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.