The Cleveland Browns, 0-16 in 2017, had needs a’plenty when the new league year began. Ironically, what their biggest need is now wasn’t officially a need when last season ended — finding a left tackle.
Head coach Hue Jackson needed a veteran quarterback and checked that box when general manager John Dorsey traded the 65th pick in the 2018 draft to Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor. They also got a veteran backup for Taylor when they signed Drew Stanton (Cardinals) to a two-year contract.
Jackson needed a wide receiver and checked that box when Dorsey traded a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick to the Dolphins for Jarvis Landry.
The Browns gave up 28 touchdown passes, so that was propped up by trading quarterback DeShone Kizer to the Packers for safety Damarious Randall. They also signed defensive backs T.J. Carrie (Raiders), Terrance Mitchell (Chiefs) and E.J. Gaines (Bills).
The Browns lost running back Isiah Crowell to the Jets, but signed Carlos Hyde (49ers).
Signing Chris Hubbard (Steelers) didn’t grab headlines, but he will play right tackle, which allows the Browns to move Shon Coleman to the left side. Still, the Browns want to upgrade that position.
Here is a closer look at where the Browns are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft.
2017 finish: 4th AFC North (0-16)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 308.9 (24th)
RUSHING: 107.1 (18th)
PASSING: 201.8 (22nd)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 328.1 (14th)
RUSHING: 97.9 (7th)
PASSING: 230.3 (19th)
- Left tackle: This is the biggest need, but that doesn’t mean it is the one that will be addressed first. Joe Thomas, who started 167 straight games until a torn triceps suffered Oct. 22 ended his amazing streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps, retired on March 14 — the first day of free agency. Just how well Thomas played was made apparent by the trouble his replacement, Spencer Drango, had. Moving right tackle Shon Coleman to the left side without a backup plan is a risky proposition. Despite making three trades to kick off the league year, the Browns still retained their top five picks — 1, 4, 33, 35 and 64. General manager John Dorsey could use one of those second-round picks on a left tackle.
- Quarterback: Neither Tyrod Taylor nor Drew Stanton is the long-term answer at quarterback. The Browns, with the first choice in the draft, obviously have the pick of the litter. There are things to like and things to worry about with every quarterback in this class; Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield are considered the top four. Whichever one Dorsey picks will have time to learn and correct flaws. The plan is for Taylor to start and the rookie to watch and learn. We’ve heard that one before, though, and the rookie ends up starting. If it happens again, at least the rookie will have a veteran to help. Last year none of the three quarterbacks — DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan — had ever won in the NFL.
- Edge rusher: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams got much needed help with four new defensive backs since the start of the league year, but he still would like to add a pass rusher to book-end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft. The Browns could use the fourth pick on defensive end Bradley Chubb from North Carolina State. That would allow Williams to mix and match with Chubb, Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah on passing downs.
KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 6)
–LB Tank Carder: UFA; terms unknown.
–CB TJ Carrie: UFA Raiders; $31M/4 yrs, $15.5M guaranteed ($5.5M injury only at signing, $3.6M SB).
–TE Darren Fells: UFA Lions; $12M/3 yrs, $6.15M guaranteed ($1.5M injury only at signing, $2.1M SB).
–CB E.J. Gaines: UFA Bills; $4M/1 yr.
–T Chris Hubbard: UFA Steelers; $36,5M/5 yrs, $15.15M guaranteed ($6.15M injury only at signing, $4M SB).
–RB Carlos Hyde: UFA 49ers; $15.25M/3 yrs, $7M guaranteed ($2M injury only at signing, $3.5M SB).
–WR Jeff Janis: UFA Packers; $1.25M/1 yr.
–WR Jarvis Landry (trade Dolphins).
–CB Terrance Mitchell: UFA Chiefs; $10M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed ($1M injury only at signing, $2M SB).
–S Damarious Randall (trade Packers).
–DE Chris Smith: UFA Bengals; $12M/3 yrs, $4.5M fully guaranteed/$3.5M SB.
–QB Drew Stanton: UFA Cardinals; $6.5M/2 yrs, $4.15M guaranteed.
–T Donald Stephenson: UFA Broncos; $2.5M/1 yr, $1M SB.
–QB Tyrod Taylor (trade Bills).
–WR Sammie Coates (released).
–RB Isaiah Crowell: UFA Jets; $12M/3 yrs, $6M guaranteed ($2M injury only at signing, $3M SB).
–QB Kevin Hogan (traded Redskins after re-signing as ERFA).
–QB Cody Kessler (traded Jaguars).
–ILB Josh Keyes: Not tendered as RFA/Texans; $900K/1 yr, $35K SB/$160K RB.
–QB DeShone Kizer (traded Packers).
–C Marcus Martin: UFA Cowboys; $880K/1 yr, $90K SB.
–CB Jason McCourty (traded Patriots).
–DT Danny Shelton (traded Patriots).
–T Joe Thomas (retired).
*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 1 overall)
Rob Rang (April 5 mock draft):
–Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Trading for veteran Tyrod Taylor gives the Browns a legitimate starter to play immediately while providing the franchise time to develop its future at the position. Allen would perceived as a gamble over more polished passers, but GM John Dorsey and the scouts on his staff have historically made bold draft-day decisions. Further, no quarterback in this class better fits head coach Hue Jackson’s vertical offense or the challenges of a cold-weather environment. Allen’s 56.2 career completion percentage is worrisome but is not much lower than the numbers put up by former top three picks Matt Ryan (59.9) and Matthew Stafford (57.1) in college.
Dane Brugler (April 6 mock draft):
–Sam Darnold, QB, USC. The Browns’ search for a long-term answer at quarterback continues. Darnold’s turnovers stand out, but so do his intangibles, passing instincts and ability to move the pocket and create plays.
Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?
Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see full mocks and ratings at NFLDraftScout.com.