Training camp kicks off July 2015. Fans show up to Berea, excited and anxious to see what the new football season will bring for the Cleveland Browns. The team is coming off a surprising 7-9 season and players are looking forward to a new, improved team. Fans are standing at the sidelines, wearing the new Browns uniforms that were released in April. All eyes are on first rounders, Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving, with hope that they can contribute to the team right away. The team was entering their second season under the Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer regime. On paper, the team had a solid offensive line squad and defensive unit. Fans continued to debate if this would be the year Johnny Manziel took over the starting role for good, ending a long streak of starting quarterbacks in Cleveland.
Let’s fast forward to the final game of the season.
It’s January 3rd. The Browns just concluded a season that fans were begging would end. The team ended with a 3-13 record, but that wasn’t saying enough. Tension was building between the locker room and front office. An assistant coach was fired after accused of assault of a friend in his own home. Injuries plagued the team, including top receiver Andrew Hawkins and defensive captain Joe Haden. Fans watched one of the worst Monday Night Football conclusions in a home loss to Baltimore. And then there was Johnny Manziel. The quarterback would be caught partying, beating women, lying to coaches, and showing up to practice drunk. No, this is not some sick Cohen brothers screen play. This is the Cleveland Browns. Finally, owner Jimmy Haslam had enough. About three hours after their home loss to Pittsburgh, Coach Mike Pettine and General Ray Farmer were canned. Making fans mutter words they’ve said for the past six years: Here we go . . . again. However, this was different. You might even say strange. The Browns are going a direction that no one has gone before in NFL history.
It was round three for Jimmy Haslam. The Banner and Chudzinski experiment only lasted one season. The forced Farmer and Pettine marriage produced even more problems. Minutes after the firings were announced, the new direction was already taking place. Sashi Brown was promoted to Vice President of football operations. Haslam dubbed him the man in charge. No one knew who he was or where he came from. But now the future of the team is in his hands. It gets weirder. The front office decides to go all out on analytics. Something that no team has ever done before in the NFL. They hire Paul Depodesta, who was well known as the Money Ball guy for the Oakland Athletics. The search for a new head coach was short lived. They did something strange. They hired a well known, good coach in former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson. Usually the Browns go with an unknown name who never had head coaching experience before. The players approved the decision. Free agency came and fans were interested to see what direction the team would go. When the new front office said they were doing things different, they meant it. The first week of free agency came and gone, no big moves were made. Instead, many players signed some where else including Pro Bowler, Alex Mack. The team continued to cut players including Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, Dwayne Bowe, and of course, Johnny Manziel. The biggest addition the Browns made was signing quarterback Robert Griffin III. The former Redskin was looking for a team that would give him a second chance. With all the bad history the Browns have had with quarterbacks since 1999, it was interesting that he choice to sign. It gets closer to draft time and the Tennessee Titans shock the sports media world with the decision to trade the number one overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams. All eyes were on the Browns, and they responded. With interest in trading down also, the Browns made a blockbuster trade to send the second overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Browns got multiple picks and stayed in the top ten. With 12 picks in the 2016 draft, they have no choice but to get as many picks right as they can. The trade did guarantee that the two top quarterbacks in this draft would be off the board. Poor draft history has put them in the position they are in now. So here it is! I give you four rounds in which I make the picks and I tell you who I think the analytics guys will really pick. Will the Browns turn it around or will we have to just keep reminding ourselves LeBron James is our true savior?
Key Additions: QB Robert Griffin III, LB Demario Davis, and S Rahim Moore.
Key Losses: C Alex Mack, LB Craig Robertson, LB Karlos Dansby, S Donte Whitner, T Mitchell Schwartz, WR Travis Benjamin, S Tashaun Gipson, and QB Johnny Manziel
Round 1, 8th pick (from Eagles)
Me: WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
If Ezekiel Elliot is available at this pick, I may fall into temptation. I can’t deny someone with a similar skill set than Marshawn Lynch. However, the NFL Draft is crazy. I believe someone will snatch him up somewhere between the 3rd to 7th pick overall pick. Maybe even Dallas at 4. So who would I go with if Zeke is gone? The player I’ve been talking about since the second week of college football. Treadwell is the real deal. The past few drafts, the Browns have turned down so many talented receivers. NO MORE! If the front office is going to do something different than they must prove it! The receivers on the roster right now are Andrew Hawkins, Brian Hartline, Desmond Jennings, and Terrell Pryor. I wouldn’t worry about Josh Gordon. Even if he’s reinstated, he’ll probably get traded. Treadwell is a similar player to Gordon. Good speed, excellent hands, and consistently broke tackles during his college career. His stocked dropped after a severe knee injury in 2014 and poor combine. But I don’t rely on the combine for anything. I am sick and tired of a moderate receiving core. The quarterbacks need help! Whoever he is! With this pick, I have given them some serious help. Something they’re not used to having.
