Finally, the Cleveland Browns don’t have to rely on the NFL Draft to build a winner — it can use the draft to supplement one.
State Of The Team
After finally moving on from Hue Jackson and his 3-36-1 record, the Cleveland Browns began to win some games. They finished the season on a 5-3 run which gave them a 7-8-1 mark. They remained in the postseason hunt through Week 16 and fell just shy of their first winning season since 2007 as they dropped their final game to Baltimore by a score of 26-24.
The future shines even brighter than the second half of 2018 thanks to the plethora of young talent on the roster. Cleveland was led by a fantastic rookie class that saw Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, and Nick Chubb combine for 11 NFL Rookie of the Week honors, with Mayfield accounting for seven of those. The young quarterback also broke the record for touchdown passes by a rookie, surpassing Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.
In addition to his abilities on the field, Mayfield has become a star off it as well. He’s appearing on late night talk shows and YouTube comedy specials. The Browns look to be on their way out of the cellar and they have one of the brightest stars in the NFL to thank for this.
Total Draft Picks
The Cleveland Browns have no first-round picks but eight overall draft picks in 2019.
Second round: No. 49
Third round: No. 80
Fourth round: No. 119
Fifth round: No. 144 (via Jaguars)
Fifth round: No. 155
Fifth round: No. 170 (via Patriots)
Sixth round: No. 189
Seventh round: No. 221 (via Jaguars)
Top 3 Draft Needs
Safety: Wide receiver was a pretty big need for the Browns, but that’s no longer the case following their trade for Odell Beckham, Jr. However, that trade did open up another need as safety Jabrill Peppers was dealt to the Giants in the move. Derrick Kindred is a decent option to replace him, but the Browns need to create some competition and build depth. They may not feel it’s necessary to go after someone with their first pick here, but safety is atop their needs list.
Offensive Tackle: Cleveland did well in the final eight games with Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard as their bookends on the offensive line. They should be the starters again in 2019 after Robinson re-signed for one more season. While that’s not a terrible idea, the Browns need a better long-term answer — especially at left tackle. They need to find someone who can grow alongside Baker Mayfield and keep their franchise player comfortable in the pocket.
Cornerback: The Browns took Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4 last season and he became their starter right away. He did a great job and landed in the Pro Bowl, but there’s still a need for another starter opposite him. Terrance Mitchell played well for the most part but they didn’t get the return on investment they were seeking in T.J. Carrie. Landing another cornerback who can start would solidify their defense.
Top 3 Draft Targets
There are already reports that the Browns entire front office met with Andre Dillard at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. This happened just days after they re-signed left tackle Greg Robinson to a one-year deal. Robinson did get starter money in that contract, but the duration suggests he’s a ‘bridge-left tackle.’ Someone like Dillard could be the long-term solution.
CB, Michigan State
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 192-pounds, Justin Layne has the length that teams covet. He’s also a Cleveland native and says he would like to play for his hometown Cleveland Browns. He’s a player who grew every year for the Spartans and finished 2018 with 72 tackles and an interception. He matches what they need and could be there when the Browns kick off their draft at No. 49.
After the Browns shipped off Jabrill Peppers in the Odell Beckham trade, it opened up a spot at safety. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson could be the guy for that role as he proved to be able to handle either safety spot for the Gators. He’s a better player in coverage than what Peppers was and could really help with their inability to stop opposing tight ends.
Decision Maker (Or Who To Blame If Things Go Wrong)
It’s clear now that this is John Dorsey’s show. The general manager took charge last season and overhauled this entire roster. He made the somewhat controversial decision to draft Baker Mayfield and that’s worked out great.
He also showed he will take risks, going after Antonio Callaway despite some red flags and even signing Kareem Hunt this offseason.
Expect him to once again go hard after their needs, while being willing to roll the dice on players who may have some concerns.
Best/Worst Pick In Current Draft Slot
Historically, who was the best pick and/or the worst pick based on where the team is currently picking.
Best Pick: Michael Dean Perry – Defensive Lineman (2002)
It’s not ideal for the Browns to be picking first at No. 49, but this doesn’t mean they can’t find some good value. They have done so in the past around this selection, with the best example coming in 2002 when they took defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry at No. 50.
The Clemson product ended up playing seven years for Cleveland and started 90 of 109 games played in that time. He finished his career with the Browns by recording 480 tackles and 51.5 sacks while appearing in five Pro Bowls for them.
Worst Pick: DeShone Kizer – Quarterback (2017)
While the Perry pick was great, there is a big chance for failure with a selection in this vicinity. For the worst, we look back to 2017 when the Browns took Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer at No. 52. To be fair to Kizer, he was set up for failure by the team. They took a player who was incredibly raw and needed time to develop, but thrust him into the starting lineup.
The result was a 0-16 season in which Kizer was the starter for 15 of those losses. He ended up with an unimpressive 11 touchdown to 22 interception ratio and was shipped off by new general manager John Dorsey following just one season.