Not MOCKing Anyone… Seriously, We’re Not!

Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t watch much college sports. Because of this, I never go into detail about the NFL draft and don’t have much insight into the draft other than what the media jams down all of our throats. Even though I don’t know much about the NFL draft, I have some friends that have opinions about this which are more well-formed than mine. So, our guest writer for this special draft post is Jon Pugh. Take it away Jon! – Bub

Someone told me that they heard Mary Kay Cabot say the Browns are drafting all 3 of these guys with the #4 pick.

Mary Kay Cabot thinks the Browns are drafting all 3 of these guys with the #4 pick.

Let me lead off by stating my qualifications in doing my first Browns-only mock draft: I have none. I’m walking into this exercise wearing my GM hat, responding mostly to the aspects of the team that have made me cringe over the past few years. And, while I can’t do things like bring back Chudzinski and Turner, resign D’Qwell Jackson, get rid of Craig Robertson and hide the body, or raise Al Lerner from the dead, I can take a look at the current roster and make it better with key investments in this year’s draft. It’s a deep draft and, truth be told, the Browns don’t have many holes to fill. With that said, here are my priorities:

WR. This is a no-brainer – the only question is whether Sammy Watkins will be available at #4. But, pairing Watkins or Mike Evans with Josh Gordon is my first objective.

DB. Donte Whitner and Joe Haden will do a great job shutting down one side of the field in 2014. Gipson and Skrine are not getting it done on the other side. Thus, we’ll be looking hard at adding a corner late in the first or early in the second, as well as a safety in the middle rounds. Picking up a nickel will be a bonus, as well.

OL. Specifically, I want to upgrade the interior line at either guard position. There’s one guy worth taking and we’re going to get him with a slight reach.

ILB. Karlos Dansby would have completed the front seven for this team, had D’Qwell Jackson not been released unceremoniously before his addition. Instead, the team decided it couldn’t go a full off-season without making at least one move to remind the fans they’re still the same old Browns and promptly resigned Craig Robertson. We’re going to replace him with my favorite player in this draft and make sure he spends this season wearing shirts that have his first name on the front (he’d better be quick with a mop.)

Here we go!

First Round, Pick #4 Overall

Possible available players:

Jadeveon Clowney (DE), Kahlil Mack (OLB), Sammy Watkins (WR), Greg Robinson (OT), Jake Matthews (OT), Taylor Lewan (OT), Mike Evans (WR), Aaron Donald (DT)

If I were the GM:

Ultimately, because Watkins is off the board here, I take Mike Evans at six after a trade with Atlanta.

Cyrus Jones sniffing Mike Evans' fingers on a dare.

Cyrus Jones sniffing Mike Evans’ fingers on a dare.

The Browns’ first selection is borderline unpredictable, but only because there is all manner of insanity that could unfold at the top of the draft. The first three picks are trade bait for certain, but even without a trade, all three teams drafting ahead of the Browns will be wrestling with drafting for need vs. drafting the best available player. Houston could command a king’s ransom for its top pick and likely takers include Atlanta or Minnesota, who both covet a pass rusher. The most realistic outcome is that Houston takes a pass rusher – and at this point, you can’t fault anyone for taking either Clowney or Mack – and forces the other down the ladder. I believe Watkins and Robinson will go next in either order, which would leave the Browns in a position to take the best available player (Mack or Clowney.) The problem is that the Browns defense is pretty good and Clowney doesn’t fit at DE, while Mack doesn’t have a spot with Kruger, Sheard and Mingo on the outside. If the Browns think Mack could be the next Ray Lewis, he could move inside.

But, we’re looking at the game plan that every Browns fan has scrutinized this entire off-season: pairing another top-flight receiver with Josh Gordon. The trouble is that St. Louis has most likely selected Watkins at this point and Mike Evans is a reach here. Depending on what happened with Houston’s first pick (did anyone bite on a trade?) the Browns could demand the first-born sons of Atlanta or Minnesota. Since that is in direct violation of several bylaws in the NFL constitution, they will instead ask to swap first rounders, pick up a second rounder and also seek a first or second round pick in next year’s draft. I’m going to guess Atlanta bites in order to leapfrog Oakland and take the DL of its choosing. That gives the Browns picks 6 and 37. With number six, they take Mike Evans.

