Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It's starting to get drafty

And down the stretch they come!

As we approach the finish line called the National Football League’s college draft, it’s anybody’s guess what the Browns will do with their two picks in the first round Thursday night.

The first selection could be a quarterback. Or a defensive end. Or a wide receiver. Or an offensive lineman. Or a linebacker.

That’s way too many ors for that pick at this point. And any of them vey well could be correct. Unless, of course, we take into consideration another or – or trade down.

All of which means new Cleveland General Manager Ray Farmer, if he chooses to keep the pick, will select either Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson or Khalil Mack when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell place the Browns on the clock.

How’s that for waffling?

With the exception of Manziel, all are just about guaranteed to go in the first 10 picks. Maybe the first five.

The polarizing Manziel is the X factor. He could go as early as No. 1 to the Houston Texans. Or as late as No. 26 to the Browns. Or maybe not in the first round at all. But if he and Derek Carr are still on the board at 26, I’ll be surprised if he’s not wearing Seal Brown and Orange this season.

Manziel would be the perfect elixir for most of what has ailed this franchise since the NFL so (sarcasm alert) generously (end sarcasm alert) allowed it back into the league in 1999.

If the Browns somehow manage to wind up with Manziel, Cleveland once again would become a major focal point for the national media for the first time since LeBron James bolted for Miami. No longer would the city languish on the back pages of the sports world.

Manziel would bring instant recognition to a franchise that has hungered for that recognition for years. Even if he does not play well enough to become a starter, that in and of itself would be a news story.

It’s sort of the Tim Tebow scenario four years hence. His every move would be scrutinized. The media would glom onto every utterance, every decision made with regard to his status.

Tebow underwent that type of treatment after the Denver Broncos made him their top draft choice in 2010. Even now, when no NFL teams seem interested in signing him, the former Heisman Trophy winner remains a polarizing figure.

The Browns could have kicked Tebow’s tires recently, but chose instead to sign Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen. That’s all you need to know about his chances of getting back into the league. Tebow not getting a call is news.

Manziel is about to experience what Tebow went through: A Heisman winner whose college career is splattered with many seeds of doubt as to how successful he can be as a professional.

Some scouts would call Manziel a boom or bust type. He’ll either thrill you or kill you. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his chances to successfully assimilate to the pros.

There are a few pundits out there in mock draft land who believe Farmer will shock everyone and place Manziel’s name on the card with the No. 4 pick. They do not buy the notion the Cleveland GM will address another area before quarterback.

In the next few days, we will read or hear all about how the Browns love this guy and that guy as the smokescreens rise and settle in place. No one except those who possess a key card to the war room know exactly what is going down.

Only the head coach, GM, owner and, in some cases, the offensive coordinator are being quoted. And that’s probably after consulting with each other just to make certain there are no contradictions.

With just two days left until the lottery, absolutely nothing should be taken at face value. Don’t believe what you read. Don’t believe what you hear. And that, in a strange way, is what makes the run-up that much more intriguing.

Not until Goodell intones the actual names on the two first-round cards the Browns turn in can Browns fans react. And depending on what those names are, fights breaking out on the Internet are a distinct possibility as reality finally sets in.

That’s what makes this time of the NFL season so special.  

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