It’s almost Draft Day, which can mean only one thing for the Cleveland Browns. They’re going to draft a Quarterback with another high first round draft pick! With so many rumors swirling around who the Browns and the teams ahead of them will select, I think it’s a good idea that we look at what the Browns Draft Board probably look like.
*Note: This is my projected Browns Draft Board, not my personal opinion.
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel is rumored to be the Browns favorite to be their QB of choice in this draft. Especially with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s recent work history with Robert Griffin III, the speculation is likely only to increase as we draw nearer to draft day. Though opinions are certainly divided in the fan base about Johnny Football, there are a lot of things about him that should excite Browns fans. First, he’s a big personality. While Browns fans tend to like to see their blue collar, tough, quite work ethic emulated in our football players, don’t let Manziel’s larger-than-life personality fool you. He’s an incredibly tough kid. He’s played through a variety of injuries during his time at A&M, and those close to him (coaches and players) will give you an earful about just how good his work ethic and preparation are. He’s a good leader, has outstanding accuracy and can throw the ball a lot farther than you’d expect with his frame. He’s deadly with his legs, and can make guys miss. He doesn’t shy away from contact, which is something he’ll need to adjust if he wants to stay healthy at the next level, but that fearlessness is something that should him about as Anti-Weeden as they come. He’s not afraid to take shots down field, not afraid to run, and not afraid to take a hit. His size is often listed as a concern, but with the number of under-sized Quarterbacks having success in the NFL now, the point is nearly mute. Johnny Football would bring excitement and attention to the Browns franchise that it hasn’t seen since Jim Brown was on the field.
2. Blake Bortles, UCF
Blake Bortles is listed as higher on the overall NFL Big Board in most ratings than Johnny Manziel, but if Manziel is gone and Bortles is available, I’d be surprised if the Browns went another direction. Bortles is more the prototypical NFL mold of a Quarterback, with good size and frame. He’s shockingly athletic for a guy his size, and can pick up big chunks of yardage with his legs. He has a great sense of anticipation for the rush, and moves around to avoid the sack extremely well. Bortles has outstanding field vision and seems to read the entire field very well, with a quick set up and smooth release to make even off balanced throws well. Bortles is a very tough competitor that comes with a high football IQ, as well as a natural leadership and confidence that translates well. The only downsides he has are less than elite arm strengths, and a propensity to leading defensive backs with his eyes. He does take risks on some throws, and will need to adjust at the next level against elite defenders.
3. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater was rated for much of last season as the number one Quarterback draft prospect. In a lot of recent Mock Drafts, he’s slipped as far as number five in this draft. Most of the insecurity around him is centered on a lack of play time against elite defenses, but if you take that away and look only at his Quarterbacking skills, he still gives you a lot to like. He has probably the best demonstrated passing accuracy and touch of anyone in this draft class. He has great mechanics, a very balanced set up, and can make highly accurate throws even when moving. As opposed to Bortles, Bridgewater is extremely good at deceiving defenses with his eyes, and often gets defenders to bite on his body position, eyes and fakes. Teddy is very mature, has a high football IQ, and clearly loves the games. The concerns with him are around his lack of many defensive tests, his durability (particularly wrists and ankles), and some lack of mobility.
4. Derek Carr, Fresno State
Derek Carr would probably be a late first round, early second round selection for the Browns. If the big three QB’s are off the board at four, the Browns may elect to take Sammy Watkins and look for Carr at 26. He’s got a lot to like. He’s got a truly NFL sized arm, with elite arm strength and accuracy. He’s much more the traditional style pocket passer, though his athleticism is vastly underrated. He’s already capable of reading NFL level defenses, and does a great job making adjustments to coverage or read pressures at the line of scrimmage pre-snap. His drawbacks, and really the big reason he’s not a top 10 draft prospect, stem from flat showings against upper level college defenses. He tends to rush passes and overcompensate when facing pressure as well, which could leave teams leery in today’s pass rush dominated NFL.
5. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Jimmy Garoppolo is likely to be selected in the 3-4th round, and he may end up being the steal of this draft class. He’s smart, confident and a natural leader. He’s got very good accuracy and an ability to time throws extremely well. He’s calm, smooth and has a very short memory for bad throws/plays. He has outstanding passing vision and a quick delivery. He does need work under center, as he’s played (like Carr) primarily out of the spread or shotgun in college. He lacks elite physical abilities, but compensates by his intellect, timing and quick release. Compares closely to Tony Romo.
6. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Zach Metternberger would likely be a first round QB if not for his ACL injury during last season. He has true prototypical arm strength and size, and has played in the gauntlet of pro-level defenses in the SEC for four years. He can really air the ball out, and can make highlight reel throws to receivers in route down the field. He’s likely to be compared to Brandon Weeden, however, due to his complete lack of mobility and elusiveness in the pocket. He’s a true pocket passer who will hardly ever make plays with his legs.
7. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Aaron Murray, like Zach Mettenberger, would likely be a first or second round selection if not for a season ending ACL injury. He’s about as different from Mettenberger as can be outside of that fact however. He’s known for more mobility, high velocity throws, quick set up and delivery. He makes smart throws, and while he can air it out, he’s more likely to look for short to moderate passes. His size is the real drawback. He’s not as saavy as some of the other shorter QB’s, and has more passes batted down at the line of scrimmage than should feel comfortable.
8. AJ McCarron, Alabama
AJ McCarron will often get the title of “winner”. He’s won 36/40 collegiate games, and has shown a solid skill set in his time as Alabama’s Quarterback. McCarron often gets the title of “game manager”, which drives his fans crazy. The truth is though, he’s very much a game manager style of Quarterback. He’s not exciting, or particularly physically gifted. He’s good. Dependable. Smart and coachable. But not a game changer, so his draft stock is about what it should be.
Honorable mentions/late sleeper picks: David Fales, San Jose State, Connor Shaw, South Carolina