What I think they will do:

If Watkins is available, Watkins is the pick. Otherwise, there will be a trade.

 

First Round, Pick #26 Overall

Possible available players:

Teddy Bridgewater (QB), Jason Verrett (CB), Calvin Pryor (S), Brandin Cooks (WR), Marqise Lee (WR), Xavier Su’a-Filo (G)

If I were the GM:

Su’a-Filo.

The Browns have already selected their wide receiver, so they should turn their attention to their offensive line and defensive secondary. People will disagree with me here, but if

Su’a-Filo helping a defender snap his chin strap back on.

Su’a-Filo helping a defender snap his chin strap back on.

I’m looking to get the most out of this draft in my first year as GM, I see tremendous value in putting a top-end corner across the field from Joe Haden. With Haden and Whitner on one side of the field, you’re forcing the passing action in the other direction. If I add a starter at corner, the only open spot for the quarterbacks in the AFC North will be up the seam (which we’ll address later.) Thus, Verrett, ranked 24th overall (depending on where you look) makes a lot of sense here. There are two problems, though – Verrett is likely to be gone at this point and you get more ROI by taking Su’a-Filo here. There is a huge drop-off from him to the next best guard (which is a position of need) and not as much between Verrett and Bradley Roby (who should be available early in the second.)

I guess I should talk about quarterbacks for a moment. Starting around pick 16, give or take three, quarterbacks will be going off the board. Whether you believe the stories ESPN has forced down your throat about Blake Bortles being a long-term answer, or you think Jerryworld is a perfect fit for Johnny Football, the only reasonable quarterback selection for the Browns at 26 is Bridgewater. To be honest, I would not fault them for going that direction, but I happen to think Hoyer is a long-term answer and that next year’s QB class is far superior to this year’s. I’d hold out for Winston, Hundley or someone similar, rather than throw a first rounder at a QB in 2014. I also have more faith in AJ McCarron and Derek Carr and believe they’ll be available at #71 in the third round, which provides more value if the Browns are looking at a backup for Hoyer.

What I think they’ll do:

Bridgewater.

He won’t have to start right away, which is good for him, because he’ll be able to accumulate some savings before his ACLs and confidence take hits at the hands of every AFC North defense. Not a bad pick, especially as your second of the first round.

 

Second Round, Pick #35 Overall:

Possible available players:

Bradley Roby (CB), Tom Savage (QB), Chris Borland (ILB), Jimmie Ward (S)

If I were the GM:

Roby, then Ward.

I love Chris Borland. He’s actually my favorite player in the draft, for several reasons. But, Roby is a steal at this point and, thanks to the savvy trade with Atlanta in the first round.

"Trust me, I do this all the time. Your spine will be perfectly aligned afterward... just relax!"

“Trust me, I do this all the time. Your spine will be perfectly aligned afterward… just relax!” – Bradley Roby

I can take a look at Borland at 37. Roby is the pick for reasons mentioned previously – he fills a huge hole at corner, opposite Haden. He’s an upgrade from Buster Skrine, who admittedly improved over the season last year, but is still not the answer for a championship-caliber defense. With Haden – Whitner – Roby in the secondary, the opponent’s only option is throwing up the seam at the free safety (and again, we’ll address that later.)

What I think they’ll do:

I think the Browns will take the best available DB with this pick. It fills a need and brings back huge value for this spot. If I were not convinced they’ll look hard at Bridgewater with the 26th pick, you could make a case for Carr here, but I think that’s a reach.

 

Second Round, Pick #37 Overall (via trade with ATL):

Possible available players:

Chris Borland (ILB), Tom Savage (QB), Jimmie Ward (S), Cyrus Kouandjio (OT)

If I were the GM:

Borland.

Borland makes some amazing scrambled brains!

Borland makes some amazing scrambled brains!

