The Cleveland Browns have potentially more needs than any other team I have seen since I started covering the NFL Draft. How will they address them in ’17?
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Oct 30, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (11) runs the ball for a first down against New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
When looking at the Cleveland Browns for 2017 and beyond, where do we even begin? This team has as many or more needs than I can ever remember a team having in my short time covering the NFL Draft.
This is not a team completely devoid of talent, certainly not money either. They will have among the most cap space in the league thanks to all the youth on this roster and the lack of spending on the free agent market in 2016 to attempt to accumulate compensatory draft picks.
The Browns — as cliche as it has become to even say — have taken a ‘Moneyball’ approach to rebuilding the franchise, and so far, they have managed to get a face of the franchise in Terrelle Pryor, and potentially a cornerstone piece for the defense in Jamie Collins.
And they gave up basically nothing to get either one of them.
Collins was acquired in a shocking pre-trade deadline deal from the Patriots for a conditional compensatory pick, and currently, the Browns are not projected a compensatory pick until the fourth round.
Moving forward, this Browns team has some really interesting pieces but this is such a young team. They need to continue to add as much talent as they possibly can, and that strategy has been obvious. They are currently the only team in the NFL with two first round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, and they also have two picks (likely) in the top half of the second round.
This is a team that should be getting a lot better, and I’m going to try and make that happen with a three-round mock draft.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) on the field against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps this is a hot take, but if I’m an NFL team, there is no player in college football I would rather have right now than Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. As I have stated on this site before, I think Peppers is unquestionably the best player eligible for the draft. He can help your team in so many ways, and has superstar written all over him.
His progression as a playmaker offensively, around the line of scrimmage, and in the defensive backfield is absolutely remarkable.
With Jamie Collins already in the fold, the Browns can add a second player that I believe could walk into the NFL right now and be among the best players at whatever position he’s given. This is a guy that will be high impact right away for the Browns, and while there are other candidates for the pick that they’d consider, this is the direction I would go to start things off, even with the top pick in the draft.
**Pick acquired from Philadelphia (Carson Wentz trade)
Oct 22, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) in action against the Oregon State Beavers during the first quarter at Husky Stadium. Washington won 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns have invested a lot in their defensive front seven over the last couple of years, and as that talent continues to develop, I like the thought of doubling up and creating one of the top young pass defenses in the league, and here you get one of the country’s best cornerbacks.
Sidney Jones has developed into one of the best pure cover corners in the country right now, and along with Jabrill Peppers, he would provide Cleveland with a very nice duo of budding stars in their secondary.
Not to mention, when you add players like Peppers and Jones, you are adding two leaders and stars from two of the best defenses in all of college football. That’s the kind of culture change the Browns need, so getting these two guys in the first round would be a huge haul.
Nov 5, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles tackle Roderick Johnson (77) blocks against North Carolina State Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb (9) during the second half at Carter Finley Stadium. Florida State won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Offensive Tackle, Florida State
The Browns have an obvious need at right tackle after losing Mitchell Schwartz, so I think they’ll use one of their top three picks on that position. Johnson has been an All-American caliber performer for the Seminoles, and an All-ACC selection with great size and the ability to take over at left tackle if/when Joe Thomas is ever moved or retires.
This is also important because after three selections, I’ve still not selected a quarterback for the Browns, and there are reasons for that. I think the team likes Cody Kessler more than anyone is willing to admit. That was evidenced by the fact that they took him at least two rounds higher than anyone thought he was going to go.
I have to be honest — what I’ve seen from Kessler is better than I would have expected to see. The Browns also have Robert Griffin III in the second year of his two-year contract. I don’t know how that is all going to play out over the course of the next few months, but it is worth watching.
Defensive Line, Michigan
**Pick acquired from Tennessee
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive end Chris Wormley (43) rushes as Michigan State Spartans offensive lineman Miguel Machado (55) defends during the first half at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns here dip back into the pool of Michigan defenders and get a long, athletic defenisve lineman in Chis Wormley that can line up in a variety of spots and play a number of positions for this defense.
After 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks as a junior, Wormley has again been a key piece of the Michigan defense with 5.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and two blocked kicks as a senior.
Nov 5, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers tight end Jordan Leggett (16) carries the ball during the second quarter against the Syracuse Orange at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Tight End, Clemson
The Browns have a very good tight end in Gary Barnidge, but he’s not getting younger and there’s not a lot behind him. Leggett has been a consistent playmaker for the Tigers’ offensive attack, and at 6-4, 258 pounds, he has NFL ready size to contribute to this Browns passing attack immediately.
This could be a high upside pick in the third round, giving the Browns a player that has been compared by some to Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins. Leggett didn’t have the greatest reputation his first couple of years on campus at Clemson, but has turned it around and has 13 touchdowns at the time of this writing over the last two seasons.
He would be a nice addition to a Cleveland passing attack that has a ton of intriguing weapons at wide receiver.