The Cleveland Browns either are destined to forever fail or their musical chairs at head coach and in the front office might finally pay off. Everyone in Cleveland should be crossing their fingers, though, at the very least.
Josh Gordon busted out in a big way in 2013 and the Browns have a ton of talent and potential on defense. They still have holes on that side of the ball, though, and also need a quarterback, running back and another wide receiver. They need to get to work.
With that said, let’s nail down some specifics as we prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft, rolling through the Cleveland Browns draft needs:
Offensive needs: QB, RB, WR
Brian Hoyers is all Cleveland has under center right now. While he’s not the worst bridge starter in the world, he’s not the answer. Obviously the Browns are drafting a franchise passer this year, but no one knows who or when. With two picks in the first round, it’s highly likely Cleveland uses one on a quarterback. If they go for the splash early, it’s probably going to be Johnny Manziel, who could be just the electric shock this franchise needs. If they wait, the pick will likely come down to Derek Carr or Zach Mettenberger, although Teddy Bridgewater can’t be ruled out if he tumbles like he’s expected to.
Running back is a major need on offense, but it’s pretty likely this is a second round move. After all, the Browns traded away former first round pick Trent Richardson for the second of their two first round picks they now have. It wouldn’t make all that much sense to turn right around and go get another running back. Instead, they’ll probably wait until their third pick in the second round, where homegrown product Carlos Hyde should still be available. If he’s not there, they could opt for Tre Mason or Jeremy Hill.
Wide receiver is a significant need, as well. Josh Gordon has been a revelation, but the team cut ties with slot receiver Davone Bess and Greg Little is terrible. It’s time to find a new number two to help maximize Gordon’s abilities. Sammy Watkins is a popular pick at 4th overall if Cleveland goes that route. If they go quarterback with their first pick, they could wait and just snatch up someone like Brandin Cooks or Odell Beckham later in the first round. Wide receiver is pretty deep, though, so if the Browns wanted to wait even longer, they might still be able to find a speedster like Paul Richardson as late as round three.
Cleveland should also look to beef up their depth on the offensive line, but the other three main positions are clearly bigger needs at the moment.
Defensive needs: CB, ILB, S
Quick, name Cleveland’s other starting cornerback not named Joe Haden. That’s what I thought. Some might know who Buster Skrine is, but he’s a moderate talent that can surely be upgraded upon in this draft. Cleveland could go there with their second first round or early in round two. Either way, the likes of Kyle Fuller, Jason Varrett and Bradley Roby should be considered.
Karlos Dansby is actually an upgrade on the departed D’Qwell Jackson, but he’s not a young pup and the Browns also need another inside linebacker. It’d be wise to bring in some extra help for competition, even if they planned on promoting from within. Wisconsin’s Chris Borland or Stanford’s Shayne Skov would be nice considerations in the third round, although Borland is likely to be gone by the end of round two.
Donte Whitner should lock down one safety spot for now, but the Browns could still address the other. They probably don’t need to look for one early, but they still could pounce on one in the second or third round. If they do, someone like Dion Bailey or LaMarcus Joyner could make some sense. Ty Zimmerman could be a bargain in the third or fourth round, as well.
The Browns seem good to go with their pass rush, but they could always add a depth piece for their rotation, as well. Overall, they’re set on defense and should get even better. They simply need to find a franchise quarterback and a running back to step up when Ben Tate eventually gets injured. If they can make these key improvements, they should start showing major progress in 2014.
*Photo Credit – dafactor1 via Flickr