Why let the MSM sites have all the fun? While WFNY will continue to bring you headlines demonstrating what many of the industry leaders believe the Cleveland Browns will do in the 2017 NFL Draft, a new series of articles is being created to go more in depth about the different strategies the Browns might take in the first two rounds of the draft.
The MSM mock from this week highlighted CBS Sports Rob Rang where he gave the Browns Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick and Teez Tabor with the No. 12 pick. While he did not give a second round to his selections, the emphasis was obviously on providing help on the defensive side for the newly hired Gregg Williams.
WFNY will see how else the Browns might utilize this defense-first strategy.
There is a significant thought that it is more important for a NFL team to be elite at one thing in order to be consistently successful (while not being terrible at anything). The Atlanta Falcons are demonstrating how an elite offense can mask an average defense. The Chiefs have shown the past few years how an elite defense can mask an average offense.
In order for a defense-first strategy to work for the Browns in 2017, they will need to dip into some of the $50 million in rollover cap room available to help the offense. In total, the Browns have over $107 million in cap room available for 2017 before potential cost-cutting moves such as re-adjusting the contract of cornerback Joe Haden.
The Browns can start utilizing that money to re-sign linebacker Jamie Collins and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.
The free agent market happens to be unusually strong with many starter-quality players that will be testing the market unless their teams come to terms with them before March. The Browns could boost their offensive line with signings such as J.C. Tretter (Green Bay center), Kevin Zeitler (Cincinnati Bengals guard), and/or Ricky Wagner (Baltimore Ravens tackle). Signing wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey might be too difficult a task, but there are other pass-catchers such as Kenny Britt who can add experience to the Browns there.
The key to the strategy is that the Buffalo Bills are expected to cut quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who the Browns could add as an immediate upgrade without sacrificing draft assets.
WFNY Mock is sticking with CBS Sports for the big board this week. The selections below were all available at each spot.
No. 1 DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Garrett is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this draft. There are no other options as the quarterback class is weaker than usual at the top. Jonathan Allen, Malik Hooker, and Jamal Adams are all fine players, but Garrett is an elite disruptor.
No. 12 S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams does not run a true 4-3 or 3-4. He will mix-and-match his defenses on the fly and even allow his linebackers to call defensive audibles based on offensive formation. Having a versatile player such as Peppers would allow him to shift between multiple looks in those audibles without having to change the player package on the field.
CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
No. 33 DT Caleb Brantley, Florida
One option might be for the Browns to select McMillan from the Buckeyes. He is an inside linebacker who would allow Williams to have Christian Kirksey and Collins play the outside spots. The only issue is that he would not be the flexible-fit that other players could be and it might be a bit of a luxury to pick him given the other players on the board.
The Browns have a solid 1-technique defensive tackle in Danny Shelton. Des Bryant is supposed to be their 3-technique tackle, but there are concerns about him being a consistent contributor. So, enter Caleb Brantley who will allow the Browns to have the needed depth to the inside of the defensive line. Bryant is incredibly quick who should thrive as a gap-shooting tackle in William’s scheme.
ILB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
DE DeMarcus Walker, FSU
CB Tre’Davious White, LSU
No. 52 CB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
Having Budda Baker available at this pick is tempting. However, adding Jabrill Peppers at safety above means there is more need at cornerback and two players who fit well there too. The 2017 NFL Draft is just absolutely loaded with defensive back talent.
Speaking of tempting, Adoree Jackson is an all-everything type talent. He can return kicks, help on offense, as well as move around in the secondary. He is the type of versatile athlete that the Browns should love to have on their team. The problem is that if the Browns want him at cornerback, then they would be playing into his weakness. Jackson is more of a zone corner who might even move to free safety in the NFL.
The consolation prize is incredible. Lewis is expected to drop in the draft due to his limited size at 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds, but his talent is undeniable. He is the draft’s best cover corner, who fits the Williams press scheme perfectly. His size can hurt him as a run supporter, but Lewis carries a bit of that Skrine-style scrappiness. The Browns would have to be careful about his match ups (Andy Dalton to A.J. Green jump balls would destroy him), but Lewis can stay with any receiver with great footwork and hip movement.
S Budda Baker, Washington
CB Adoree Jackson, USC
FS Marcus Williams, Utah
It is doubtful the Browns would utilize their first four picks on defense, but careful planning and execution during free agency could allow them to take advantage of a deep defensive draft. A defense adding Garrett, Peppers, Bryant, and Lewis could make huge leaps towards respectability in 2017.