Browns enter draft loaded with picks

Published 10:11 pm Saturday, April 23, 2016

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns have assembled one of the NFL’s most intelligent front offices, a collection of Harvard-educated brainiacs who have spent months planning for their first draft.

These guys have high IQs and an ability to analyze data and make decisions.

However, there’s no guarantee they’ll make smart ones.

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Not convinced either quarterback Jared Goff or Carson Wentz was worth taking with the No. 2 overall pick, the Browns traded their highest selection since 2000 this week to the Philadelphia Eagles, who sent Cleveland the No. 8 pick, a third-round selection (No. 77) and fourth-rounder (No. 100), plus a first-rounder in 2017 and a fourth-rounder in 2018.

The stunning trade gives the Browns future assets, but the deal doesn’t address their most pressing need: a franchise quarterback — at least not at the top of the draft.

Anyway, Cleveland, which has started 24 quarterbacks since 1999, believes it may already have its answer in Robert Griffin III.

Although new Browns coach — and quarterback expert — Hue Jackson insists otherwise, Griffin’s arrival had a major impact on the team’s decision to trade down. Jackson is confident RG3 can revive his career after three injury-slowed seasons in Washington, and the 26-year-old has exhibited the right attitude so far in Cleveland.

The Browns are relying even more on analytics, which prompted the team to acquire more draft picks, given the numerous needs and lack of talent on their roster.

If they had stayed at No. 2, the Browns would have been taking a chance on a young, unproven quarterback to turn them around. Assuming they begin to win, they may never be in the same position again. And while that would be a good thing, it’s hard to imagine them being competitive anytime soon in the AFC North.

So, they’re rolling the dice with Griffin. Trouble is, what if he doesn’t work out? What if he can’t stay healthy? And what if Goff and Wentz both become franchise-changing, Pro Bowl quarterbacks elsewhere?

“Not an easy decision, obviously, to move out of No. 2 with some talented quarterbacks potentially being at that spot for us to take,” said Sashi Brown, the team’s vice president of football operations, who will enter his first draft with 12 picks — six in the top 100. “But we felt like this was a better bet. There was consensus and agreement in that decision.”

Only time will determine if it was the wise one.

Here are five other things to consider when the Browns are on the clock:

QB OR NOT QB: The Browns will likely take a quarterback at some point, but they aren’t giving any clues when.

A possibility at No. 8 could be Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, who appears to be the best of the second-tier QBs. Lynch is raw, but Jackson has a proven track record of molding young quarterbacks after his success with Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton.

Michigan State’s Connor Cook, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and Penn State’s Christian Hackenburg are other options. Keep an eye in the late rounds on Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, a Cleveland native who led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2015.

EIGHT BALL: Brown said one of the reasons he liked the trade with Philadelphia was because it put the Browns at No. 8. “We think there are still going to be really talented players at that spot,” he said.

However, Brown hasn’t ruled out the possibility of moving again if he gets the right offer.

HORRID HISTORY: Since 2011, the Browns have made one mistake after the next in the first round. Phil Taylor (No. 21), Trent Richardson (3), Brandon Weeden (22) and Johnny Manziel (22) are no longer with the team. Barkevious Mingo (6), Justin Gilbert (8), Danny Shelton (12) and Cam Erving (19) have all had issues or underperformed.

WIDE LOAD: With suspended former Pro Bowler Josh Gordon’s reinstatement denied by the NFL, the Browns lack a bona fide down-the-field threat. Jackson prefers “big, tall, fast” receivers, and there could be a few available when the Browns’ turn comes around again with the No. 32 pick.

Baylor’s Josh Doctson (6-2, 202), Notre Dame’s Will Fuller (6-0, 186) and Ohio State’s Michael Thomas (6-3, 212), all fit Jackson’s mold.

SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE: The Browns nearly traded nine-time Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas before the deadline last season and it’s likely teams looking for a tackle will inquire about his availability.

It’s obvious the Browns view their rebuild as long term and Thomas could fetch another first-round pick.


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