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Cleveland Browns NFL draft first round preview

Posted May 8, 2014

Analyzing who the Browns might take.

There are NFL drafts. And then there are days that change the outlook of an NFL franchise forever.

May 8th, 2014 falls into the latter category for the Cleveland Browns.

Under the guidance of general manager Ray Farmer, the Browns have drastically altered their roster’s appearance, adding leadership, wisdom and competition. The arrival of Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, Nate Burleson, Ben Tate and Andrew Hawkins has shown the rest of the NFL that Cleveland is a place where shrewd veterans want to call home.

Now the focus shifts to the Browns draft room in Berea, which will be one of the pivotal locations of Thursday’s draft.

Farmer and coach Mike Pettine have been clear that they will be adding the best players possible – regardless of position – to create the utmost competition for their football team. Armed with two first round selections and 10 picks in total, the Browns have a chance to walk away with a king’s ransom, if they player their cards right.

Recent teams have used double first round picks to not just bolster the roster, but to move their organization into the upper echelon of the NFL hierarchy.

The Seattle Seahawks walked away with left tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas in 2010. Linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle B.J. Raji were both nabbed in the first round of the 2009 draft, each helping the Packers defense to a Super Bowl win. In 2008 the Atlanta Falcons added quarterback Matt Ryan and tackle Sam Baker.

The following are some projections into who the Browns will look at with their respective picks. But let’s remember this about the 2014 draft: the value of picks 10-20 in this draft may be at all-time high. Some analysts are projecting we see a record amount of trades tonight. Don’t be surprised if the Browns are moving and shaking things up on Thursday.  

Pick No. 4

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Quick take: While he will have to compete for the starting job, pairing Watkins with Josh Gordon automatically puts the Browns in the discussion for most explosive receiving tandem in the NFL. Watkins would even free up more space for Pro Bowler Jordan Cameron.

Other teams rumored to be interested: Rams, Jaguars, Lions, Bills.

Odds that he’s there: 54 percent

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Quick take: Robinson would likely be asked to play right tackle, and immediately bolsters the Browns run heavy offense.

Other teams rumored to be interested: Rams

Odds that he’s there: 39 percent

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Quick take: Johnny Football is quite possibly the most polarizing draft prospect ever. A Jay Glazer report says adamantly that the Browns won’t take the quarterback with the fourth pick – but don’t rule out a trade down. Manziel in Cleveland would put pressure on the team to win now. Isn’t that exactly what everyone wants?

Other teams rumored to be interested: Texans, Rams, Jaguars, Raiders, Buccaneers, Vikings, Cowboys

Odds that he’s there: 86 percent

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Quick take: He has all-pro written all over him in the right scheme. There are rumors of an RGIII-like trade to go up and get Clowney.

Other teams rumored to be interested: Texans, Rams, Jaguars, Falcons

Odds that he’s there: 8 percent

Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Quick take: Some argue Mack is the more complete than Clowney. His ability to make plays in coverage and disrupt the backfield on a more consistent basis should keep him in the top five.

Other teams rumored to be interested: Rams, Jaguars, Falcons, Vikings

Odds he’s there: 72 percent

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Quick take: He’s enormous with 6-foot-5 size and routinely embarrassed the vaunted defenses of the SEC. Many teams are interested in trading up for his services.

Other teams rumored to be interested: Jaguars, Raiders, Buccaneers, Vikings, Bills, Jets

Odds he’s there: 88 percent

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Quick take: Had the semi-impossible job of protecting Manziel’s blindside in the SEC, and did a pretty dang good job of it.

Other teams rumored to be interested: Rams, Raiders, Falcons, Bills

Odds he’s there: 90 percent

Pick No. 26

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Quick take: Plays much bigger than his 6-foot, 190 pound frame. Scouts rave about his knack for always being around the ball.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Quick take: Cooks is a yards-after-catch beast and would likely be a starter from day-one. Plus, GM’s are calling him the best kid in the draft.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Quick take: We may look back at the 2014 draft and shake our heads at why Bridgewater fell down so many draft boards. If he’s still available at 26, and the Browns haven’t picked a quarterback, it’ll be tough to pass him up.

Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Quick take: Bortles has an immense upside going for him: his 6-foot-5 size looks the part of a franchise quarterback. Questions remain if he’ll blossom into a 10-year starter, but his mobility would work nice with the Browns new offense.

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Quick take: There are no questions about his arm, his 6-foot-2 size or his athletic ability. Carr was ineffective against the blitz in college and will have to work to unfairly shed the label of sharing his last name with older brother David.

Jason Verett, CB, TCU

Quick take: The only thing hurting Verett’s stock is his size. He’s excellent in man-to-man coverage, he’s an aggressive playmaker and he ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard-dash.

Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Quick take: A physical corner, Roby will have no problem tackling the bigger receivers in the NFL. Some inconsistent play in 2013 pushed his value to the late first round, meaning Roby could be a steal.

Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California

Quick take: If he came out in 2013, Lee is likely a top-10 pick. His NFL-ready route running ability and pure speed make him intriguing at 26.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

Quick take: Hyde definitely has first round talent, but the market for running backs is depressed in the 2014 world of the NFL. Hyde is a 230-pound bruiser and displayed some speed when cutting the edge in college.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Quick take: Benjamin has the most boom-or-bust potential out of the 2014 wide receiver class. He possesses humongous hands, a 6-foot-5, 235 build and speed fast enough to be a deep threat. With the right team he could be dancing in the end zone quite frequently.

Other names to consider: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA; Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana; Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU; Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia; Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State; Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois.

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