The Cleveland Browns didn’t get much from their two first round draft picks last season but they are back with two more first rounders in the 2015 NFL Draft. They’ll need some big hits to help make up for the losses they suffered in free agency.
To preview the Browns remaining team needs and general outlook on the draft, I got together with Dawg Pound Daily‘s Jared Mueller. Below are my questions followed by his answers.
1. How have the team’s draft needs changed since free agency opened?
The Cleveland Browns are not a needs based drafting team. Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine drafted based on Best Player Available (BPA) or Best Grade Available (BGA). BGA takes into account how the team values certain positions over others, the team’s scheme as well as current talent already on the field. Because of that Free Agency hasn’t had a huge impact on hwo the Browns will draft. The biggest impact is how many of each position the Browns will draft. With the addition of Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe, the Browns are likely to only draft 1 more receiver. Tramon Williams and Randy Starks also limits the number of defensive linemen and corners drafted, likely 1 of each, as well.
2. What would you say are the top three needs remaining?
QB – The Browns have been trying to fill their QB needs since Bernie Kosar left. Johnny Manziel, the most recent attempted solution, showed very little on the field and even less off of it. The Browns won’t reach for one but if Marcus Mariota or Brett Hundley are available, in their BGA range, the Browns might make a move up to get one of them.
NT – The Browns were the worst run defense in the entire NFL. Starks can play some nose, as can John Hughes, but both are better suited at the 1 or 3 technique over the pure 0 tech. Danny Shelton early and others later can fill this role perfectly.
WR – The Browns lack a true long term #1 receiver. No one knows what Josh Gordon‘s future holds (see: Blackmon, Justin) and Bowe is a veteran with little room for improvement. Thankfully this draft is as deeper, or deeper, than last year’s draft at the receiver position and the Browns could find their future #1 but give him time to develop behind Bowe, Hartline, Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel.
3. Are there any prospects that have caught your eye so far?
Breshad Perriman is an interesting tools receiver. Big and fast but his route running and hands are concerning. Shaq Thompson, a player who we’ve compared to Adalius Thomas, is an interesting study as he could play safety, inside or outside linebacker and be successful at them all. Devin Funchess is a player that could really fall after his Combine, Pro Day and has true boom or bust potential that I hope we don’t have to hold our breaths in Cleveland to which he will become.
4. What do you think would make for a successful draft for your team?
DPD readers know that the first answer is drafting Marcus Mariota. A small trade up or him falling to 12 are both possible. Mariota needs a year to develop but, with his talent base and work ethic, I believe Mariota is the final answer to the Browns long standing problem. If Mariota doesn’t fall, GM Ray Farmer has earned our trust from last year’s moves, 1st round is an exception. We expect he will look for long term replacements for Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner and on the offensive line where Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz can be free agents. Filling those future needs while still getting a stout nose tackle and receiver would make for a successful year.
5. So much draft focus often goes to the first few rounds, but is there something you’d like to see your team do in the later rounds?
Plan for the future. One of the Browns biggest struggles has been continuity. With so much turnover the Browns have struggled laying a foundation. Last year they did this with Pierre Desir and with undrafted free agents Taylor Gabriel, Isaiah Crowell and K’Waun Williams. Planning for a year or two down the road when players will need replaced due to free agency or age/decline is what the later rounds are for.
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