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