2017 NFL Draft: 5 First-Round Options for the Cleveland Browns

With 11 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns will be very active but what are their options with their two first round picks?

The Cleveland Browns have been in a constant state of rebuilding ever since re-joining the NFL back in 1999 and, as they set their sights on the 2017 NFL Draft, that continues to be the case. Armed with 11 picks in the draft, they hope to finally find themselves building a winning tradition.

Cleveland owns the first overall pick as well as the 12th overall. With two premium selections they could find themselves some cornerstone players, or they could whiff entirely as they have done in the past. The most recent example of such a whiff was when the Browns ended up with the eighth and the 22nd overall selections in 2014. The players chosen were Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Both were colossal busts that were gone following the 2015 season.

It’s a sad story for a sad franchise. So sad that they are now nicknamed the “Factory of Sadness.” Armed with a ton of picks and money to spend in free agency though, there is finally a feeling that things could get better. In order to do so though, they cannot squander their first -ound picks—especially the first-overall selection. Here are five different players they could look at with those selections in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) celebrates his sack against Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) (not pictured)in the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

5. Myles Garrett, DE — Texas A&M

Let’s just get the most likely name out of the way. There is a lot of belief that the Cleveland Browns will just grab the best player available in the 2017 NFL Draft. That would be Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. The 6-5, 265-pound Garrett burst onto the scene as a freshman recording 11 sacks that season. He then had 11.5 the following season before ending his career with 8.5 in a season that saw him miss a few games.

Garrett has a great mixture of size and speed and should be able to help a defense from day one. In an interesting piece by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread, five different college offensive linemen discuss the challenges of going toe-to-toe with such a talented player. UCLA offensive tackle Conor McDermott said via Goodbread:

“He’s a great, versatile player, with speed and power off the edge. He’s one of a kind in college football. I wish I could have had him at the end of the season. It was the first game of the season and my technique was a little rusty, but I look forward to seeing him again in the future. It was a great experience.”

Perhaps the Browns would be happy taking Garrett, however this feels like a mistake to me. As bad as their defense was, their offense was worse and has been for years. The team doesn’t need a pass rusher to become a winner, they need a team leader and quarterback. This draft is heavy in edge rushers and, although the next best option after Garrett may be a dip in talent, they can’t have another season of Robert Griffin III at quarterback.

Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) in action during the game against the Western Michigan Broncos in the 2017 Cotton Bowl game at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers defeat the Broncos 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

4. Ryan Ramczyk, OT — Wisconsin

After deciding on a first pic —whether that be a quarterback or defensive end Myles Garrett—the Browns can then go several different directions. They have holes on both sides of the ball, including on their offensive line, even though that may not appear to be the case at first glance. With left tackle Joe Thomas still going strong, it may seem tackle is not a need, but the right tackle spot could use an upgrade.

One option for that position could be to use the 12th overall pick on Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramcyzk. At 6-6 and 314-pounds Ramcyzk has excellent size for the position and can serve as a starter right away on the right side. While he is strong enough to hold up there, he also has the athleticism and balance to eventually slide to the left side should Thomas start to decline now that he has been in the league for ten seasons.

Although the big tackle has been drawing a lot of attention at the combine early on, there is one glaring issue with him—he played just one season of major college ball. He sat out the 2015 season after transferring from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Then in 2016, he played his lone season for the Badgers.

What makes that concern seem like a moot point is the way Ramcyzk played. He was a force in Wisconsin and that’s saying something as the school constantly turns out solid offensive linemen. A pick like this wouldn’t be sexy, but it could pay dividends in the long run.

New York Jets

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. DeShaun Watson, QB — Clemson

This is the position the Browns need to address more than any other, and contrary to what many believe it is a must with the first overall pick. The Browns have been simply awful at quarterback for nearly 20 years now, and eventually they have to bite the bullet and just pick one with a premium top-five selection. Last season, they had the opportunity to select Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State second-overall and instead moved back and rolled with RG3 as their starter.