Borland is the best inside linebacker in this draft. I prefer him over Mosley, due to his instincts. Mosley will be a playmaker at the next level, but that’s not what the Browns need at linebacker. Believe me, I know that sounds crazy, but Kruger, Mingo and Dansby are going to make things happen in the front seven. They will rush the passer, rack up tackles for loss and force fumbles. They’ll tip passes at the line. They will create havoc. But, Borland gives them balance – a good coverage backer with great instincts and textbook tackling ability. He’ll fill gaps, chase players into the flats and spy quarterbacks. He’ll hedge the defensive bets placed by the rest of the guys in the box.

This is a tricky pick, because Ward provides the most value if you compare player rankings. The problem is that there should be a player available in round three that the Browns can plug-in at safety, while Borland will not last until the next pick at 71. He’s a day one starter for most teams in the draft. One of the mysteries of the off-season, if you’re a Browns fan, is the release of D’Qwell Jackson at ILB and the resigning of Craig Robertson. Jackson has led the Browns in tackles every year he’s played, while Robertson looks like a mirage on defense. People physically pass through him. If drafting an ILB this year is not in the cards for the Browns, I don’t know anything about football (and I may not.)

What I think they’ll do:

Kouandjio.

This is not a bad pick. He was a top-tier OT coming out of high school and he played for a national championship Alabama team, which faced every pass rush the SEC had to offer. He’s not as far along as we would have expected after playing for Saban, but he’s a great right tackle. The question is whether or not the Browns will quit on Mitchell Schwartz so soon. There are those who insist the real question is whether Schwartz has quit on the Browns already, however.

 

Third Round, Pick #71 Overall:

Possible available players:

Tre Mason (RB), Antone Exum (CB/S), AJ McCarron (QB), Derek Carr (QB), Dri Archer (RB)

If I were the GM:

AJ McCarron. And I don’t think twice about it.

This is not AJ McCarron... you're welcome.

This is not AJ McCarron… you’re welcome.

You’re drafting a backup. Hoyer is the starter. I don’t know why people forget this. He got hurt. He didn’t have a Derek Anderson level implosion. I think the free safety is of higher importance here, but the guy I’m targeting at safety (Exum) is actually listed as a corner right now and, even though I’m not the smartest guy in the room, I have to believe I can fleece at least a few teams by grabbing him later and converting him to fit the final hole in my defense.

(Side note: in my mind, I’ve had my eye on Dri Archer for the third round all along. I was surprised to find that Mason was actually in range for this spot, from a rankings perspective. I don’t think he’ll actually be here, but he’d require a hard look from a team looking to build depth and versatility on offense.)

The pick is McCarron, though, so let’s consider what he brings to Cleveland: a strong and accurate arm, a couple of titles, experience in a pro-style offense and the hunger to succeed that you’ll only find in a man who knows he’ll need to support the lavish lifestyle of a bombshell supermodel girlfriend. He’s going to prepare to play. He’s going to play to win. You’re getting him in the third round while all the talking heads are wondering how Derek Carr could have fallen this far. If I’m the GM, I’m being excoriated by Mel Kiper for this pick, but that’s fine – I’ve blown his predictions apart at every step of this draft so far. New day. New Browns.

What I think they’ll do:

Mason.

You beef up the backfield with this pick, which again, is not bad. I don’t think it’s ideal, mainly because Archer will be there for you in the 4th round and he’s the bigger home run threat. But, Mason will run and catch for you, as well as return kicks, and with all of the value they’ve gotten thus far, they’re in a mode to take the best player available.

 

Third Round, Pick #83 Overall:

Possible available players:

Kareem Martin (DE), Brandon Thomas (G), Russell Bodine (C), Dri Archer (RB),  Antone Exum (CB/S)

If I were the GM:

Dri Archer.

Dri Archer gives me poor body image.

Dri Archer gives me poor body image.

This is tough, because I love Archer and I think he can score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. He’s a great complement to Ben Tate and a perfect insurance policy if Dion Lewis can’t stay on the field. Like Mason, he’ll run, catch and return. He’s fast, quick, strong and determined. Plus, he’s a hometown hero. However, I watched Martin and Bodine at UNC and think they will both be starting in 2-3 years, no matter where they end up. The questions you have to ask yourself are a) is Martin willing to sacrifice some of the production behind the line of scrimmage in order to eat up blockers for the better pass rushers on the team and b) can Bodine play guard? I think betting on Archer to produce earlier and more consistently is a safer gamble.

