Everyone knows the story of 2016. If you’re a Cavaliers or Indians fan, you’ll never forget that year. If you’re a Browns fan, you never want to speak about that season. Coach Hue Jackson and Browns VP Sashi Brown walked away from their first draft hoping they made their first step to rebuilding the team a successful one. Some Browns analyst like to spit on that draft and even some call it the worst draft since the 1999 revival. I think that’s too harsh. I honestly defend the draft picks . . . . for the most part. Corey Coleman, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Shon Coleman, Cody Kessler, and Joe Shobert may make the starting roster next season. The Browns have struggled picking quality players with their mid-round selections in past drafts. So in a way you can say there is improvement. But, it takes more than six players to make a winning team. The late round selections in their 2016 draft were overall poor despite loading up on receivers. They failed to address offensive line and defensive back holes as well. Lack of depth in almost all positions left them with very few options following injuries. It took a Christmas miracle from Elyria native Jamie Meder to prevent an 0-16 season. Coach Jackson knew it was going to take a while to make the team a competitor. I don’t think he thought the first season was going to be that horrific. However, it was a season that needed to happen. The past decade, the Browns have claimed to rebuild several times, but never really went through with it. They relied on big free agent signings, veteran quarterbacks, and pressured some rookies to take on more than they could handle. The new regime pushed the reset button for good this time by adding more picks for the next few drafts and cutting almost every veteran contract they had on the team. Since Jimmy Haslam took over as owner, the Browns have had 3 coaching changes, 2 general manager changes, 2 team vice president changes, and 2 team president changes. All with different ideas how to run the team. Yeah, it was time to blow the whole thing up and start a complete remodel. Now its draft weekend. The Browns actually had a pretty damn good free agent period, but can it carry over to the draft? For the first time since 2000, they own the first overall pick. Unfortunately for them, there isn’t a star quarterback who sticks out in this class. The 2017 draft class has a ton of talent, but lacks a quality group of quarterbacks. Will this finally be the draft class that gets the Dawg Pound proudly barking for a long time? Only time will tell. Thank God for LeBron James.
Key Additions: LB Jamie Collins, WR Kenny Britt, QB Brock Osweiler, C J.C. Tretter, and G Kevin Zeitler.
Key Departures: QB Robert Griffith III, QB Josh McCown, S Jordan Poyer, and WR Terrelle Pryor.
Round 1, Pick 1
Browns: DE/LB Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
I am aware of the rumors swirling around concerning the first overall pick. I am also aware that Haslam wants an answer at quarterback this draft. There was a fantastic article I read concerning the media and NFL Draft. Basically, after April 1st, everyday is April Fools Day for the sports media. They’ll report anything about anyone. Reports since early last fall stated the Browns were sold on Garrett. It didn’t change through the combine and private workouts, why would it change now? Hall of Famer Warren Sapp had some harsh comments about the prospect. Yes I do agree he has maturity issues. I do realize most of his sacks came from one game last season. That won’t stop the Browns from drafting him. He has the talent and intangibles to compete at the next level. The Browns will not be trading the pick. They’re going to pick the best player on the board and that’s Myles Garrett. As for his maturity, leave that to new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Plan B: QB Mitch Trubisky
Me: Myles Garrett
The Browns and I don’t always agree. When we have, it’s either hit or miss. Two key times we have agreed (and wish we wouldn’t have) were Trent Richardson and Barkevious Mingo. Yeah . . . . let’s not talk about that. But why Garrett? Browns have passed up on playmakers so many times in the past. I get it. They had too many holes and needed more draft picks. Now they have plenty of draft picks and they’re sitting on top of the board. Any player is in play now. Let’s use some logic here and get the best available. I want to also note the Browns are going to be playing in a hybrid defense under Gregg Williams. A mixture of 4-3 and 3-4. After all the fans have been through, wouldn’t it be nice to run a 3-4 with Garrett and Collins as your outside linebackers, and have Garrett, Ogbah, and Shelton on your line in the 4-3?! It sounds like something Madden fans would love to tinker with. The kid has got speed, toughness, and can tackle without any issues. In case you didn’t know, tackling was difficult for the Browns last season. That should never be an issue for a professional football team. If I had to make the call, Garrett would be a Brown.
