A wise man once said a flute without holes is not a flute, but a donut without holes is a danish. Sadly, there was not mention of an NFL roster littered with holes when it comes to starting caliber players, but if there were it would likely be classified as the Cleveland Browns.
But how, exactly, will the Browns turn their donut into a danish? One train of thought is to acquire as many potential starting assets as possible in order to plug said holes, building the team up for the future through the NFL Draft. Trading down from the No. 2 overall selection could provide many of those needed assets as the Tennessee Titans demonstrated when they trade down from the first overall selection. But, what would a trade down mean for the Browns?
With the Los Angeles Rams holding the first overall pick and appearing to be ready to draft their franchise quarterback, the Browns might not want to test history by drafting the second passer in the litter. On Monday, WFNY looked at what players might best fit with the second pick. Today, we take a peek at what the Browns might obtain by trading down as ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes they will.
Also, interestingly, among the Browns Harvard analytical minds is Kevin Meers, who in 2011 re-imagined the old Jimmy Johnson trade value chart by utilizing actual statistical values of players. In his chart, the top picks are less valuable and the lower picks are more valuable. So, the Browns might want to pretend they never saw or heard about his chart during any trade negotiations as they attempt to unload the high pick for lower ones.
As a reminder, the Tennessee Titans received pick Nos. 15, 43, 45 and 76 in the 2016 draft as well as first- and third-round picks in 2017 from the Rams in exchange for the No. 1, No. 113 and No. 177 overall picks.
There is a legitimately deep pool of top tier prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft, so acquiring a few extra assets and staying within that tier makes sense for a talent-deficient team such as the Browns. The expected compensation would range wildly depending on how far the Browns dropped down. A move to the third slot would likely garner a second- or third-round pick. A move down to the tenth selection, for instance, would most likely require that same pick, a first round pick in 2017, and additional filler value.
In Monday’s post, Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Joey Bosa, and DeForest Buckner were all discussed as potential non-quarterback targets from a Browns’ point of view. Each of these players would still be a potential target if the Browns were to trade down, but remain in the upper tier of the draft pool.
The key for the Browns would be to still acquire a player who could become a true difference-maker on the team. Building blocks players are fine, but they often will get swept up and replaced by new regimes as T.J. Ward, Jabaal Sheard, Mitchell Schwartz, Alex Mack, and plenty of other former Browns players can attest. Drafting and developing players who a team feels are keystone components to the infrastructure are the types of targets necessary as the Browns hit reset on their rebuild once again.
The following players would be under consideration:
Shaq Lawson, DE/OLB, Clemson (Redshirt Junior)
WFNY’s Joe Gilbert says: Shaq Lawson is big man who can control blockers with his great power. The 6-foot-3, 269-pound Clemson Tiger has strong arms to control blockers at the line of scrimmage. This trait helps him play very well against the run, pushing blockers back into backfield to disrupt the run. He can disengage from blocks to snatch the runner in his area. He is a disciplined player, able to keep the edge and not over-pursue the play. In terms of pass rushing, he is not as gifted a pass rusher as others on the list. But, he does possess good technique and power to get to the quarterback. He can bull rush, rip away from blocks and even do a powerful spin move to stun blockers and get to the quarterback.
Browns POV: Lawson is an upgraded version of Jabaal Sheard in most every way. He should be able to handle OLB on the strong side and control not only the run game (keeping contain), but also has ability to get to the quarterback, bat down passes, and be a general disruption. He is also extremely polished for a player who only started one season for the Clemson Tigers, but that does lend to some worry as well.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (Junior)
WFNY’s Joe Gilbert says: Stay tuned as the running back rankings are coming out this week.
Browns POV: Drafting a running back in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft requires a special type of running back. Zeke isn’t the physical Adonis that Todd Gurley was last year, but he is a legit every down back with his ability to run for power, speed, block, and receive the ball. His vision and quick-jets once he hits the hole are among the reasons he would be considered. NFL fans might have flashbacks to Maurice Jones-Drew when he hits the field.
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (Redshirt Junior)
WFNY’s Joe Gilbert says: Ronnie Stanley has the size and talent to start right away for a NFL team. He is an athletic player with quick feet to move smoothly on the field. He can mirror rushers, shuffling his feet in either direction to stay in front of his defender. He is extremely fast off the line, getting the head start against the rusher to get himself into position. The tackle can get into position quickly off the line and takes good angles to stay in front of the oncoming rusher. He has long arms to keep rushers off his body and control the rusher.
Browns POV: The Browns have the same issue with Stanley they had with Tunsil. He is a great value if being drafted as a left tackle, but some of that value is lost by inserting him on the right side. And, the thought of using an extremely valuable top of the first round pick just to replace the above average right tackle the team lost in free agency (Mitchell Schwartz) is a bad use of assets. Stanley makes the most sense if the Browns are also willing to trade Joe Thomas for additional picks.
Carson Wentz / Jared Goff, QB
Much more coming on how the Browns might value these quarterbacks in the next couple of days from WFNY.
Trading past the tenth selection would be less than ideal as while there are still some players who will undoubtedly have great NFL careers in that range, the red flags grow more numerous the further down the first round a team goes. The Browns would only even consider such a move if they could closely mirror the value the Titans received in compensation for the first overall selection.
WFNY 2016 NFL Draft Prospects Rankings: