Browns

Fix the Lines: WFNY Mock NFL Draft Strategies

Kan Li / Scout

WFNY is back with our mock draft strategy sessions. Rather than purely rely on experts elsewhere who give limited reasoning for their selections, WFNY is diving in with deep thoughts about how specific draft strategies could play out to the benefit of our beloved Cleveland Browns.

The MSM mock from this week highlighted NFL.com’s Chad Reuter where he gave the Browns Deshaun Watson with the No. 1 overall pick and Reuben Foster with the No. 12 pick. Second and third round selections covered safety, cornerback, and wide receiver. There was a glaring lack of emphasis on either side of the line of scrimmage.

WFNY now shows how the Browns might flip the script and utilize a LOS-first strategy in the 2017 NFL Draft.1

The Rules

  • No trades unless the strategy is specifically geared around trades.
  • Demonstrate multiple options at each pick within the confines of the strategy.
  • Use a MSM Big Board to demonstrate feasibility of picks.
  • Select picks at the Browns four picks in Round 1 and Round 2.

The Draft Strategy

WFNY’s Joe Gilbert detailed out the needs of the Browns along the offensive line earlier this week. Most troublesome is that two possible starters, Joel Bitonio and John Greco, might not be available or limited as they both recover from lisfranc surgeries that generally take a full year in rehabilitation.2 The current reliable starting Browns offensive lineman is left tackle Joe Thomas. That’s it.

The defensive line is in better shape though it is in desperate need of a game-changing pass rusher at defensive end. Assuming such a player can be found with the No. 1 overall pick, the rest of the line could be considered set for starters. Danny Shelton and Des Bryant – if he can be counted on – are both the type of disruptive defensive tackles Gregg Williams prefers. Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib can rotate on the strongside defensive end position.

Even after the Browns spent upwards of $12 million per year on re-signing Jamie Collins, the team still has $98 million in cap room to spend in free agency. Beyond keeping wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, the Browns need to go out and acquire more skill position players and at least one veteran offensive lineman for a LOS-first draft scheme to work.

Once again, signing quarterback Tyrod Taylor if he is cut from the Bills allows much more flexibility when it comes to the draft.

J.C. Tretter (26 years old, center, UFA) of the Green Bay Packers will be highly sought after in free agency, but the Browns should make a strong push to acquire him. The departure of Alex Mack showed just how important the position is to the success of any good NFL offensive line. He along with Kevin Zeitler (Cincinnati Bengals guard) and Ricky Wagner (Baltimore Ravens tackle) were mentioned last week. Larry Warford (Detroit Lions), Patrick Omameh (Jacksonville Jaguars), and Ryan Groy (Buffalo Bills) are other players the Browns should consider.

Safety takes on added importance in free agency. Assuming the Browns will not break the bank for Eric Berry (Kansas City Chiefs), D.J. Swearinger (Arizona Cardinals), Jahleel Addae (Los Angeles Chargers), and John Cyprien (Jacksonville Jaguars) are good targets.

Williams might be able to help procure cornerback Trumaine Johnson from the Los Angeles Rams. Logan Ryan of the New England Patriots might be a fallback option if the Pats decide paying Malcolm Butler this offseason is higher priority in their defensive backfield.

Finding possible starters at safety, cornerback, quarterback, and center in free agency would allow the team to focus on the line of scrimmage with their early draft selections.

The Picks

Note: NFL.com does not have a Big Board until after the Superbowl, so WFNY is using Matt Miller’s Big Board for the purposes of this week.

No. 1 DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Don’t be dumb. Pick the talent. Reap the rewards.

No. 12 Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida

The value is lower on taking Brantley at No. 12 than in the second round, but a starting caliber 3-technique defensive tackle is not likely to last until the second round (as Miller’s board correctly asserts). Brantley is still the best defensive tackle outside of Jonathan Allen to pair with Shelton on the Browns line, and his production would be worth putting up with the bellyaching from fans on draft day.

Alternate selections:
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn

No. 33 OT Cam Robinson, Alabama

There are far more interior OL available than tackles in free agency, so right tackle needs to be solved on draft day. Cam Robinson available in the second round is possible because he is more suited to play right tackle than left, but it is still unlikely due to his overall skillset. Robinson is an athletic drive-blocker who punishes defensive lineman at the point of attack. His footwork can get sloppy, so he might struggle initially with wide-9 ends, but he should thrive as a right tackle.

