The Cleveland Browns have 10 picks in this year’s NFL Draft. With one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, this sets the team up beautifully to be able to fill some needs without having to overdraft players at certain positions.
But where should a player be drafted? How high is too high to take a certain player? Well, when it comes to ranking players, it’s really a crapshoot. But I’m going to give it a go.
These rankings are based on how I believe the players fit with the Browns. So when I rank defensive ends, it may include some players that are denoted as defensive tackles on most draft sites because they would fit as a defensive end in the Browns’ 3-4 scheme.
So, let’s get started. And we may as well start at the position that everyone is always most focused on, and which seems to be the biggest debate: quarterback. I’ve watched many clips and breakdowns and also read up on these quarterbacks quite a bit now, and will continue to do so. I suppose it’s possible that some of this could change slightly over the next couple of months, but at this point I feel pretty strongly that this is how I’d rank the prospects.
I’ll basically repeat what I said in my mock draft, where I pegged Teddy as the Browns pick at #4. To me, he is the best shot in this draft at finding a franchise quarterback. He is a tireless worker, student of the game, and he pays attention to the little things: footwork, mechanics, selling his fakes. He played in an NFL style offense that required him to make short, intermediate, and deep throws – and produced tremendous numbers in that offense. Bridgewater’s accuracy is impressive, and he’s got a nice feel in the pocket. He’ll stand in against the rush while looking to make a throw and makes his living in the pocket, although he has the mobility and presence to scramble out of the pocket if needed. Concerns about his frame are, in my opinion, overstated. He already worked hard to bulk up prior to the combine, weighing in 9 pounds higher than his Louisville playing weight, and has stated that he feels he should be able to settle into a playing weight of about 220.
Teddy is being overshadowed by Blake Bortles intriguing mix of size and athleticism and Johnny Manziel’s personality and razzle dazzle playmaking ability on film, but in my opinion he has all of the ingredients a team should be looking for in their franchise quarterback. If he’s there at 4, he’s my number one choice for the Browns. And in case you think it’s just me that’s sold on him, check out this article.
My draft value: Top 5 pick
This is a tough one for me. I have to say right now that Bortles scares me. I think there is really some bust potential here, and I would not want to see the Browns use their 4th pick in the draft on him. Yet, there’s a very real chance that he won’t even be available to them at 4 because another team will snatch him up before then, maybe even the Texans with the 1st overall pick.
Bortles does have a really special blend of raw talents, though, and if by some miracle he fell to the Browns at 26 it would be much harder to say they should pass on him. Note, I’m not saying that he will fall to them there – I know that he won’t.
He does have prototypical starting QB size: 6’5″, 232 pounds. While he has a very good arm, he isn’t the cannon-armed quarterback I think some people are making him out to be because of his size. He has plenty of arm strength to make all of the throws, though. His accuracy is a little underrated, although he needs to work to develop better touch on his throws and look off defenders. Bortles did complete 68% of his passes last year. He has a tendency to make risky throws at times, and got away with some of them last year. He threw over twice as many interceptions as Bridgewater on 45 less pass attempts. Bortles does possess good pocket presence and a fearless ability to stand in under pressure and try to make a play. His mechanics get a little loose at times, and he’ll throw with his momentum falling away from the target. Bortles moves his feet really well, and his ability to move with the football is really impressive for a quarterback at his size. He does need to improve his ball security when scrambling. Bortles can also be a bit of a slow starter. 7 of his 9 interceptions came in the first half last year. He has a good reputation as a hard worker who wants to be great and will put in the effort to improve and succeed in the mental aspect of the game.
Even among those who highly tout Bortles and think he should go in the top 5 picks of this draft it is generally agreed that he needs quite a bit of coaching and tuning to get to where he will be a successful, consistent NFL quarterback. The raw ability and tools are tantalizing, though, and in a quarterback class where many feel no one stands out above the rest it has resulted in many falling back on his size, athleticism, and strength to declare him the best prospect of the bunch. I agree that he has big-time upside, but I think there are too many questions marks to use a top 5 pick on him with the other prospects that are available at the top of this draft. So, while I rank Bortles as my #2 quarterback of the draft, I think there is a fairly significant gap between him and Teddy Bridgewater.
My draft value: late 1st-early 2nd round
Call me crazy, but I’m slotting Garoppolo in right here. Yes, there are question marks. He played in a spread offense at a small school against inferior competition. His arm isn’t the strongest. He holds the ball too long.
But Garoppolo has some very special things going for him. His arm may not be a cannon, but it’s strong enough to play the position very effectively. He sets up quickly and has a very nice, quick release and throws the ball with good zip or nice touch as needed. His size is solid, at 6’2″ and 219 pounds. He processes the defense quickly and makes good reads. At times he had a tendency to hold the ball too long and take hits that he could have avoided, but that can be helped with coaching. He has the right temperament for the position, a leader with a short memory whose confidence doesn’t sag when he makes a mistake. Garoppolo has quick feet and can move around nimbly in and out of the pocket. He does a good job of getting his feet set to make the pass, even after moving around. His numbers are crazy, completing 65% of his passes for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions in 2013.