Browns: OLB Myles Jack, UCLA
When the Browns are on the clock, I don’t expect a receiver to be on their mind. I bet an offensive linemen will be the only players they’ll consider for the offense with this pick. The team needs help everywhere at this point. Cleveland will go with Jack because of his playmaking ability and their desperate need for some youth at the linebacker position. New guy, Demario Davis, is the only middle linebacker on the team right now. Outside linebackers consist of Paul Kruger, Scott Solomon, and Barkevious Mingo. Kruger isn’t getting younger. Solomon is coming off a serious injury. Mingo didn’t get cut because of Ray Horton’s special plans for him. I will give Mingo credit, he did bulk up 20 pounds since Horton returned. Myles Jack is a safe and solid pick here. Don’t be surprised to hear Deforest Buckner’s name called if he’s available. I don’t personally believe Joey Bosa will be around at 8. If he was, along with Elliot, I wouldn’t want to be the one to make that decision. Browns go defense in the 1st round either way.
Other options: WR Josh Docston, T Jack Conklin, DL Deforest Buckner, and RB Ezekiel Elliot (if he’s there).
Round 2, 32nd pick
Me: WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
What?! Another receiver?! Didn’t you hear me the first time?! I’m tired of it!!! Time to load up with two talented receivers. I had a tough time deciding between Boyd and my Buckeye’s Micheal Thomas. After much debate with myself, I picked Boyd. He consistently made the tough catch, especially in the end zone. Blessed with solid speed and a 6’2 frame. Plus he beat Larry Fitzgerald’s school record of receptions and yards. Yeah, he’s a big deal. Put him on the opposite of Treadwell, along with Hawkins and Hartline in the slots, the Browns will give defenses problems for once.
Browns: QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State
WHAT?! NO! Seth, you can’t be serious?! Oh, but I am. It doesn’t matter who’s in the front office or under the headset. The Browns are the Browns. The dust will settle and they’ll kick off day two of the draft with a shocker. Cleveland will want to lock up the hometown kid in the 2nd round and start the new project at the quarterback position. I can see it now. Cleveland fans making Cardale the number one sold jersey in the NFL for the rest of the offseason. It was the plan from the get go. After getting a good look at Wentz, they go for the guy who led the Buckeyes to their championship run and victory. Coach Jackson would have a lot of work to do with this one.
Other options: S Keanu Neal, WR Corey Coleman, DE Kevin Dodd, WR Micheal Thomas, and C Ryan Kelly
Round 3, 65th pick
Me: G Joshua Garnett, Stanford
Now I address the offensive line. Returning players consist of Cameron Erving, Joel Bitonio, John Greco, and of course, Joe Thomas. But with Mack and Schwartz leaving the team, it has left some serious holes that need to be filled. Garnett is a force to be reckoned with. Defenders could never catch him off balanced and seemed to never get passed him. I’m not sure how much longer Greco will be with team. Better put Garnett on the opposite side of Bitonio.
Browns: C Nick Martin, Notre Dame
Browns weren’t able to contain Alex Mack this offseason. I think they like Erving everywhere else but center on that line. They fill that hole here with their first third round pick. They’ll need someone who can help guide the o-line in a similar fashion Mack did. That being said, Martin maybe selected by the Browns.
Other options: S Jeremy Cash, S Jalen Mills, OLB Kyle Fackrell, and LB Joshua Perry.
Round 3, 77th pick (from Eagles)
Me: MLB Joshua Perry, Ohio State
The past few seasons, the team has struggled to consistently tackle properly. Very few players on the team consistently brought opponents down. Damario Davis will need a sidekick in that 3-4 defense. Ohio State’s Josh Perry had fantastic vision and was a phenomenal wrap up tackler. I know the Browns never draft Buckeyes, but it’s time to change that. Perry fits perfectly with what the Browns want to do on the defensive side of the ball.
Browns: WR Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
The Browns will finally address their wide receiver need in the 3rd round. Analyts will probably tell you Sterling Shepard would be the better fit here, losing Travis Benjamin and all. But the analytics will say Carroo is a better fit for the Browns. See what I did there? Carroo wouldn’t necessarily be a bad pick here. He is a tough player who had a knack for breaking tackles. Watching him play, I see some similarities to Golden Tate. But at the same time I can see him being another Greg Little. It’s tough to say what type of player he’ll exactly be, but I can see him in orange and brown.
