2016 NFL Draft: The Cleveland Browns’ Best Direction
At some point, the Cleveland Browns have to figure it out. Or at least, Jimmy Haslam has to. The Browns have become a dysfunctional organization under Haslam’s guidance. They have cycled through coaches quicker than any franchise as of late, making it impossible for the team to naturally develop over time
That is why it was such a surprise that Hue Jackson wound up there.
Jackson appeared to be the top head coaching candidate this offseason. He should have been able to command interest from a variety of suitors before picking his preferred spot. For that spot to be Cleveland, he would had to have received assurances of patience from Haslam. Those assurances may not mean much the further we depart from them, but the Browns have no choice but to prioritize the long term. The roster isn’t built for an instant rebound.
Even though Jackson is an intelligent coach who set up the Cincinnati Bengals for great success last season, his coaching and appreciation of schemes that work to his quarterback’s skill set can only do so much. The Browns don’t have anywhere close to the level of talent that the 2015 Bengals offense did.
Adding weapons to the offensive side of the ball should be a priority in this draft. The Browns can’t go into another season with Brian Hartline as a starter and Taylor Gabriel or Marlon Moore playing a significant role. Josh Gordon’s return would help a lot, but that remains an uncertainty at the time of writing.
The quarterback question is an obvious one, but not one the Browns should address surpassed the addition of Robert Griffin III. Griffin can’t be expected to be the long-term starter at this point, but he should be the starter for 2015 with the hope that he can re-establish himself as a quality starter. He is just as likely to do that as either of the top quarterback options in this year’s class are.
What makes this difficult for the Browns is the lack of marquee options at the top of the draft. The best offensive player is a tackle, a great one who could provide huge value as a right tackle across from Joe Thomas, but a tackle nonetheless. Laremy Tunsil wouldn’t have as big of an impact in Cleveland as he would have in Tennessee. He could still dramatically improve the offense, but the Browns should have a good offensive line without him. Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio offer a foundation on the left side, while Cam Erving should be expected to improve in his second season and with a move to his more natural position at center.
Not considering a quarterback puts the Browns in a straight-forward spot. Take the highest graded defender on the board or trade down.
Adding a Jalen Ramsey or Myles Jack would give the Browns a legit star prospect to put behind Danny Shelton in the spine of their defense. From there it would be about coaching to see if the Browns could begin to develop those players before adding more talent over the next few years. Talking about trades is always difficult because you don’t know what options will be available to each team. For the Browns, dropping back as far as 10 spots could make sense because the best receiver in this class, Josh Doctson, isn’t generally being discussed as a top-10 pick.
Doctson would give the team a legitimate number one receiver, someone Griffin could lean on for big plays, regardless of whether Gordon is reinstated or not.
It’s not a great position for the Browns to be in. Without an Amari Cooper or even a Kevin White their immediate future on offense looks like it will continue to be bleak. Presuming they pick a defender at the top of the first round, a receiver such as Will Fuller, a specialist who would perfectly fit with Griffin’s deep precision, or Braxton Miller, an upside option who will need time invested in his development, is most likely to still be available atop the second round. What does help the Browns is that they shouldn’t feel compelled to force a receiver at that spot.
The Browns should have the luxury of passing on players at greater positions of need for players who should help them more over the long term. They should, though the threat of Jimmy Haslam looms large.