manziel’s red-zone and 16yd+ throws better be fantastic as he had Mike Evans.

    take a look at Louisville’s roster and try to find the skill guys that are going to be factors in the NFL. then again, his OL was fantastic pass-blocking, so he never worried about not having time.

    The three biggest rows I would pay attention to on that chart are compl% against blitz, pressure, and 3rd downs. But, you need a YPA attached to those %’s too (did he get the 1st down or just complete the pass, etc.). Football is such a tough sport to analyze.

  • mgbode

    Scenario1 – I refuse to even believe it is possible. If we end up with Sammy and Teddy, then I am going to be ridiculously happy. Celebration GIFs all around.

    Scenario2 – I’m fine with Manziel though prefer Teddy. I’ve gone more into detail in other threads, but Latimer is NOT a 1st round WR. There are other more complete, fantastic WRs. He’s a project and this year you don’t need to take a project in the 1st round. I think Lee will be long-gone by then too, so my choice is Beckham (also known as Watkins-lite).

    Scenario3 – I agree that we could get a ridiculous haul if Clowney falls to #4. No reason to not take a Rickey Williams deal if one presents itself.

  • mgbode

    also, as I have made known, I am a Connor Shaw proponent for a late-mid-round pick. I have mentioned his 1 INT to 24TD ratio v. SEC defenses ad nauseum, but this chart from Pesek sums up what I love about him very well. You can see that he utilizes the entire field. He is always reading the defense and throwing it to the correct spot (also had the least pass deflections of any of the top10 QB prospects). Find the open man, hit the open man.

    now, granted, part of it is the offense being run. but, still good to see.

  • The chart revealed to me that Manziel, while a playmaker is also very accurate, especially on third downs and red zone etc. Like I said, the eye test tells me Manziel and the numbers didn’t scare me off.

  • I was quite serious when I said highest bidder. I don’t know what combination of picks and players might be available for the right to draft Clowney. I’m sure it would be more than just a second. I think I mentioned a second and a future first.

    As for all those picks, I would love to see a package to move back into the first round to address whichever position of need isn’t grabbed.

  • Again, if it is my neck on the line I let someone else take the gamble with Clowney.

  • steve-o

    I’d take Scenario 1, but the football Gods probably won’t let it play out that way.

    I think the players gone will be Clowney, Watkins and Mack (any of whom we could pick if there). In this scenario we would be picking between any OT, any QB, or the 2nd best WR. I can’t envision a trade down unless someone makes an offer we can’t refuse. I think we go QB, probably JFB since that apparently is who our owner likes.

    From 26 I think we try to use a 3rd round pick to trade up into the teens and target a defensive player like Dennard, Gilbert, Fuller or Mosely.

    At 35 we probably take a tall receiver, but I have no idea which one. OL is also a strong possibility.

    If we take WR at 35 we probably go BPA from there. If we take OL at 35 we might then look to package our remaining third and a fourth round pick to grab a WR with a late 2nd. We might do the same trade for a CB (if we didn’t already take one). There could be a run on WR’s/CB’s late 2nd to early 3rd.
    If I were given permission to make a change to our draft board I would move Carr, Roby, and Benjamin down by at least a couple rounds.

    Can’t wait until we can start talking about our football team again instead of the most overhyped, ridiculously strung out draft of all time.

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    I just don’t think the number one prospect is a gamble.

  • mgbode

    the one nice thing about this draft is that it is a good one. I cannot even imagine how excruciating this will be in a bad draft year.

  • Steve

    I actually read a similar chart but it added in how qb’s did against the blitz and broke down the field into 4 sections, behind the line (screens), 0-7 yard passes, 7-15 yards, and 15+ or something similar to that. While he didnt particularly blow out the other qb’s in a bunch of categories, Bortles was above average in every category if I’m not mistaken. I don’t really know why it seems everyone is souring on him lately. perhaps just cuz the media needs something to talk about?