Other options: WR Braxton Miller, WR Sterling Shepard, LB Deion Jones, OLB Kamalei Correa, and OLB Shilique Calhoun
Round 4, 99th pick
Me: T Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
The offensive line was inconsistent last season. The run game suffered the most. Unfortunate for the Browns, Mitchell Schwartz left the team after a Pro Bowl type season. The one game Von Miller didn’t record a tackle was in Cleveland because of Schwartz. Clark is worth taking here at 99. Cameron Erving is an option at right tackle, but Coach Jackson could like him better at guard. The o-line needs some serious depth right now.
Browns: ILB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
Browns have yet to replace Craig Robertson. Brothers was a playmaker for Missouri on defense and special teams. There is a case to be made for Beniquez Brown with this pick. Brown has the up beat attitude Hue Jackson wants to put in the locker room. However, I got a gut feeling the analytics say other wise. Browns may target Brothers here at 99.
Round 4, 100th pick
Me: C Evan Boehm, Missouri
Browns have back to back picks to kick off the 4th round. If I had my way, they would load up on offensive line depth since that hurt them badly last year. Getting good o-line depth during the season is tough. That’s why they need to load up in the draft. I think Boehm is a steal here at 100. He was originally a guard that switched positions entering his sophomore year. I can see him starting as the new center.
Browns: WR Charone Peake, Clemson
No matter how bad the Browns have drafted the past decade, they always pick one fan favorite out. Last year it was Duke Johnson. The Browns know they need more receivers. With the 100th pick overall, I can see them going with Peake. Overall, he has good hands but is more known for his speed and agility. He could catch a two yard pass and make it into an eleven yard play, dodging a couple defenders in the process. Peake would help fans forget about Travis Benjamin.
Other options for 99 and 100: WR Chris More, WR Pharoh Cooper, WR Kenny Lawler, LB BJ Goodson, DE/LB Alex McCalister, DE/LB Joe Schobert, C Jack Allen, and LB Beniquez Brown.
Round 4, 138th pick (from Eagles)
Me: S Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah
This would be a home run for the Browns. They cut Donte Whitner and didn’t resign Tashaun Gipson. They did add Rahim Moore, which I am a big fan of, but he’s not guaranteed a roster spot past the preseason. Killebrew is a diamond in the rough. He is a hard hitting, ball hawk with Pro Bowl potential. Known for jarring the ball loose and reading quarterbacks like a pro. I wouldn’t rule out picking him at 100 just to lock him up. Killebrew would fill a huge need for the Browns.
Browns: RB Daniel Lasco, California
Browns got it right drafting Duke Johnson last year. However, Isiah Crowell struggled at times and got a slow start. Cleveland will look to add offensive weapons during the draft to help out whoever is under center. That’s why Lasco makes sense here. His playing style reminds me of Jeremy Hill. Sorry for any Corwell fans, but if they make this pick he could be on his way out. Johnson and Lasco could be a one-two punch Jackson would want on the field.
BONUS: Round 6, 172nd pick
Me: DT Cody Grice, Akron
Here in the sixth round, I make the biggest steal of the draft. A game changer that Browns fans will never forget. This defensive linemen can also play running back. He is a leader. He will hype up the locker room game in and game out. During his career, he’ll earn the nickname Little Sapp. The first game he gets noticed will be the first match up against Pittsburgh. Grice will bring down Roethlisberger three times that game. The quarterback will get hit so hard he’ll debate retirement. Fans will hope to see Grice hold up the Lombardi trophy in Cleveland. If so, he could be the second Akronite to help Cleveland win a national championship. The King still needs to do his part though.
The Browns have A LOT of work to do. Too many holes to fill and one draft isn’t going to do it. They could have the best draft in NFL history and still not have a full team. I am not 100% sure how the analytics will improve the team. It sounds good and all, but it also sounds risky. I do love the choice of hiring Hue Jackson. He could be the coach Cleveland has been asking for in quite sometime. If I were to encourage the Browns to do one thing in this draft, it would be skip selecting a quarterback. They have two first round picks for next year. Use one of them to pick your franchise quarterback. Robert Griffin will most likely become the starter over Josh McCown. Expect the dark horse candidate, Connor Shaw, to make the team. Just surround those guys with help so they have a legit chance. This will be an interesting draft for Cleveland.