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Draft needs: Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon AP

All things considered, the Browns’ draft record isn’t bad as some might expect from a club that hasn’t made the postseason since 2002. The Browns drafted five Pro Bowlers currently on their roster: left tackle Joe Thomas, center Alex Mack, wide receiver Josh Gordon, tight end Jordan Cameron and cornerback Joe Haden.

Nevertheless, there’s no sugar-coating the Browns’ 4-12 record from a season ago. The Browns lost 10 of their final 11 games, and the club’s poor play late in the season cost head coach Rob Chudzinski his job. Later, G.M. Mike Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner left the organization. In the end, the Browns will begin the 2014 draft with new faces at the key decision-making spots of G.M. (Ray Farmer) and coach (Mike Pettine).

The Browns currently hold 10 draft picks, with extra selections in Rounds One and Four (via Indianapolis) and Round Three (via Pittsburgh). All of their picks can be traded, as Cleveland did not receive any compensatory selections. In short, the Browns may have the supply of picks needed to trade up if they covet a prospect. What’s more, their collection of later-round picks could be valuable currency should they look to trade for veteran players in the latter stages of the draft.

Here’s a closer look at the Browns’ draft needs:

Quarterback: The Browns will almost certainly draft a quarterback who will compete to start right off the bat, a la Brandon Weeden two years ago. Brian Hoyer sparked the offense for a short time last season, but he’s coming off an October ACL tear, and his contract is up after the 2014 season. The Browns’ current top backup, Alex Tanney, is untested. The Browns also could add a veteran backup, with Rex Grossman a logical fit.

Cornerback: Drafting a cornerback capable of pushing for a starting spot would bolster the secondary depth. It could allow the Browns to move Buster Skrine inside to the slot, where he’s well-suited. Also, Skrine and star cornerback Haden are free agents after the 2014 season. While the Browns seem likely to keep Haden long term, having as many good options as possible at cornerback is a sensible approach.

Wide receiver: The Browns have added to this position in the offseason, signing Andrew Hawkins from Cincinnati to play the slot and ex-Lions wideout Nate Burleson to push for a starting job outside of Josh Gordon. Nevertheless, the Browns could still use a little more playmaking ability at receiver. Wideout Greg Little, a 41-game starter in the last three seasons, can reach unrestricted free agency after the 2014 season, and he has not been a standout in his time in Cleveland.

Running back: The Browns have struggled to address the RB position via draft since returning to NFL play in 1999. Still, they may have to dive back into the rookie ranks for tailback help this May. We can pencil in ex-Texans back Ben Tate as Cleveland’s starter, and he seems likely to get the majority of the carries. However, the depth behind Tate needs improvement. Ex-Eagles tailback Dion Lewis showed promise last summer but missed the 2013 campaign after breaking his leg. Chris Ogbonnaya is a good utility back — he catches the ball well, and he can play some fullback. However, the Browns lack is a second starter-caliber runner to pair with Tate, who’s had some injury issues in his NFL career.

Tight end: While Cameron had a breakout 2013 season, he is entering the final year of his contract. The Browns have the luxury of being able to draft and stash a project if needed; the club has decent depth behind Cameron, though no major pass catching threats.

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13 Responses to “Draft needs: Cleveland Browns”
  1. broncosbrowns says: Apr 22, 2014 3:14 PM

    Quarterback is the most desperate need. Right now, the quarterbacks on the roster have a total of three starts combined. They currently have viable options at WR, TE and CB, and given how the RB position has declined in today’s NFL, they certainly can wait to draft one of these in the mid rounds.

  2. mustangbryk says: Apr 22, 2014 3:20 PM

    I would add Oline is a must upgrade. RG would be nice to see added to the already 2 pro-bowler strong line. Depth at SS/FS would also be nice to see in the later rounds. A even deeper look at the team you would notice that even MLB is very thin. I would leave Te, WR, and even RB off this list as a key need. Currently the browns actually are over loaded at WR and RB. All a big smoke screen to get people to think we are actually thinking of taking a WR or RB in the draft.

  3. erock0129 says: Apr 22, 2014 3:30 PM

    Well, I’m pretty sure Lombardi and Banner didn’t choose to leave, they were fired. That move alone assures ME of a happier draft day. Go Browns!

  4. fallguy2006 says: Apr 22, 2014 3:51 PM

    Yes the QB’s have a total of 3 starts , so how does that make drafting one any better ? It will still be 3 starts . Get your QB with 26 or 35 . Draft Watkins or Robinson at 4 .