The Philadelphia Eagles selected Wentz and although he struggled at points, he gave the team some hope. They have hope for the future and they even had some hope during the 2016 season after a fast start by the rookie. The Browns on the other hand had one win. That’s all.

Now the question becomes who to take, and one option is Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson. The 6-3, 215-pound Watson is one thing that Cleveland needs, a winner. After leading Clemson to the National Championship Game following the 2015 season, he was able to repeat that success in 2016. The Tigers fell short in their first attempt, but then hoisted the trophy in Watson’s final game.

In three seasons he threw for 10,168 yards, 90 touchdowns (including a high of 41 in 2016) and 32 picks. Watson had an impressive completion percentage of 67.4 and added another 26 touchdowns rushing in his career. He doesn’t need to be the best overall player to go No. 1. Instead, if Cleveland thinks he is the best quarterback in this draft, he should be the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) makes a move on Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) after a catch during the fourth quarter in the 2016 CFP Semifinal at the Georgia Dome. Alabama defeated Washington 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

2. O.J. Howard, TE — Alabama

After again looking at who Cleveland could pick with the first-overall choice, we head back to an option with the 12th pick, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. The Bama player is by far the most complete tight end in the draft and was actually under-utilized by the Crimson Tide during his collegiate career.

As athletic and talented as Howard is, there seems to be one glaring question, does he have the desire to be great? After praising his skills, NFL.com draft expert Lance Zierlein said the “desire” and “football character” shown by Howard will decide his future.

He has elite athletic traits and raw talent, but must add polish to go along with those attributes. Should become substantially more productive as a pro, but the difference between “potential weapon” and “elite tight end” will likely be tied to his desire and overall football character.

In Cleveland he gives them an option to move the ball over the middle of the field. With deep threat Corey Coleman on one end—and Terrelle Pryor possibly on the other unless they lose him in free agency—a player like Howard can take safety help away and let those playmakers work. Of course, they need a quarterback to distribute the ball…which brings us back to pick No. 1.

Nov 5, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) scores a touchdown on his forth quarter run against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 48-20. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1. Mitch Trubisky, QB — North Carolina

NFL executives are weird. After apparently zeroing in on Myles Garrett all this time, the Browns may have changed course after one day and roughly a quarter of an inch. According to reports the Browns were sour on North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky because they believed he was under 6-2. Then he got measured up at the NFL Combine and, once they realized he was one-eighth of an inch over 6-2, they like him again. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com had this to say:

“The Browns are strongly considering drafting hometown boy Mitch Trubisky No. 1 overall, league sources tell cleveland.com. Trubisky, the Mentor, Ohio, native, checked off one of Hue Jackson’s major boxes Thursday when he measured 6-foot-2 1/8 at the NFL Combine.”

Apparently head coach Hue Jackson has some belief that this is the magic height to win in the NFL. Of course, players like Mike Vick were able to play despite being under that height. Oh, and Russell Wilson is a Super Bowl Champion, but isn’t even 6-0. But in Cleveland, they now believe that an eighth of an inch means the difference between first-overall pick and wasted selection.

That could be for the best. Perhaps they can have some dumb luck which forces them into taking a quarterback first overall. They could do worse than Trubisky—and you can see they have if you check out their roster—despite him only starting for one season at North Carolina.

One plus for Trubisky outside of his abilities is that he seems to be the one player actually lobbying the Browns to take him. The home town kid wants to go to Cleveland and make them a winner, whereas Myles Garrett and DeShaun Watson are busy begging the Cowboys to move up.

While Watson may be the more pro-ready player, Trubisky could potentially have a higher ceiling. Again, the smart move is to look at Watson and Trubisky and decide which player is better. That’s who should be the first-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Should Cleveland balk at this and go without a quarterback yet again, the sadness will continue to be produced in mass quantities.

This article originally appeared on