I don’t think Garoppolo is a guy that should come in and start right away, so if the Browns take him it would probably mean Hoyer would be the starter for now. But I don’t think that is a bad thing, and I believe that Hoyer is a good fit to help Garoppolo come along and learn how to run an NFL offense. His stock is rising, as all quarterbacks seem to do before the draft. He’s generally projected, at this point, to go somewhere in the 3rd or 4th round, but I think it’s possible that he sneaks up into the 2nd round. If he’s there with the Browns first pick in the 3rd round and they haven’t already nabbed another QB, I think he’d be a great value.
My draft value: 2nd-3rd round
Everyone knows about Johnny Football at this point. He is probably the most polarizing player on this list, and might also be the hardest to project to the NFL level.
Manziel’s playmaking ability in college was truly off the charts. No one can deny that he was extremely special in his two years as A&M’s starting quarterback. He has impressive burst and speed, with the ability to squeeze out of seemingly hopeless situations in order to make a play. His pocket presence is impressive too, as he seems to always sense where the rush is in order to avoid it. While he is unquestionably at his best when he’s making plays on the move and getting outside of the pocket, his hard work was evident in 2013 because he made noticeable strides in his ability to make plays in the pocket. Manziel has impressed with his ability to step up in big moments as well. He doesn’t shy away from the limelight or back down from a challenge, he doesn’t hang his head when he makes mistakes or finds his team down, and he is a fiery competitor. Despite his small stature, he has bigger hands than Blake Bortles, Jimmy Garoppolo, or Teddy Bridgewater, alleviating some of the concern over his ability to play in cold weather and ball-security when running with the ball. His arm is good, but certainly not great. Manziel’s confidence in his ability to come in and change the culture for the losing teams at the top of the draft, as well as his hard work in studying those teams, has been impressive to fans, coaches, and front office personnel alike. His numbers are impressive: completing 69% of his passes for 7,820 yards, 63 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, and running for another 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns in the past two seasons.
Having said all of that, there are serious questions that exist about how Manziel will translate to the pro game. At 5’11”, his height raises the question of how well he will be able to see the field and also how he will withstand the pounding he’ll absorb if he runs around like he did in college. This concern could be lessened some by coaching him not to leave the pocket as often, but then that raises the question of how his playmaking ability could be slowed by changing the way he plays the game. Manziel has a tendency to fall off of his throws, even when he isn’t under pressure, which only magnifies the fact that his arm is not the strongest. He also has a habit of committing the cardinal quarterback sin of throwing late and over the middle, and takes a lot of risks in throwing jump balls to his receivers and counting on them to make a play. Having the 6’5″ Mike Evans going against college cornerbacks bailed him out in some of those situations, but his risk-taking play is evidenced in the fact that he threw 13 interceptions last season – as many as Bortles and Bridgewater combined. 4 of those interceptions were thrown in goal-to-go situations, the sort of redzone mistakes that can be very costly. Then there are concerns over Manziel’s maturity and ability to minimize off-field distractions. While many feel that those are overblown, they can’t be totally ignored.
While the dynamic play of Manziel in college makes him very intriguing, there are just too many question marks to me for the Browns to draft him with the top 5 pick it appears it would take to get him. If he slipped to 26 or to the 2nd round he would warrant consideration, but even there I think he is a risk. The offense would have to be designed around his unique strengths, and if he gets injured it will require a real shift to adjust to whomever his backup would be (presumably Hoyer). While I have confidence that Kyle Shanahan could adapt his offensive approach to get as much as possible out of Manziel, I am not sold that Manziel can be a top-tier quarterback in the NFL, and I’m even less convinced that he can stay healthy, even if he makes a conscious effort to reduce his running. While it will be fascinating to see if Manziel will excel in the NFL, I think I’d rather watch it from a distance than have the Browns roll the dice on him, unless teams listen to Ron Jaworski and he miraculously slides to the 3rd or 4th round – which clearly is not going to happen.
My draft value: 2nd-3rd round
I know that Derek Carr is rated as a 1st, or at the very least, 2nd-round talent on pretty much every board. But I just don’t like him as a prospect as much as Mettenberger. There are several reasons, but to a large extent it comes down to how both quarterbacks handle pressure.
