Every few years, a franchise finds its fate tied almost entirely to a single draft. In 1999, the Saints traded their entire draft for the rights to select Ricky Williams fifth overall. Ten years later, the Jets parted with their first and second round selections along with three players to bring in Mark Sanchez. And just two years ago, the Redskins traded three first round picks and one second round pick for the second overall pick that they used on Robert Griffin III.
With the 2015 NFL Draft looming, rookie GM Ray Farmer is at the helm of a Browns franchise that will likely be defined for years to come by this May’s draft. The team has lacked a consistent, solid quarterback since it returned to the NFL in 1999, and the rebuilding Browns hold two first-round picks and ten total selections — a plot so enticing that it loosely inspired a major film. To further dramatize the situation, the Browns have been so hush-hush about their approach to selecting a quarterback that, as ESPN’s Pat McManamon puts it, “not even the National Security Agency has been able to determine the Browns’ plans with the most important position with the team.”
It is helpful to consider the ‘first pick’ and ‘later pick’ quarterback considerations. I believe, because Mike Pettine has said he does not need a top five quarterback to win a Super Bowl and is a former defensive coordinator, that the Browns will not feel compelled to draft a quarterback with their first pick, and will instead either go with Auburn tackle Greg Robinson, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, or Buffalo pass rushing linebacker Khalil Mack at fourth overall. Furthermore, the Browns have been privately holding workouts with every single top quarterback prospect, which suggests that they have several contingency plans in place for different draft scenarios surrounding the 26th overall pick.
First Pick Options
- Johnny Manziel: If the Browns are going to take a quarterback with their first pick, I have to believe that they would make the boom-or-bust selection with Manziel. Although many bright NFL minds doubt his durability, Manziel will undoubtedly spark the franchise and thrust it into the NFL limelight, for better or for worse — it’s worth noting that, when their voice has been heard, many Cleveland fans would love any excitement. When new head coach Pettine discusses how he wants to find a quarterback with the “it factor,” it is difficult to imagine that he could be referring to anyone other than Manziel.
- Blake Bortles: Many agree that Bortles, if available, would be the safer pick given his durability, not to mention how his elite ability to throw the ball downfield would match up with Browns’ All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon. However, several experts speculate that Bortles will have already come off the board before the fourth overall pick.
- Teddy Bridgewater: Bridgewater is scheduled to visit the Browns over the next 48 hours. However, despite the fact that many suggest that the Louisville product has the best intangibles and decision-making skills of any quarterback in the draft, most reports have suggested that the team is much more intrigued by the likes of Manziel and Bortles.
Later Pick Options
- Derek Carr: I think if Farmer could design his own 2015 NFL Draft, he would take Watkins at fourth overall (I don’t think the Browns’ signing of Nate Burleson precludes them from taking a receiver this high) and hope that Carr of Fresno State could be had at 26th overall. According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, from everything she can gather, the Browns really like Carr.
- Aaron Murray: Just five months removed from an ACL repair, Murray is quickly becoming a dark horse candidate for several teams, including the Browns, in the later rounds.
- A.J. McCarron: The Browns are also planning on hosting McCarron. That the Browns are looking so closely at quarterbacks like McCarron could suggest that they plan on selecting a quarterback far deeper into the draft than the fourth overall pick.
- The Rest: Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois), Tom Savage (Pittsburgh), Keith Wenning (Ball State)
The Trade Scenario
- Because the Browns have so many picks, it is very conceivable that they might want to trade for a quarterback. Many have considered the Redskins to be a potential trade partner, given Kirk Cousins’ availability and ability to start right away.
So, what do you think? Will the Browns take a quarterback fourth overall? 26th overall? In later rounds? Post your thoughts in the comment section below.