Plan B: S Malik Hooker
Round 1, Pick 12
Browns: QB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
I don’t believe the hype with this quarterback class. Every football fan knows that quarterback is the most important position in the game. That’s why every draft the media gets a hard on with every single quarterback up until draft time. I don’t believe the Browns are wanting to trade up for their answer under center in this draft. However, I do believe Trubisky will fall to 12 and I do believe the reports about Hue Jackson sold on his potential. If Trubisky is indeed there at 12, the Mentor native is heading home. Would I take a chance on the kid? Personally, no. Not a bad player, but only one year starting under his belt in a weak QB class. Why reach and get another one next year?! I say keep Osweiler and give him a solid shot at starting. Kessler would be better with a new offensive line and better weapons. The team needs another year anyway. I’ll give credit to Trubisky. He threw very few picks and is a solid signal caller. However, his worst game was his bowl game last season. Will he be there when it counts? I have a gut feeling his name will called when the Browns use their second first round pick.
Plan B: TE O.J. Howard
Me: WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Last year, the Browns made a solid first pick in Corey Coleman. He was someone I really overlooked. I honestly really like the receiver. Look at the consistent winning teams though. What do they all have in common? A stacked receiving squad. Corey Coleman can’t do it all. Kenny Britt would be better in the slot. They let Terrelle Pryor slip through they’re hands like a bad Braylon Edwards memory. And NO! Josh Gordon is NOT playing for the Browns ever again! That fantasy needs to blow up in smoke. Pun intended. Even with Mike Williams still on the board, I would take Corey Davis. He can do what Williams can do plus more. I can hear the MAC haters right now. It doesn’t matter what conference you’re in! Skill is skill. Out of the top receivers in this draft he is the only one to consistently put up at least 1,400 receiving yards the past three seasons, and avoid serious injury. His freshman season he fell short of 1,000. His playmaking reminds me somewhat of Odell Beckham Jr. I’m really sold on this kid.
Plan B: RB Dalvin Cook
Bold trade prediction: Browns trade the 33rd overall pick, 3rd round 2018, and 5th round 2018 to Denver for the 20th overall pick.
Round 1, Pick 20
Browns: OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
I usually don’t make trade predictions in my mocks, but this year I decided to add them. Multiple reports state the Browns are very interested in moving up to the lower 1st round picks. Denver Broncos have confirmed they’ve had plenty of discussions with Cleveland involving the 33rd pick and more in exchange for the 20th pick. I think it does happen when Denver is on the clock. Browns saw how horrible their offensive line was last year. Losing Alex Mack hurt them badly. They found out the hard way that Cameron Irving is not a professional center by any means. Quarterbacks got hit left, right, and middle. The team added Tretter and Zeitler the first day of free agency. They managed to give Bitonio a large extension, but he still seems injury prone. That leaves the right tackle battle between Cameron Irving and Shon Coleman. In order to help guarantee their quarterbacks a new and improved line, they trade up for Ramczyk. He was consistent for Wisconsin as their left tackle. Wisconsin has had a reputation of producing solid offensive linemen. Browns Joe Thomas and Kevin Zeitler can contest to that. They add another Badger here without giving up a 1st round pick. It would end up being a win for both Denver and Cleveland.
Round 2, Pick 33
Me: S Obi Melifonwu
I end up not trading up with the Broncos. I decide to keep my future draft picks. There is debate whether or not Melifonwu gets taken in the 1st round or not. I’m going out on a limb and saying he drops to the second round. Browns safeties were sad to watch last season. Bigger receivers took advantage of them and they seemed to struggle tackling opponents down field. Melifonwu is 6’4 with a 7 foot wing span. He was one of the best in college football at knocking down passes. With his height, quarterbacks had a tough time throwing over him. Some analysts have compared him to Kam Chancellor. Plus, Browns fans could yell, “Obi! You’re our only hope!”. That would be fun.
Plan B: Best defensive back available
Round 2, Pick 52
Browns: RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
Browns have made it clear they are interested in Mixon despite the off field issues. I believe Cleveland has seen the best out of Crowell and Jackson wants to make Johnson more of a receiving back. Mixon put up solid numbers in Oklahoma but I think specifically the 6.8 yards per carry average caught the team’s attention. Jimmy Haslam has even defended the possibility of drafting Mixon. Hopefully they don’t run into another Johnny Manziel situation. Coach Jackson doesn’t want to wake up in the morning to those headlines.
Plan B: S Desmond King
Me: S Marcus Williams, Utah
With the first second round pick I upgraded the safety position. I add the other safety with the next pick. Williams is a high energy player, a great tackler for his size, and he has a good eye for the ball. Picking him and Obi would solidify that weak coverage in the back field. Haden, Taylor, and Boddy-Calhoun would rotate the cornerback positions. This would make things a little easier for Gregg Williams.