I wish I could move back with this pick, because this is a slight reach, but I don’t think he’ll be there at 106.

What I think they’ll do:

Bodine.

Bodine is a good interior blocker that will fill out the right side of the line with Kouandjio for several years at most and provide depth behind Pinkston at least.

 

Fourth Round, Pick #106 Overall:

Possible available players:

Cyril Richardson (G), Antone Exum (CB/S), De’Anthony Thomas (RB), Aaron Murray (QB)

If I were the GM:

Antone Exum.

Has anyone checked Antone Exum's head for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

Has anyone checked Antone Exum’s head for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

Woo hoo! While Chris Borland is my favorite player in the draft, Exum is my favorite pick in the draft. Why? He has corner skills and safety size. He tracks the ball and hits you hard. He played defense for Virginia Tech. Now, he has a history of Gary Baxter-type knee problems, but I don’t care at 106. I’m willing to give this kid a shot to be my answer at free safety and, if he’s healthy, he’ll start right away. He was the guy people were talking about at VT before he got hurt and Kyle Fuller took over. He’s a steal here, especially if you move him to safety.

What I think they’ll do:

Richardson.

If you’re following at home, the Browns have fictitiously drafted a tackle and two guards in the later rounds. You build dynasties on both sides of the line and this approach keeps your new starting QB clean, with time to throw to your newly upgraded receiving corps.

 

Fourth Round, Pick #127 Overall:

Possible available players:

Ross Cockrell (CB), Zach Kerr (DT), David Yankey (G), Zach Mettenberger (QB)

If I were the GM:

Ross Cockrell loves hugging it out.

Ross Cockrell loves hugging it out.

Cockrell.

Cockrell can step in and start at nickel right away. He’s an all-ACC corner and a four-year starter from a Duke defense that improved every year under the tutelage of several different defensive coordinators. To me, that says he can lead, he is coachable and he can adapt to his surroundings. He has good size at 6’0 and 191 lbs., but doesn’t boast the speed you would want out of a starting corner on either side. He’ll take away the underneath routes, deliver hits and step up in run support. Plus, guys will just enjoy having him around. True value pick here, as the Browns have plugged every other hole by now.

What I think they’ll do:

Mettenberger.

Zach Kerr is an interesting choice. He’s a huge defensive tackle that they’d put anywhere on the defensive line to build depth. But, Mettenberger has the biggest arm in the draft and looks good behind Hoyer and Bridgewater. If they go with anyone but Cockrell (or a similar DB), they won’t walk away with a starter, but this late in the draft, who cares?

I don’t care to look past pick 127 for the Browns, but the best value in the 5th round would be Lache Seastrunk at RB. Once you get past there, you’re talking speed and versatility in whatever shape you find it.

Still not AJ McCarron.

Still not AJ McCarron.

So, how did I do as a first year GM? I traded back from #4 and picked two day-one starters (Mike Evans at WR and Chris Borland at ILB.) I grabbed the best interior OL in the draft with Xavier Su’a-Filo (another starter) and I brought in two kids from the neighborhood (Roby, a starter at CB and Archer, who provides the all-world speed and versatility I just mentioned.) I also brought the team its beloved annual rookie quarterback in AJ McCarron. The difference with this one, though, is that he has no pressure to perform this year, I didn’t waste a high pick on him and we all get to start following Katherine Webb on Twitter in a not-so-pervy way. Finally, I found a starter at free safety in the fourth round (Exum) and an upgrade at nickel (Cockrell.)

Any year you can walk away from a draft with five starters, two additional game-changers who will see action in every game and a low risk/high reward quarterback, you have to be satisfied. Do I think they’ll follow my advice, or even read this post, or ever know that I exist? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking I know better than anyone in that organization (remember, qualifications: none.) Enjoy the draft.

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