The NFL Draft is approaching and teams are finalizing their boards and preparing for whom they will draft with the hope that their prized selections will be the future of their franchise. Once again, the Browns are in a unique position with a plethora of draft picks which have all been acquired by former executive vice president of football operations, Sashi Brown. The only exception is that Brown will not be making these picks, the man that took over for him will.
Current Browns general manager John Dorsey is in a unique position, after being hired towards the end of last season which came nearly immediately after Brown’s dismissal. Dorsey is positioned at the top of the draft with the first-overall pick, and not far behind is the fourth-overall pick. The Houston Texans traded their 2018 first-round pick to the Browns last season to move up to 12th overall to secure their franchise quarterback, Deshaun Watson. This pick, which resides at fourth overall, holds precedent for the fallout of the draft.
Cleveland sits at a peculiar position on the upwards selections of the draft, with the opportunity to secure their own franchise quarterback themselves from an appealing class with the No. 1 pick. In addition, they can possibly steal the best non-quarterback prospect in this year’s draft class as well at No. 4. It’s a great spot to be in for a team that went 0-16 last season.
The draft order currently sits with the Browns picking first, the Giants to follow, the Jets (after trading with the Colts), and the Browns once again to finish out the top-4 picks. Behind Cleveland are the Broncos, and further down the way in the teens sit the Dolphins, Bills, Redskins, Cardinals, and Ravens. What these six teams all have in common is they are all rumored to be in the market for a potential franchise quarterback. Buffalo and Arizona stick out as the most desperate teams set to find their franchise stabilizer at the most important position in sports.
Where the Browns sit early on in the draft at one and four, they’re in the driver’s seat. However, the Giants are in the passenger’s seat. The orange and brown are speculated by many to draft USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the No. 1 pick or quite possibly and stunningly (gulp) Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.
Giants head of the ship and new captain Dave Gettleman has been keeping his hand tight to the vest and no one has a clue with whom he will draft behind the Browns. The best guess at this point in time would be as followed: Josh Rosen, Allen, Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley, and Quenton Nelson, nearly in that order. This is where the craziness begins.
With as desperate as Buffalo is for a quarterback, it wouldn’t be a stunner to see the Bills pursue a deal with the Giants to move up in order to steal their guy ahead of their division rival. Buffalo owns the 12th, 22nd, 53rd, 65th, and 96th picks in the draft and it’s not far-fetched to say they’re going to use the majority of those picks to move towards the top of the draft to land their next franchise quarterback. The Giants seem committed to Eli Manning and if that remains the case, for the time being, a trade with the Bills would give New York the flexibility to build and stabilize a roster set to chase after a championship for Manning’s last rodeo, which will end within the next few years.
How this affects the Browns is if the Bills trade up to No. 2, Buffalo would be guaranteed to draft their quarterback. The Jets will likely draft one as well, pushing Barkley, Chubb, and a handful of other premier players down to the fourth-overall pick. The way the draft could fall is the Browns draft Darnold, Bills draft Allen, and Jets draft Rosen. This is where it gets fun for Cleveland. Dorsey’s phone on draft night is going to be ringing off the hook with the Broncos, Cardinals, and Dolphins all looking to draft Baker Mayfield at No. 4.
The way it stands, it seems the Browns are enamored with the idea of what their pass rush could look like with the addition of Chubb to go alongside Myles Garrett. Instead of trading down again and acquiring more draft capital in 2019 (which would be the shakeout if anyone other than Buffalo decided to move up), the Browns could make their pass rush the most feared in football for the next decade. For those concerned with Cleveland having too many quality defensive lineman, you can never have too many elite football players; especially ones that chase down the quarterback.
Garrett, despite being plagued by injuries for some of last season, has shown his potential to be a top-ten pass rusher. Emmanuel Ogbah can’t say quite the same for himself, but he isn’t far behind Garrett due to his untapped potential coming off the edge. Both players are versatile with the way they can play in the trenches, just like Chubb can (and will) be in the NFL. All three players can be on the field at the same time, and with the way Gregg Williams manufacturers his defensive line, he’d more than make it work.
The reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, showed last season that you can never have too many pass rushers and run stoppers up front on defense. So much so that they went and acquired a top-ten pass rusher in Michael Bennett and a top-15 interior defensive lineman in his prime, Haloti Ngata. who remains an above average football player. The Browns could be looking to develop their defensive line with the same idea in hand. Following in the footsteps of the Super Bowl champions isn’t a bad idea, especially considering Cleveland didn’t win a single regular season game in 2017.
Some may not want to hear it, but both Garrett and Ogbah have been devastated by injuries early on in their professional careers. Garrett only played 11 games last season while nursing a nagging ankle injury and an unfortunate concussion. Ogbah only played ten games in 2017 after his season was cut short due to a broken foot. Drafting Chubb would maintain a steady defensive line week in and week out, as he never missed a game due to injury in college.1
So what if the Giants eradicate the Browns’ dream plan to add the best defensive player in the draft in addition to finding their franchise quarterback? The Giants traded dominant defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers and Olivier Vernon has a potential out in his contract after next season. Sticking at second overall and drafting Chubb wouldn’t come as a shocker. This would push the best offensive player in the draft, Barkley, down to No. 4, allowing him to fall right into Cleveland’s lap.
The last two seasons, two of the best running backs in college football were drafted at fourth overall. Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys and Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars both went on to have tremendous rookie seasons. Dallas and Jacksonville both made the playoffs the season after drafting the top-rated running back at No. 4. Both teams would have made it to their respective conference championship if it wasn’t for one of the best throws of Aaron Rodgers career. It is unlikely that the old-fashioned Dorsey would spend a valuable pick early on Barkley, but he is not your ordinary running back.
With Duke Johnson hitting free agency next season,2 and Carlos Hyde with a potential out in his contract after next season, Cleveland is absolutely in the market for a running back. The only question is how early would they be willing to spend a pick on that position. This comes after Dorsey drafted the league’s leading rusher in Kareem Hunt in the third round in Kansas City in 2017.
If the Giants stick at No. 2 and draft Chubb and the Browns don’t praise Barkley, this is where a trade down comes into play. Once again, the Bills come to mind as the most likely trade partner. Buffalo would perhaps land Rosen or Allen depending on who the Jets covet. If the Browns trade down with Buffalo, they could potentially receive the 12th, 22nd, and 65th pick, along with possibly acquiring picks in 2019 as well.3
What if the Broncos, Dolphins, Redskins, Cardinals, or Ravens wanted to make their play at one of the top passers in the draft? For Denver, to move up from five to four to obtain their guy, it’d cost them their 71st-overall pick, which would essentially give the Browns a third-round pick. Cleveland could then draft Barkley, cornerback Denzel Ward, or defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 5. The Browns would still come away with one of the top players in the draft.
As for Miami, Washington, Arizona, and Baltimore, they’d have to part with their first-round pick in 2019, thus once again netting the Browns another first rounder. It seems to be becoming a trend, honestly.
Who could the Browns target if they traded down? Ward, offensive tackle Connor Williams, cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Josh Jackson, and linebackers Tremaine Edmunds & Roquan Smith immediately come to mind. We’ll dive deeper into that and who the Browns could look to draft later on within the next few weeks. Another guy that hasn’t been talked about that could sneak his way into the conversation is pass rusher Marcus Davenport. Dorsey stole him during Senior Bowl week for an impromptu meeting which left Senior Bowl officials questioning where Davenport disappeared to.
The Browns have a damn good dilemma with the fourth-overall pick and no matter how it shakes out, they are in a great position to find a franchise cornerstone player even after drafting their franchise quarterback at No. 1. Expectations are that the Browns will be in heavy play for Chubb, a cornerback, or left tackle early on. Either way, Cleveland is in a position to make their defensive line one of the most dominant in the NFL, or find those sought-after replacements for Joe Thomas and Joe Haden. It’s impossible to replace either of those guys, but Dorsey will do his best to build a team whose goal is set on winning the AFC North year in and year out for years to come. Now, the front office must capitalize on this draft capital they were given.