Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Could, should, will

The big night is almost here and the excitement continues to build. The future of the Cleveland Browns, according to some, hangs in the balance.

This moribund franchise needs to make dramatic and sagacious moves with regard to the National Football League’s annual college football draft Thursday night in Philadelphia. The lottery is the lifeblood of any franchise.

Screw it up, as the Browns did last year, and it could set a team back at least a couple of seasons. Select wisely and it advances a program quickly. It is that simple.

The Browns, who own two selections in round one, Nos. 1 and 12, control this draft. How they select and maneuver most likely will have a decided impact on the rest of the opening round.

All the wild rumors and rampant speculation over the last several months will come to a grinding halt shortly after Commissioner Roger Goodell puts the Browns on the clock with the top overall pick shortly after 8 p.m.

The telephones in the offices and War Room in Berea, meanwhile, should hum most of the day Thursday with all kinds of rumors emanating in the final hours.

Plenty of information, mostly – if not all – speculation, will be disseminated until the Browns must make a final decision on what they will do with the top pick. You can bet rumors will continue to fly until Goodell approaches the microphone with the first name of the evening

Until then, it remains a guessing game.

Will the Browns deal the top pick? If they don’t, will they take defensive end Myles Garrett, arguably the best player in the lottery? Or will they opt for a quarterback instead? The name Mitch (Mitchell) Trubisky excites Browns fans. The possibilities abound.

Here is one observer’s take on those various possibilities as the evening wears on.

First things first, the overall No. 1 pick in the draft, courtesy of finishing 1-15 last season.

What could happen: Trade the selection, move down and pick up more selections along the way, including possibly another No. 1 next year; stay put and select Garrett; or stay put and select a quarterback.

One has to include the possibility of trading down only because that’s what this Browns front office seemingly likes to do with high picks. I offer up the No 2 pick last year as evidence. This braintrust loves to stockpile draft choices.

What should happen: This is as close to a no-brainer as one can get.  No. Change that.  It is a no-brainer.

If Goodell does not say, “With the first pick in the 2017 National Football League draft, the Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett, defensive end, Texas A&M,” the Browns can kiss goodbye another portion of their dwindling fan base.

Even if the choice is Trubisky, the local kid some hope can replicate what Bernie Kosar Jr did for the Browns a generation ago, that fan base will take a hit.

Myles Garrett has to be the name on that card in Goodell’s hand. The Browns need all kinds of help on defense (much more so than on offense) and this is a good start. They got to opposing quarterbacks with alarming inefficiency last season. That needs to change.

What will happen: After all the nonsense leading up to this pick, Goodell of course will intone Garrett’s name on Cleveland's card and a sigh of relief can be heard throughout Browns Nation. It will be a moment that very well could be looked back on some day as the start of Cleveland’s comeback as a legitimate force in the NFL.

Next up, the 12th overall pick. Lots to ponder after grabbing Garrett.

What could happen: Trade back up before that choice arrives and pick up a quarterback; trade back up with an eye on further improving the defense; trade down, improving the draft capital again with the future in mind; fall for the Jimmy Garoppolo swindle from New England; or stay put.

With all the news swirling regarding drafting the next franchise quarterback, is it possible the Browns wisely address the side of the ball that makes the biggest difference in games – the defense?

What should happen: There is no question the defense needs dramatic improvement after surrendering an AFC low (or is it high?) 452 points last season. The Browns have given up 400 or more points in three of the last four seasons. That kind of bleeding needs a tourniquet.

The front office needs to give new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams something with which to work. Garrett is a good start. And this is the perfect opportunity to give the defensive boss even more ammunition.

In their seemingly never-ending quest to shake up the draft by moving up and down the line, look for chief honcho Sashi Brown to dive in and attempt to move up. The three prime candidates are Jacksonville, Tennessee and the New York Jets at four, five and six.

The Jets are rumored to be sitting on Trubisky, so jumping them would be the wise move if the Cleveland-area kid is, indeed, the Browns’ desire. Tennessee could be the most willing partner. The Browns accommodated the Titans last year, allowing them to move up and grab offensive tackle Jack Conklin.

Here’s what should happen: The Browns ship their second first-round selection (No. 12), the No. 33 pick at the top of round two and pick No. 175 in the sixth round for the Titans’ fifth overall pick and their late fourth-rounder. It makes perfect sense on the player trade chart.

At the same time, they will keep the 52nd selection later in the second round, courtesy of the Titans deal last year.

Then they should do the right thing again and take – no, not a quarterback – Ohio State free safety Malik Hooker off the board. Fix the defensive line first and then begin the resurrection of a secondary that desperately needs resurrecting.

Browns fans know all about the ball-hawking Hooker, who owns instincts you just cannot teach. There is no telling how creative Williams can get with the likes of two stud rookies who will be immediate plug-ins.

What will happen: The Browns traverse the trade waters and make the Titans a trade partner for the second year in a row with the aforementioned deal. And then they will pull off a swerve that stuns and baffles Browns Nation.

They get their quarterback at No. 5, but it is not Trubisky. It’s Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, the only quarterback in this class who can come right in and have a solid chance of winning the starting job.

While it would be nice from a public relations standpoint to draft Trubisky, it would be foolish to waste the present by sitting him on the bench in a learning role for the entire 2017 season. And there is no guarantee success lies in his future.

As for the Kosar comparisons, Trubisky is no Bernie Kosar, who arrived in the NFL as an accomplished quarterback, then went out almost immediately and proved it. Trubisky isn’t nearly as polished as was Kosar when he arrived in Cleveland.

So there you have it. It says here Myles Garrett and Deshaun Watson will wear the Seal Brown and Orange for the foreseeable future. Now it’s time to sit back and see how it all plays out Thursday night.


  1. Rich, two questions on your scenario above - why trade up for Watson when he'll almost certainly still be there at 12? And why would Watson's popgun arm fare any better than Hoyer's did? Hoyer was winning until the league realized he couldn't beat them deep. Hoyer was doing quite well until he was exposed, and Watson doesn't have any more of an arm than Hoyer. Bad move to draft him in the first place, worse move to trade up for him.


  2. PS - I think if they don't trade up to get Trubisky at five, then they will take Watson at 12. And then they'll be stuck in the same old cycle of nowheresville till the Harvard Egghead Squad and Hue Jackson are toast two more years from now, in spite of the positive difference Williams will have on the defense.


  3. Hi DW,

    I'm not saying they should move up to draft Watson. I'm saying that's what I think they'll do. I would prefer Hooker at five in a trade-up.

    And Watson does not have a popgun arm. If anything, he's slightly above average and stronger than Hoyer's.

    Moving up to five to get Trubisky would be a mistake. He is not nearly ready to play in this league and there is no guarantee he will ever be the player some in the organization thinks he will.

    As I have written previously, next year's quarterback crop is much better than this year's and that is where the future of this franchise lies.

    If Jackson is back for a third season, he will reap the benefits at that time should the above scenario play out. I'd much rather have Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen leading this team next season than any of this year's field.