To say that the Cleveland Browns have struggled to find a franchise quarterback since their reinstatement in 1999 would be the grossest of understatements. 20 different men have started under center for the much-maligned franchise in the past 15 seasons, most in the league during that time. One would assume that the team would be locked in on one of the clear top three QB prospects in the upcoming player selection meeting: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, UCF’s Blake Bortles or Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
Such may not be the case. Speaking to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine, Browns GM Ray Farmer said he may go against conventional wisdom and ignore his team’s direst need.
“It could be safe [to say we’ll draft a quarterback], but we might not go that direction,” Farmer said, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “It may not be what everybody thinks it’s going to be. There is an opportunity for some curveballs.”
Of course, it wouldn’t do any good for Farmer to come right out and declare his draft strategy with more than two months to go. And there are still evaluations to be done, with combine workouts, pro days and individual workouts still yet to have taken place. Farmer identified winning as the No. 1 quality he’s looking for in a potential quarterback.
“First and foremost, I’m looking for a winner. He can help translate what we’re trying to do offensively to the field. People will talk about arm strength. They’ll talk about different athletic aspects, can he move in the pocket, etcetera. But I truly believe that a guy being able to accurately throw the football, make quick decisions and process [information] and throw from a crowded pocket, those are critical factors in my mind of what the quarterback needs to be able to demonstrate he can do.”
With regard to Brian Hoyer, who went 3-0 in limited play last season before being lost with a torn ACL in his right knee, Farmer said he believes in Hoyer’s traits but is looking to push him with some competition.
Ulrich names Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as draftable candidates at No. 4 if the team does not go in the quarterback direction. Or, Ulrich suggests the Browns trade down and select a second-tier quarterback such as Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo or Alabama’s AJ McCarron.
Like Jaguars GM David Caldwell, Farmer said he’s willing to trade down and give his team more opportunities “to go to bat” in the draft.