Note: Robinson was arrested for possession of marijuana and an illegal firearm in Louisiana in 2015. All charges were dropped because the district attorney did not want to hurt their football careers. SEC! SEC!3

Alternate selections:
DE Malik McDowell, Michigan State
DE DeMarcus Walker, Florida State

No. 52 OG Dan Feeney, Indiana

Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame returning for his senior season hurt an already thin class. There is a decent chance that someone takes Feeney before he reaches the Browns at No. 52, but, if not, he would be another value add.

The question with Feeney is not skill-related. He is a technician with his feet, he has the power to drive open holes, and has the long arms and strength required of the position. The answer NFL teams need to figure out is if his concussion history (missed several games for the Hoosiers this season) is enough to warrant passing on a player who might start immediately.

Alternate selections:
OT/OG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
TE Jake Butt, Michigan
OT Roderick Johnson, Florida State

Last Word

The Browns would obtain two potential starters on both sides of the LOS with this draft strategy. Beefing up the point of attack is a tried-and-true strategy for building a football team at any level. In the NFL, the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys recent ascension to contender status began when they fixed their lines.4 Many would be upset on draft day with such picks, but it might be what the Browns need to find a way to become a consistent winning franchise.

  1. Line of Scrimmage []
  2. Bitonio’s surgery was October 17, Greco’s sometime in mid-December. []
  3. Jerry Jones, the local DA, said there were considerations beyond the evidence that went into his decision to drop prosecution. “I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I’m doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and their teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all home in the air conditioning,” []
  4. Yes, they found their quarterback too. []

  • RGB

    Based solely on the MM Big Board…

    1. There is only MYLES.
    12. Montravious Adams
    33. Cam Robinson
    52. Dan Feeney

    THIS would be glorious, especially if we could also score Docic, or Elflein in the 3rd-round.

    Also, I love DeMarcus Walker. He terrorized UM…and he was playing DT instead of DE.

  • jpftribe

    Swearinger would be a terrific signing. I actually like our CB’s BBC, Taylor and Haden if they can stay healthy. If you can sign Johnson fine, but going into camp with those 3 in year 2 of a rebuild is not that significant of a risk. Draft Garrett and a SS and this D could be pretty good.

  • tsm

    Love these thoughts. No offense to all the – football is complex guys – but it still boils down to line play and blocking and tackling. The complexities of the game only become relevant after the opponents line has played yours to a stalemate (see – Hayes, Woody and Lombardi, Vince). Let’s grab some quality free agents and then load up on the “big uglies”.

  • mgbode

    M. Adams worries me a bit though you see I considered him at 12. On the interior, his height works against him and he isn’t as strong nor as quick as Brantley. Then again, I’m biased for Caleb because he just pops off that tape.

    Agree on Walker. Tough to consider picking him already having Garrett & Ogbah & so many other needs, but I like his game.

  • mgbode

    Lose the LOS, lose the game

  • jpftribe

    It would be a nice change to have the Browns get the basic fundamentals right, both on and off the field.

  • mgbode

    you wouldn’t think that would be asking a lot but…

  • jpftribe

    Having a defense full of Garrett’s and Ogbah’s would be a wonderful problem to have.

  • Garry_Owen
  • RGB

    I love that movie.

  • tigersbrowns2

    o.j. howard at #12 ?? … we already have barnidge & devalve. i don’t see TE as a burning need at #12. i also don’t think c.robinson & lamp will last until the choices above. there will be some knocks on m.mcdowell , but i think if he’s there at #33 , it would be a good pick.

    so , after my disclaimers , and sticking to the guidelines above :
    1 – garrett
    12 – brantley
    33 – c.robinson
    52 – feeney

    this would address the defensive front 7 & the O-line

  • mgbode

    I direct you to Joe’s TE evaluation. I agree with him that we have many 1-D TE’s but not a true all-purpose TE.

    OJ Howard would be magnificent in that regard and could change our offense, while still having Barnidge/DeValve as a 2nd TE option like those old NE teams.

    You ended in the exact same place I did in the above mock though, so we’re all good anyway : )

  • tigersbrowns2

    in our current state , would you take Howard at #12 overall ?? get Butt in the 2nd round if you want , but no TE at #12.

