Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel
The many twists and turns of what analysts have to say about quarterbacks in the NFL Draft have been as dizzying as a Johnny Manziel scramble.
And, to a large degree, it is Manziel’s propensity for making plays with his feet that has created a massive divide in how the Quarterback Class of 2014 is viewed.
It’s pretty well down to being seen as either having a quarterback prospect worth taking in the top five (because you believe all that Manziel did to win a Heisman Trophy and establish himself as a mega-star at Texas A&M will translate well to the NFL) or not (because you think Manziel’s lack of size and improvisational tendencies will lead to his being injured and/or falling far short of the hype unlike any that has proceeded a player emerging from the college ranks in a long time).
Months ago, when the initial waves of draft opinions were formed and a fair amount didn’t view him as even a second-round choice, two other quarterbacks were mainly filling the elite-status void: Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom, at one time or another, wore the “Top Overall Pick” label.
Now, with the draft fast approaching, the Manziel discussion has reached epic proportions.
His rabid supporters (there are no other kind) are screaming for him to be the No. 1 pick of the Houston Texans (although that seems like a long shot) or to be taken no later than No. 4 by, of course, the Cleveland Browns.
Which leads to a potentially fascinating scenario facing first-year Browns general manager Ray Farmer when the fourth overall choice arrives – that every quarterback in the draft will be available.
It could happen. Some would go as far as to say it will happen, on the assumption that three non-quarterbacks (likely defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, offensive lineman Greg Robinson, or linebacker Khalil Mack) will be taken before the Browns are on the clock.
Given that quarterback is the Browns’ top need, it’s fair to wonder whether Farmer would feel even the least bit compelled to select one at that spot.
If he does, it would make a clear statement that the Browns have identified their franchise quarterback for many years to come. It would say that they intend to build their offense and entire team around him.
It Farmer doesn’t pick a quarterback at No. 4, it would tell us that the Browns intend to build the team the way coach Mike Pettine has strongly indicated it should be built: with a strong defense and a solid running game.
The quarterback position, in this model, wouldn’t be asked to do too much. It would be similar, if not identical, to what drove the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory in February.
And it could very well mean that the Browns are confident, or at least comfortable, with Brian Hoyer – who seems to have what it takes to manage the game efficiently and complement a defensive-oriented, run-first approach – as their starter for at least another year and probably longer.
Sure, the Browns could wait until No. 26 to grab a quarterback.
But will they get one they want? Are they taking a huge risk by passing on entire quarterbacking pool at No. 4 to choose from what would likely be a shallower one 22 spots later?
And if the Browns don’t take a quarterback there, it would seemingly mean they don’t believe there’s a genuine franchise player at the position in the draft. Third round or lower doesn’t scream “franchise quarterback,” even though it is quite possible to find one in that territory.
One way or another, we are going to learn plenty about how the Browns’ overall blueprint for success when it’s their turn to pick at No. 4.
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