Plan B: S Josh Jones
3rd Round, Pick 65
Browns: S Marcus Maye, Florida
Browns go into the 3rd round without addressing their defensive back problem. They make a move with the 65th pick to help improve it. Maye was known for his speed and ablitiy to deflect passes. Don’t ask me why, but when I was watching film on this guy he just looked like someone the Browns would draft. He wasn’t really flashy but he got the job done. That tends to be the type of players the Browns like in mid-rounds. If the Browns do get Maye, its still a pick that would end up starting week one.
Plan B: Best safety on the board
Me: C Ethan Pocic, LSU
Watching the Browns center struggles almost made me stroke last season. Cameron Erving belongs at right tackle, and I’ve said that since he was drafted. Austin Reiter is a good player to keep around for depth reasons. He had one good game at center and then tore his ACL. I’ve read too many negative reviews on Marcus Martin. J.C. Tretter was a great signing but he also had a serious injury with Green Bay last season. You need a backup plan in football. You never know when injuries will happen. Pocic makes too much sense with this pick. He excelled in pass protection but still needs work on his run blocking. His biggest strength is reading defenses and directing the offensive line. Coaches in LSU raved about his ability to play the center position. He could develop into Cleveland’s starting center someday.
Plan B: C/G Pat Elflein
Bold trade prediction: Browns trade QB Brock Osweiler to the Jets for the 107th pick overall.
Round 3, Pick 107
Browns: TE Jordan Leggett, Clemson
If my prediction is right, Browns get Mitch Trubisky at 12 and Jets end up filling holes with their other picks. I can see the Jets eventually picking Deshaun Watson or Deshone Kizer in the draft. But you have to think with Todd Bowles on the hot seat, does he really want to go into a season with a rookie quarterback and Josh McCown?! What if they don’t get Kizer or Watson?! Browns may strike a deal here. They tell the Jets they’ll pay the majority of Osweiler’s contract in exchange for the last pick in the 3rd round. This would make Hogan, Kessler, and Trubisky the quarterback competition, and give the Browns back to back picks in the 3rd and 4th round. Jets get their quarterback and Browns get their pick. Everyone is happy . . . well, maybe. The NFL today is slowly stepping away from receiving tight ends and using more wide receivers. For fantasy football owners, like me, it can be disappointing. I grew up with tight ends being a dependable receiver when the quarterback is out of options, or sometimes they were the better option. Hue Jackson’s offense still believes in the receiving tight end. You may remember Tyler Eifert’s pro bowl season with the Bengals in 2015. That was partially due to Jackson’s offensive schemes. Last year, the seven some quarterbacks the Browns used couldn’t get the ball to the tight ends. Gary Barnidge is a great player for the locker room but is at the tail end of his career. Leggett has some the best receiving hands in this tight end class. He also had an habit of dropping some easy passes. However, I will add he was clutch during Clemson’s championship run and playoff game against Ohio State. Browns have made it clear they’re interested in Leggett and make him a Brown with this pick.
Plan B: Best receiving or defensive line prospect
Round 4, Pick 108
Browns: DT Tanzel Smart, Tulane
Cleveland was terrible at pressuring the quarterback last year. Danny Shelton could only do so much. Only Nassib and Ogbah seemed consistent on that defensive line. Now that they’ll be using 4-3 schemes in their defense, they’ll need another defensive tackle. Smart specialized in pressuring the quarterback. He wasn’t really known for run stopping or sacking opponents. He consistently hurried the opposition and ruffed up offensive linemen. Now could the Browns possibly get this guy with a later pick? I won’t lie to you, yeah they probably could. I have them taking him here because it sounds like a Browns thing to do. Let’s hope that Smart is a smart pick here in the 4th round.
Plan B: Best defensive linemen or defensive back
Me: OT Antonio Garcia, Troy
Garcia has a lot of potential, but still some question marks as well. The guy didn’t give up a single sack and only gave up one quarterback hit his entire senior season. Sounds good on paper but scouts really question some of his mechanics. His pass protection needs plenty of work. I really dig his toughness though. They complained he put too many guys on the ground but in the NFL you need that attitude sometimes. If I’m the Browns, I make him compete with Erving and Coleman for the starting right tackle spot. This guy could be a diamond in the ruff as far as the 4th round goes.
Plan B: Best offensive lineman available
As far as the rest of the draft, I would go out and get a running back, add to the defensive line, and may add one more receiver in a later round. Like Jimmy Johnson told the front office, you won’t get all your pieces in the second offseason but by the third year you better be a contender. I trust in Hue Jackson. Not so much Haslam. GO BROWNS!!!