  5. steelerdeathstar says: Apr 22, 2014 4:29 PM

    From the standpoint of a friendly enemy, the Browns are well-positioned to be a force in the NFL for the foreseeable future, provided they don’t screw it up. Fortuneately for their fans, they look to have put together a solid front office and coaching staff that likely will not screw it up, and looks like they have a master plan in place.
    I still believe that a WR @#4 is likely, which could give Cleveland a juggernaut offense with Hoyer at the helm. IF he can stay reasonably healthy, Hoyer is a young veteran with a strong arm and quick release, who generally makes good decisions and plays with fire and elan. They may not need a QB in this draft, but would be well-advised to take one at #26 just the same.
    Most of us in Pittsburgh not-so-secretly want the Browns to return to being among the best franchises in the NFL. The stronger the AFC North, the better for all. Good luck to the Browns!

  6. evansvc says: Apr 22, 2014 6:03 PM

    There are a lot worse QBs on NFL rosters that has never had the success Vince Young has had …(NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 Pro Bowls, Playoff experience and Mobility).
    This veteran quarterback has a career winning record of 31-19…
    GM/Coach, sit down and talk to this guy…I think he can help…..

  7. torpedo8 says: Apr 22, 2014 6:14 PM

    We need offensive line help and inside linebackers long before we need tight ends or running backs. OLine and ILB are both positions where either the existing talent is stretched thin or the backups non-existent.

    I would go:

    1) OLine (Robinson or Matthews) or WR (Watkins or Evans)
    2) QB (Carr?)
    3) ILB or WR
    4) CB or OLine
    5) QB
    6) OLine

    At least for a start.

  8. mrfrostyj says: Apr 22, 2014 7:23 PM

    The Browns are always the reason to watch the draft every year because that is the one thing they’re consistently good at. I mean this is the team who manipulated the Jets into giving them half their team for the Mark Sanchez pic and the same from Atlanta for Julio Jones (and still ended up getting a top notch receiver in Josh Gordon with a lesser pick). The Brady Quinn trade is still a thing of beauty to this day and the fact that they got their first rounder back for Richardson shows why they were the right team for that “Draft Day” movie.

    They’re issue is more along the lines of who’s “developing” those picks into NFL players. The best way to describe it is even a Porsche will loose a race to a hatchback if the guy driving the Porsche doesn’t know how to drive a stick.

    In other words the Browns roster of head coaches in the last decade won’t have any statues erected of them anytime soon.

  9. lbcoach34 says: Apr 22, 2014 8:11 PM

    Go Watkins if he’s there; if not Johnny football might be too hard to pass on.

    Pick 26 should be the best corner available or wr if we can’t get Watkins.

    Pick 35 should be ILB maybe Borland or van noy

  10. kwjsb says: Apr 22, 2014 8:49 PM

    None of these QB’s are worthy of a top 10 pick, and it is questionable that they are a sure enough thing for the Browns to take in the first round with all the other needs..
    #4 Watkins (WR) Would give the Browns a prolific receiving corps that would make most QB’s look good. Also, an Insurance policy in-case Gordon falters and take a year long suspension.

    #26 Yankey (G) We proved last year if you can’t run you can’t win and the QB takes a beating.

    #35 Hyde/Mason (RB) Tate is a great pick-up but has a history of injuries, and the guys we have have proven the are not NFL starters.

    Package a 3rd and the Steelers 4th and move back into the 2nd and grab Murray (My Choice), Garoppolo, Mettenberger or Savage will be available maybe even Bridgewater who is falling like a rock.

  11. hboilers24 says: Apr 25, 2014 12:12 AM

    Not into any of these QB’s. would much rather get Watkins at #4 and a corner at #26. Get a vet QB to backup Hoyer.
    I’m not saying Hoyer is the answer but next year’s class of QB’s looks so much better then this years and if we get the look of a team that is solid except for QB then we can package a deal to go get a Hundley or Mariota

  12. brownsmakemecrazy says: Apr 29, 2014 7:06 PM

    Draft Needs: Sammy Watkins, Jeremy Hill RB LSU (Terrell Davis) said he will be a star that confirmed my opinion on Hill) and McCarron, Mettenberger or Murray at QB. Now that is some firepower to go with Gordon and Cameron and Tate.

  13. bullwinkle88 says: May 6, 2014 11:35 AM

    It’s interesting reading your comments and advice. I’m a fan of the Browns (have been since 1955), although my real passion is the Buffalo Sabres.

    The Sabres and Browns are in very similar circumstances…the Sabres pick 2nd next month…so it’s interesting to hear the same kind of talk coming from both fan bases.

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