  • RGB

    Not sure where else to put this piece of utter brilliance, so here you go…

    http://usc.247sports.com/Board/29/Contents/Alabamas-Recruiting-Dominance-Continues-Wow-50860219

    Nothing to see here folks. Bagmen? What’s that?
    $EC, $EC, $EC!

  • mgbode

    Butt is Barnidge (notice I didn’t say that the other way around)
    OJ Howard is an upgrade

    And, yes, I would consider Howard. 12 is actually a tricky spot for what we really need. There’s a good argument to just take the best playmaker available.

  • mgbode
  • RGB

    So
    Everyone
    Cheats.

  • tigersbrowns2

    don’t get me wrong , Howard is a great player … stick to the LOS theme.

    depending on what we do or don’t do in free-agency , i’d be okay with taking defensive players with 3 of our first 4 picks.

    there isn’t a lot of talk about Ryan Ramczyk … i know he got hurt & hasn’t played a lot of games , but one mock had us taking him at #12 overall … i like him , but not sure what to think.

  • mgbode

    is TE on the LOS is a question I debated. I like Caleb Brantley too much to pass him up though.

    Ramczyk just had hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. Given our current predicament with Brantley, I would rather us not take him on. And, at No. 12? No way.

  • paulbip

    Dream on. Robinson won’t be there at 33. Nor will Feeney at 52. Garrett has feasted on lower division schools while failing against SEC schools. That worries me for a #1 pick. He could end up being another Turkey Jones. The best #1 pick is Allen who can play any position on the line as a pro bowler. At #12 it would be Rubin Foster the ILB from Alabama. With Shelton, Allen, and Foster, the inside run game would be shut down and make everybody behind these guys better. For #33 it would be (wait for it), Pat Mahomes. He could make any throw, will need a year to learn the pro game, and is being punished now because of the system he comes from. He’s the best QB in the draft. The next pick is too far down to project. Take it from the guy that called Mingo a bust the second he was drafted.

  • mgbode

    For who might be where see: Rules

    It is anyone’s guess as who will drop and who will not at this point.

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  • Jaker

    So right now, my ideal draft would have a lot of the DLine flavor in it. Something like…

    1-Garrett… or nothing. I don’t want to overthink this

    12- D.Watson…. or BPA (Adams, Hooker, Lattimore, S.Thomas, CB). If we go QB here, I want Hue tying his job to the pick. I need to be reassured. If not, plenty of talent at 12. Rather go DB before Howard.

    33- C.Brantley… or OJ Howard, McDowell or a DB (depends on what we did at 12)… or Watson if he actually lasted. If we went DL/DL in round 1, this pick should be Watson/Howard or Safety. I actually think this pick will have a LOT of guys people will be all over. Brantley could go i round 1, but I think this draft has like 40 first round prospects. I think we will be in a nice spot for friday night.

    52- O.Melifonwu… or M.Adams, C.Watkins, CB/S (if we’ve taken Garrett and a DT, time to go DB). Melifonwu was great at the Senior Bowl and is expected to blow up at the combine. Big S (6’4, 218) who runs well and lays hits.

    65 (yes I’m cheating, but I’ve been cheating so w/e)- C.Sutton (CB from TEN). Guy produced well in college but missed most of the season with a broken ankle. It;’s healed now and he is likely getting overlooked by the CBs who didn’t get hurt.

    So yes, I didn’t include any OL but that is because Free Agency is deep on interior OL and the draft is weak at OL in general. Meanwhile the draft is deep at DB, so I like waiting there because you can get great value falling. Let’s draft/sign to the strengths.

  • mgbode

    Yep, a good list. I haven’t shown my “ideal” draft yet and still need to look at some of the smaller school guys in depth that I didn’t during the year for later round picks. Obi is one of those guys though hearing great things.

  • Jaker

    Yea this is approaching the time of the year when I watch NFL Net the moment I get home. There are a lot of talking heads out there, but the guys on “Path to The Draft” are very fair and knowledgeable analysts (Jeremiah, C.Davis and Mayock).

    I’d like to see what people think of Derek Rivers from Youngstown State. He was part of a great DE duo there for Bo, and I’m interested to see if he would work well in a Gregg Williams D. Watching him play is a lot of fun, but not sure how he would line up in a 4-3.

  • mgbode

    Haven’t seen him pop up on any radar screens yet.