“According to plan” is a phrase not befit the happenings of the Cleveland Browns in their expansion era, particularly when discussing the careers of those with the misfortune to be selected by the team over the past near 20 years. Yet, year-by-year, draft-by-draft, the ever-changing guard of the front office continues to attempt to create “The Plan” to correct the course of the moribund franchise. The year of our Lord 2018 will be no different as John Dorsey and his band of discarded Chiefs and Packers staff look to integrate the best portions of analytic revolution owner Jimmy Haslam has desperately sought to spark with the football savvy of a scout-driven contingent. The odds are against them as they would be any group daring enough to offer their services on the North coast, but glory awaits them down I-77 in Canton, Ohio should they succeed.
Any man, woman, or child who offers a guaranteed knowledge of what might happen on the fourth weekend of April is either a fool or attempting to make one of those willing to accept their words. A Prohibition barroom had less smoke than the present Browns offseason. The quarterback position alone has had strong, sourced rumors indicating the choice at the No. 1 overall pick would be Sam Darnold, no Josh Allen, but wait, there is strong interest in Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, and perhaps the attention not being spent on Josh Rosen is because he has been the preference of head coach Hue Jackson all along.
Lest one believe despite the turmoil and change-over of the current leadership there might be hints from history, might a remembrance of the drastic movement resulting in off the radar players such as Phil Taylor, Alex Mack, Justin Gilbert, and Corey Coleman hearing their name called help the afflicted.
The uncertainty helps stoke the curiosity that envelops those who follow the team that had held the most draft capital of any in the history of the National Football League. The insatiable desire to understand the unknown allowing for an opportunity to push forward what would otherwise be a fool’s errand. Well, perhaps it still is.
Here are the categories that will be covered for each pick. The first two days of the NFL draft are covered here (i.e. the first three rounds). Realize that the selections made are my own and that there will be a wide range of opinions on these players especially the deeper we get into the draft.
For another set of opinions on where players should go, please consult the WFNY Big Board of the Top 50 players constructed by Jake Burns and Joe Gilbert.
Go up and git ‘em: Players who will likely not be attainable at that position and will require a trade up to acquire them. Also, limiting it to players worth investing the resources to move up and only factoring in small moves from that spot.
Stay the course: Players who will likely be attainable at that position and will not require a trade up to acquire them. Also, limiting it to players worth taking at that spot.
Drop it like it’s hot: Players worth making small movement downwards in the draft to gain more resources/picks and still end up with a quality player.
Round 1, Pick 1 (1 overall)
Go up and git ‘em: Not applicable when your team had the worst record in the NFL and obtained the first overall selection for their troubles.
Stay the course: Quarterback. There are supposedly five quarterback under consideration for this selection. The Browns have had scouts at each of their Pro Day and have had each in Berea for further qualification. Even if the pick winds up wrong, it will not have been due a lack of due diligence during this offseason. Which quarterback is selected will be the trick. While there are five potential franchise signal-callers, history tells us only one or two is likely to succeed to the highest levels. Allen appears to be the riskiest with Rosen the safest, yet the current batch of news has the former’s stock up and the latter’s stock down. Whether one of those or Mayfield, Jackson, or Darnold, the Browns better pick the correct one if they wish to transform the team’s identity.
Drop it like it’s hot: Also, not applicable. The quarterback is simply the most important single position in sports other than LeBron James.
Round 1, Pick 4 (4 overall)
Go up and git ‘em: With quarterback taken at No. 1 overall and a strong possibility two more will be taken before the Browns select again, there is no need to trade up in this draft.
Stay the course:
· Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State: With Myles Garrett and Emmanual Ogbah operating as the starting defensive ends, it would appear Chubb to be a luxury pick. The issue with that opinion is that pass rushers are more effective when they are able to rotate in rather than requiring a reliance on conserving enough energy to play throughout a game. Allowing Garrett to do so by adding another plus pass rusher could pay more dividends than Chubb alone.
· Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Value would not be high among the reasons for his name to be written on the No. 4 card, but there would be few fans complaining the opportunity to watch the player who might be the best running back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson.
· Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: Nelson is an athletic marvel who would not only justify the early selection despite playing interior offensive line, but he would justify the Browns taking him despite having two Pro Bowl worthy guards. Sliding Joel Bitonio out to left tackle to take the place of the retired future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas could work even better with a player such as Nelson beside him.
· Denzel Ward / Minkah Fitzpatrick / Derwin James: Any of these players are worth being taken at No. 4 both in terms of talent and position value. The only reason they might not be is the depth at defensive back, which could lead to a similar player being taken with a small trade down first.
Drop it like it’s hot:
· Josh Jackson / Jaire Alexander, CB: Ah, more of those depth options in the secondary to consider.
· Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: Barkley might be the athletic freak of the class, but Guice is a better pure runner. It is difficult to label him anyone’s consolation prize.
· Harold Landry, DE, Boston College: Though not the all-around player of Chubb, might be a better fit for the Browns as he is potentially a better NFL pass rush specialist.
Round 2, Pick 1 (33 overall) and Round 2, Pick 3 (35 overall)
Go up and git ‘em:
· Isaiah Wynn / Will Hernandez, OG: If the Browns are not sold on Shon Coleman taking over at left tackle, but also do not select Quenton Nelson, then these two first-round talents might be the consolation prize and worth moving up to acquire.
· Kolton Miller / Connor Williams, OT: The other option is moving up to take a left tackle though neither is on the same level as a prospect to the players above.
· Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan: Concerns of his heart condition might have him fall, but someone in the 20s is going to take the gamble of getting a Top 10 talent in the late first round.
Stay the course:
· James Daniel / Billy Price, OC: The offensive line focus continues in this portion of the draft as it is a rich portion for taking line. J.C. Tretter disappointed in 2017 and either of these options should immediately replace him as a starter (Frank Ragnow suspected to go in the first round, but not worth the Browns moving up if not helping at left tackle).
· Courtland Sutton, WR, / D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland / Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis: A receiving corps of Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, and Corey Coleman can work despite the depth options being less than ideal. Moving Coleman to be one of those depth options with a legitimate outside receiving threat taken in the draft to allow Landry to stay in his comfortable slot, sounds much more like it.
· Ronald Jones, RB, USC / Sony Michel, RB, Georgia / Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn: If the Browns do not wind up with Barkley or Guice in the first round, then expect them to draft a runner at some point though Dorsey’s previous drafts suggest No. 33 and No. 35 could be too early.
Drop it like it’s hot:
· Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado: Potential to be a starter, but he might struggle to push the current group his rookie year as most non-elite rookie corners do.
· Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State: There are some long-term concerns about his knee, which underwent a brutal injury in high school, but he is a pure speed rusher who would work well in a similar role as mentioned for Landry above.
Round 2, Pick 32 (64 overall)
Go up and git ‘em:
· Darius Leonard, LB, SC State: Crazy fast linebacker who can move sideline-to-sideline and does well in coverage.
· Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford: Great hand usage and a disruptor in the middle, which matches the style Gregg Williams desires there.
Stay the course:
· Deontay Burnett / Dante Pettis / Auden Tate: Each of these receivers might drop in a deep class of pass catchers due to small flaws in their profile (be it size, injury, or lack of elite speed) though they also possess the requisite skills to be starters or great depth in the NFL. Regardless of if the Browns take a receiver in the second round, they might double-up on another to help their overall depth given the mid-round options are a strength in this draft class.
· Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech: Will drop due to his skinny frame, but he has great technique and awareness in coverage. Seems quite a cut ahead of the other corners expected to still be available.
· Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon: Huge, strong back who can block, catch, and is agile with his cuts. Could be a huge steal.
Drop it like it’s hot:
· Quin Blanding, FS, Virginia: One of the better free safety prospects in this class with good instincts and production.
· RJ McIntosh, DT, Miami: Probably capable of playing inside or outside on the defensive line. Another disruptor.