Like the Bengals with the pick before them, the Browns will be making their second selection of the first round when they choose at number 22 in the upcoming NFL draft, assuming the team stands pat with it’s current list of selections—a big if.
Cleveland’s pick at number four is considered to be “pivot point” of the top portion of the NFL draft, and I’m not so sure that pick number 22 isn’t a different sort of pivot point itself.
Recent history suggests an early run on quarterbacks, with the most likely high-riser being Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M (as a matter of fact, the Browns are amongst his likeliest destinations). After him, however, there’s a sufficient gap before the conversation begins on drafting the next quarterback.
And it begins at pick 22.
Should Cleveland bypass Tannehill at four, or should he be gone by pick 3, there’s legitimate reason to believe the Browns will make an investment in a quarterback at 22. Colt McCoy continues to be average as a starter, and his arm strength is simply too poor to make the necessary throws to the perimeter of the field. That’s something more difficult to groom or teach than, say, footwork, so the Browns could do well to examine the available crop of quarterbacks at pick 22.
Now the question: will they?
Who they will draft: Mike Adams, offensive tackle, Ohio State. The Browns released Tony Pashos earlier this offseason, creating a void at right tackle that Adams could immediately fill. Cleveland has two established chips along the offensive line in center Alex Mack and All-World left tackle Joe Thomas, and adding Adams would help solidify the group that has holes elsewhere. He’s a powerful guy with a massive frame, and projects better as a right tackle than left, making Cleveland a natural landing spot.
Who they should draft: Brandon Weeden, quarterback, Oklahoma State. Yes, he’s 28, and yes, he’s still got plenty of time to succeed in the NFL. Weeden is the third best quarterback prospect in my eyes for this draft, trailing only Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Understandably, however, he’ll fall below Ryan Tannehill because of his age (although it’s worth noting that Weeden beat each of these guys head-to-head in 2011). Weeden has razor sharp accuracy, NFL arm strength, and the poise and maturity to assume a leadership role in Cleveland. It’s not unreasonable to assume he could start till he’s 36, and would you consider eight years worthy of a first round investment? I would.
Who they could draft: Kendall Wright, wide receiver, Baylor. Although I think Wright should go to Cincinnati at pick 21, the likelihood remains that he’ll be around for Cleveland to take at 22. The Browns are desperate for receiving help, and Wright is an ideal option to take over in the slot, an area where Cleveland is short on talent right now. He’s a polished route runner, a really solid red zone target, and has the quickness needed to beat press coverage. His speed has been questioned, but the kid played insanely fast. That’s what matters.
Who they shouldn’t take: Stephen Hill, wide receiver, Georgia Tech. It’s hard to argue with the notion of the Browns picking any receiver in the first round, but Hill is a little bit too much of a project for my liking. He’s raw and physical and loaded with potential, but Cleveland needs more of a certainty for their roster. Beyond that, the Browns don’t currently have a quarterback that can throw the football down the field and run a West Coast offense catered to a short-to-medium distance route tree. Rather than swinging for the fences with a guy like Hill, Cleveland ought to have a shot at a surer thing with one of the aforementioned prospects.