Yesterday, there was a double dose of mock draft primers with the Bengals picking DT Nick Fairley and the Cardinals taking LB Von Miller. Today, I’ll bring you both the Browns pick at No. 6 and the 49ers at No. 7. But let’s start with the Cleveland Browns who hold the 6th pick.
The good thing for Cleveland is that new GMs Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert seem to have the team going in the right direction. QB Colt McCoy was better than most as a rookie. Peyton Hillis had a strong season, their defense performed well anchored by a better than expected linebacking corps and secondary. Despite picking sixth in this year’s draft, there is room for optimism going forward in Cleveland.
And it’ll be key for the Browns to secure the best player with this pick to continue that upward direction. I think they’ll wind up selecting Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers with their top pick.
Most have pegged wide receiver as the Browns top need, and it arguably is. The team needs a go-to No. 1 receiver pretty badly. A player like Georgia’s A.J. Green would be a great fit in Cleveland because of his ability to create mismatches and by a dynamic and reliable threat for McCoy to throw to going forward.
But in the end, they have a much bigger need on their defensive front. With the switch to the 4-3 scheme under new coach Pat Shurmur, if the season were to start today would consist of ends Derreck Robinson and Jayme MItchell, and defensive tackles Brian Schaefering and Ahtyba Rubin. Yeah, they need some help up front. That’s why three defensive linemen: Marcell Dareus, Da’Quan Bowers, and Robert Quinn will be high priorities for them. It’ll be intriguing to see what the Browns do when they vet both ends: Bowers and Quinn. Bowers has the greater upside, but Quinn probably offers the better immediate fit because the Browns are more hurting for a speed rusher off the corner. And the fact that Bowers is coming off a knee injury that will limit how much working out he could do with teams, could mean that Quinn could jump him on many boards. Dareus will also be in the mix because they definitely need help inside, but it’s probably a bit easier to manufacture a starter at defensive tackle among journeyman than it is on the outside (see Thomas Johnson with the Falcons in 2009). If Auburn’s Nick Fairley is available, they will jump all over him however because of his pass rush potential.
Between now and the draft, you’ll also probably hear reports of the Browns checking out the top quarterbacks in this draft. Don’t be too alarmed. While the team isn’t married to Colt McCoy, he played well enough that they aren’t going to bend over backwards with the other prospects. But they’ll do their due diligence. Let’s not forget Holmgren is considered a QB guru, as is Shurmur, so they’ll definitely keep eyes on players like Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton because they’ll always go ga-go over any quality quarterback prospect. But they aren’t prepared to draft one with their first pick considering their much more dire needs at wide receiver and along the defensive line.
It would not surprise me if a month from now, I’m changing this pick to Quinn because he’s managed to leapfrog Bowers as the draft’s consensus best defensive end. But for the time being I’ll give Bowers the benefit of the doubt despite his knee injury. After all, at some point someone is going to have to go back and look at the tape and realize he did lead the nation with 15.5 sacks, so there is still a good player to be had in him when he’s healthy.