Winning the NFL Draft – The Cleveland Browns

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The 2018 draft will go down as one of the biggest turning points in Browns history. Since “the drive,” “the move,” “the fumble,” and not winning one meaningful game in the last ten years, it’s time to end “The Sadness.”

With an overload of talent in this year’s draft including several potential franchise quarterbacks, there should be no way to mess it up.  Just in case they attempt to self-sabotage, here’s who they should take with their first two picks.

 

#1: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State 

This is a simple decision because he is a once-in-a-decade talent.  If the Browns don’t snap him up, the Jets or the Colts will. The running back position isn’t their highest priority, but he is the best athlete available in the draft and holds incredible trading power down the line.  Not taking Barkley would be a huge mismanagement of a pick and the Browns would be hand-delivering a prodigy to a fellow AFC team…who will run all over them in the future.

Cleveland needs a running back, period. To everyone who is thinking “We have Carlos Hyde and he’s awesome,” he’s old (27), slow, and his yards-per-carry average dropped significantly from 4.6 in 2016 to 3.9 in in 2017. With over 400 rushing attempts in the last two years, Browns fans need to enjoy their time with him while they still can because those knees aren’t going to hold up much longer. Carlos is a grinder.

Saquon’s only downside is that his yards-after contact is sub-par for a ‘generational’ talent.  However, he would do quite well as an outside runner, a perfect complement to Hyde’s 3rd down push potential.  The team also has a new strength and conditioning coach, Larry Jackson, who could increase his power and drive.

On a side note, Larry is the reason it is justifiable for them to pass on drafting Chubbs. “But, what about Duke Johnson!”…did you know he’s only 5’9?  Yes, he’s built like a tank but he’s never been mistaken for  a lead running back.

If the Browns lock down Barkley, they must work to protect this precious investment.  In other words, how do they not Peyton-Hillis him?   They need to provide him with a multitude of weapons to move down the field, keep his work load manageable, and never let him put his picture on the front of Madden.

 

#4: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

In a class of very gifted quarterbacks, I find it hard to justify the idea that he’s the most talented. However, I think he is by far the best fit for the team.

Remember in 2016 when the Browns traded their second-round pick to the Eagles and passed on Carson Wentz, who is from North Dakota and now has a super bowl ring?  (Browns fans quietly rip a phonebook in half under the table to suppress their rage). Allen had the same coach plus he has a huge arm.

Not only is Allen a physically big quarterback with the ability to scramble, but he is also used to playing under the pro system where he takes snaps under center and calls out the defense and pass coverage that he wants.

This factor alone makes Allen incredibly appealing because his training time from the bench to a starting position will be negligible compared to other first-round quarterbacks, such as Darnold, who only knows a spread offense.  When you play for the Browns, decisiveness and scrambling are necessary survival skills.

Tyrod Taylor will be fine to kick off the season and is truly solid.  But having Allen train under him…well, you know the Browns motto: “You can never have too many great quarterbacks!”…I kid, I kid.

Allen has also evolved in the turnover category.  In 2017, he fumbled twice and threw six interceptions.   In 2016, he was a total crapshoot and even threw five interceptions in one game against Nebraska for a total of 15 interceptions that year.

Sam Darnold had 22 turnovers in 27 career starts including eight fumbles in 2017. Picture where the Browns offense is typically at when they’re on the field:  they are on their own 20-yard line. For a team that is best known for “The Fumble,” they really cannot afford a QB fumble in every game.

Yes, Allen’s arm is incredible, but his downsides are not without reason for caution. He only has a 56% career pass completion rate, but I question his then-receiver talent. Name one Wyoming wide receiver, I dare you!

Why should they pass on Rosen?  Analytics guys love his 63% pass completion rate. He’s got the goods–  velocity, size, and athleticism, but, with two concussions, a shoulder injury, and a rumored personality problem, it sounds like he would fit better with the 2015 Browns team.

Yes, he is a potential NFL starter, but the same thing was said about Rylan Leaf and Johnny Manziel. Lesson: handing a rowdy 21-year-old a giant wad of money won’t actually help them mature.

Baker Mayfield has incredible stats but he has never played under a pro system and is barely six feet tall.  He has sub-par footwork, poor field vision, isn’t great at reading the field and gets antsy in the pocket.

While antsy could be a plus behind the Cleveland offensive line, he will need to learn how to stay inside of the pocket. If another team grabs Allen, Mayfield is a logical choice.

 

Get Wild.

I propose that the Browns take another QB likely in the third or fourth round, because of The Curse.  If they draft two quarterbacks, it would not be impossible that one of them will tear his ACL walking into the practice facility on his first day. They played with a fourth-string quarterback last year and the need for depth is real.

 

Matchmaking.

As we talk about drafting a thrower, it begs the question about a catcher… and who will be a good match for the quarterbacks in question.

Jarvis Landry – The Browns are paying him $75 million. It’s a 5 year contract. He is 25 years old now and will be 30 when it’s complete. That is ancient in wide receiver years; the list of healthy receivers that age is short. Larry Fitzgerald leads the pack with mild MCL sprains but after that, there are few who still have four healthy limbs.  Landry has a strong reception rate (catches/throws to: he’s been targeted 567 times in his NFL career, caught 400 of them) of over 70%, but, since he’s a slot receiver who is tossed little, tiny, baby passes, he obviously better be catching them.  For the price they paid for him, I’m guessing they’re going to be playing him outside the slot. Josh Allen has the ability to make deep sideline connections which should match up with Landry’s route style beautifully.

Corey Coleman – He’s terrible. His catch reception rate is 43%. That means when he is thrown the ball, there is a greater chance he won’t catch it. It is like watching a toddler learning to catch because any time a ball gets near him, it bounces off his face, his chest, his helmet, or his hands, and he looks genuinely confused at why he doesn’t have the ball even though he tried to grasp it a full two seconds after it hit him.  Coleman was their first pick in the 2016 draft and has yet to prove his worth. If the bosses are keeping him, then move him away from the sideline where he panics and drops balls. Let Allen’s arm sling long jump-balls to him in so he can use his 40.5” vertical.

Josh Gordon – He’s back. His  reception rate for his career is 51% which includes all those years (2012-2014) he was partying hard. Maybe he’ll get sent long, opposite of Landry and maybe one of them will be thrown a bomb and actually catch it.

 

The offensive line is sub-par but the receiving corps will be solid. Saquon Barkley’s force will help free up Josh Allen’s passing game. Allen can make weird, twisted, side-arm, diving throws other quarterbacks can’t, and let me be clear, he will be making those a lot if he plays for the Browns.

Cleveland operates in panic mode the majority of the time and Allen is scrappy enough to turn plays going sideways into movement down the field. If he can throw near Landry, the ball magnet, and deep to high-jumping, there is hope…

The Browns need flash. They need pizazz.  They need more than one way to move the ball down the field on offense. And they need to rack up huge fantasy points for my keeper league.

 

About Carol Sutton

Carol Sutton is a life-long Cleveland Browns fan who combines data analysis and a touch of humor in her writing. Carol is also a writer for Predicteform.com, a horse racing data and prediction site.  She’s hosted horse racing seminars and has assisted new fans in better understanding how to pick thoroughbred racing longshots.

Carol is a Cornhusker and currently resides in Kansas. When she is not watching football or betting on the horses, you can find Carol educating her clients on nutritional health and training.

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