Which need should the Browns go after first?
As the Browns ready themselves for the NFL Draft, they are in a position to go in a lot of different directions. Usually, free agency is winding down before the draft and the positions the team addresses in free agency gives a pretty good indication of what direction they will go in the draft.
With the lockout, currently, there is no free agency, so it's hard to know what will happen.
In my opinion, the Browns biggest need on defense is on the defensive line. Likewise, on offense, it is at wide receiver. Since no players have been added via free agency, you could throw a dart at the positions and the Browns could use help.
In my analysis, it appears there are really two potential game-changing wide receivers in A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
On the defensive line, it appears that there are as many as 10 top players in Marcel Dareus, Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn, J.J. Watt, DaQuan Bowers, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Heyward and Phillip Taylor.
Tom Heckert has to calculate if they take Green or Jones with the first pick whether they can still get one of the top defensive linemen with the first pick in the second round. In contrast, if they think they can get a receiver that can step in and be productive in later rounds.
I’m of the opinion to not take a wide receiver at the top of the first round because there are too many cases where that player doesn't pan out. I would much rather see the team sign an unrestricted free agent in free agency because you are able to sign a proven commodity and not have to go through the growing pains of a rookie receiver.
With that being said, defensive linemen are not guarantees either. The names Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren come to mind when thinking of defensive lineman.
If the Browns feel they can get a receiver later on, the Browns could draft a defensive lineman with their first two picks. As they make the transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3, they obviously, need impact players to make the new defensive scheme effective.
Even though I view the biggest needs being wide receiver and defensive line, I wouldn't be upset if the Browns take cornerback Patrick Peterson, if he's available. I think of the glory years when the Browns had Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon. If Joe Haden and Peterson were paired, that could be a pretty good combination for a long time.
In a perfect world, I think it would be a good year for the Browns to trade down a few spots, if they could get another top player that could step right in and contribute. However, the biggest trouble is getting a trade partner. Hopefully, a team that covets a player that is available when the Browns draft at six, will come up to get their player and the Browns will be able to get another blue-chip player with another high pick.
In summary, it all comes down to where the Browns view the positions are the deepest and the best way to address multiple needs.