Mettenberger, like Bortles, possesses prototypical QB size, at 6’5″ and 224 pounds. His results in his first couple of college seasons were mixed at best, but in 2013 he really took a huge step forward under the direction of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. There is a lot to like in Mettenberger’s game. He stands tall under pressure and keeps his eyes downfield to try and make a play. He has a rocket for an arm, probably one of the strongest in the draft. Mettenberger improved considerably in his decision making in 2013, not forcing throws as he had in the past and showing the presence of mind to throw the ball away if nothing was there. While his mechanics aren’t always perfect, they are solid and allow him to get good velocity on his throws all over the field. He is slow-footed, not nearly the athlete of Bortles (let alone Manziel), but that doesn’t mean that he can’t move at all. He has demonstrated the willingness to take off and run if it is there. Mettenberger is a gutty competitor and showed composure in the clutch last year.
Mettenberger is far from a lock, though, which is why he is likely to be drafted in the 4th round or later (although a team taking a chance on him in the 3rd isn’t out of the question). As mentioned, he’s not the most fleet-footed quarterback, which isn’t enough to sink his chances of being a good starter in the NFL in and of itself. However, his pocket presence and feel for the blitz needs to improve, along with his pre-snap reads so that he can process the defense quicker and make good, fast decisions that will help to make up for the fact that he isn’t proficient at escaping the rush with his feet. He made progress in these areas last season, but still needs more development. He also needs to work at improving his touch, tending to zing the ball when a softer throw is called for (a problem we are quite familiar with here in Cleveland). There are also character concerns with Mettenberger. His off-field issues include an arrest for sexual battery and alcohol consumption in 2010 and a history of recreational drug use (although he’s been clean for a couple of years). Further, he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in December 2013 and continues to rehab from that injury.
So, why Mettenberger over Carr? Carr’s numbers are gaudy, but a closer look shows how they were inflated by his pass-happy spread offense and the mediocre competition he faced. Carr completed 68.7% of his passes for 5,082 yards with 50 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, but did so on 659 attempts. That gives him a yards per attempt figure of 7.7, easily the lowest among the 5 quarterbacks we’re looking at here. By contrast, Mettenberger completed 64.9% of his passes for 3,082 yards with 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions on just 296 attempts, which comes out to 10.4 yards per attempt – easily the highest out of these quarterbacks. Further, Mettenberger showed a composure in clutch situations and against strong competition, while Carr struggled when facing stronger defenses that are capable of bringing pressure. Look at the comparison between Carr’s split stats by quarter vs. Mettenberger’s.
So Mettenberger did not throw a 4th-quarter interception on the season and posted his second highest QB-rating by quarter in the 4th. Carr’s rating drops the further into the game he goes, as do his yards per attempt.
Also noteworthy is that Mettenberger threw 7 touchdowns and 0 interceptions against ranked opponents. Meanwhile, Carr didn’t face very much stiff competition and looked completely overwhelmed by the USC pass-rush in the Las Vegas Bowl, where he completed just 29 of 54 passes for 216 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
For where Carr is likely to be drafted, I think the bust potential is off-the-charts. The reports that the Browns are leaning towards him are enough to send chills down my spine. If he was being looked at as a possible mid-round developmental guy like Mettenberger I think he’d be worth considering. Even if that were the case, though, I’d lean toward Mettenberger and his experience under Cam Cameron playing against tougher competition and showing the confidence to come through in the clutch.
My draft value: 4th-5th round
Here is how I’d round out my top 10 quarterbacks:
6. David Carr – Despite the concerns above, Carr has shown enough passing and athletic ability to show some promise. If he could be drafted as a developmental quarterback without the pressure of being a high pick, he’d be intriguing. My draft value: 4th-5th round
7. Aaron Murray – Murray has experience in a pro-style offense and throws a nice ball, but his size and fairly limited athleticism are knocks against him. He’s also coming off of a late-season ACL tear. At minimum he should be able to carve out a decent career as a backup quarterback, while there is some potential to be even more. My draft value: 5th round or lower
8. A.J. McCarron – I think McCarron has only a slim chance of being a starter in the NFL because of his athletic limitations and flaws, his track record as a winner in college would make him a worthwhile selection in the 5th round or later – even if he only ever ended up being a solid backup. My draft value: 5th round or lower
9. Tajh Boyd – There is upside here as a 6th or 7th-round developmental quarterback. Boyd is gifted athletically and has some skills that could translate well to the NFL, but in the end his flaws make him a long shot to be a successful starter. My draft value: 6th round or lower
10. Logan Thomas – An incredible athlete with a cannon for an arm, Thomas might be the ultimate example of a developmental guy. He is 6’6″ and 248 pounds and ran a 4.61 40 yard dash at the combine, but regressed in his last couple of seasons in college and faces questions about his work ethic and desire to be great. He has loads of raw talent, but is a long way from being consistent enough to contribute in the NFL. My draft value: 7th round
Rob Magee is a lifelong Browns fan who suffered his most devastating punch to the gut when a friend recorded The Langoliers over his VHS copy of the 1993 Browns vs. Steelers game that featured two Eric Metcalf punt returns for touchdowns. You can follow him on Twitter @robisindy.