Here we are, just two days away from the 2015 NFL Draft—and like clockwork, we are looking into the Top 5 quarterback fits for the Cleveland Browns in our latest installment in this series.
Despite drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round last season, the Browns could once again be looking into drafting a QB at some point in the 2015 NFL Draft. Thanks to a lack of growth both on and off the field (yes, we know he played just six quarters), Manziel did very little to give Ray Farmer and company a reason to not draft a QB.
QBs Currently on the Roster:
You would think the Browns would have accidently tripped and stumbled into a starting QB at this point, however, that has not been the case. After Brian Hoyer’s failures down the stretch last season, the team decided to move on by signing the veteran—McCown. Despite going 1-10 as a starter last year, the Browns felt McCown could fight for the starting position in 2015, as evidenced by the three-year deal they gave him.
After McCown is Manziel, who we touched on earlier. While there is still a faction that believes Manziel can amount to something, the Browns organization simply cannot rely on a guy who spent more time partying last year than putting in effort at practice. On top of that, he spent time in rehab this offseason for substance abuse issues. To put it simply, Manziel is a wild card on the roster.
Next up in the rotation is Shaw, who was an undrafted free agent. Shaw had to start the final game against Baltimore due to injuries and Manziel’s off the field problems. He showed toughness and was very prepared for his first NFL start, but Shaw is far from being ready to start in the NFL. After Shaw is Lewis, who was signed likely to be nothing more than a camp arm.
This group inspires little to no confidence heading into the 2015 season, which is why we have to dive deeper into the 2015 NFL Draft prospects at QB. Though there are very few who have received “top billing” from scouts and draft experts, there are five to keep an eye on heading into this week’s draft.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon, 6’4” and 222 pounds, Top 10 Projection
One of the most debated QBs to come out in recent history, the 6’4” and 222-pound product of Oregon was one of the top producers in recent college history. As a passer, Mariota racked up 10,796 yards passing, 105 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions on 66.8 percent passing during three seasons. As a rusher, he carried the ball 337 times for 2,237 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Not one person in the draft community can question his production at the collegiate level, however, most are questioning whether that production can translate to the next level in the NFL. Playing in the up-tempo, spread offense at Oregon, Mariota benefited from a lot of open receivers and quick-hitter type plays. Because of this and never playing from under center, many question whether or not Mariota can even make the transition.
You cannot deny the unknown with Mariota, however, there is plenty of known to like. He has the size, speed and athleticism to make any coaching staff drool. Though he doesn’t have a rocket arm, Mariota has plenty of arm strength to make all of the necessary throws in the NFL. He also has an intelligence level unrivaled by many QBs to come out in recent history, which is why many feel he can make the transition to under center at the next level.
Though continuously debated by many, Mariota shows on film the ability to go through progressions quickly. This was a requirement of the Oregon system, as he had to quickly scan the field to see if his first two reads were open, while at the same time checking to see if the linebacker or defensive end collapsed on his “read” play—thus exposing a running lane. Actually, it seems as if Mariota’s ability to read the field is actually underrated by most.
With all of this said, the difficulty with Mariota is whether or not the Browns will be able to trade up to get him. Farmer has two picks in the first round, so the ammunition is there. But the team would have to find a partner who does not want them to break the bank to come up and get him.
Bryce Petty, Baylor, 6’3” and 230 pounds, 2nd/3rd Round Projection
It isn’t often that a QB coming off back-to-back seasons of 3,800-plus yards at the collegiate level is being rated to the middle of the draft, but that’s what it seems is going on with Petty. Throwing for 8,195 yards, 61 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his career, Petty is going to be a highly talked about prospect come rounds two through four.
With the shortage of talent at the position in this class, it is hard not to like Petty because of his prototypical size and big-time arm. He can make all the throws thanks to his arm, and showed the ability to effectively manage the Baylor spread offense. Also, Petty has shown plenty of accuracy down the field—which is something not a lot of the guys in this class can claim.
However, most people will not get past the Brandon Weeden comparisons because of the “one read” offense ran at Baylor. And unlike with Mariota, Petty was not asked to go through progressions very often. If Petty is around in round four, this is when the Browns should take a look at him.
Garrett Grayson, Colorado State, 6’2” and 213 pounds, 3rd round projection
Grayson emerged as the starter at Colorado State in his final two seasons, as he finished his career with 9,190 yards, 64 touchdowns and 27 interceptions on 61.8 percent passing. Accumulating the majority of those numbers over his final two years, he completed 62.1 percent and 64.3 percent of his passes as a junior and senior.
When you watch Grayson on film, it is difficult to truly decipher what he will be at the next level—which is why his 3rd round projection scares this writer. He looks like he has a solid command of the QB position, with the ability to move around in the pocket and make throws to all levels of the field. He is also one of the better QBs in this class at leading his receivers, which is something coaches will really like.
However, his delivery and throwing motion are something many should be concerned about if they are projecting him to the next level. With his motion being so slow, pass rushers will have a field day if his first or second progression is not available. Because of this, like with Petty, it is hard to draft him any earlier than the 4th round—because it is going to take some work to speed up that delivery if he hopes to be a starting QB.
Brandon Bridge, South Alabama, 6’4” and 229 pounds, 5th/6th Round Projection
If you could draw a picture of the prototypical QB, Bridge would certainly fit the bill with his chiseled frame and rocket of an arm. He is an athletic prototype often compared to Colin Kaepernick, which is intriguing because Bridge will likely end up being drafted much later than Kaepernick was.
When you watch Bridge on film, the first thing that jumps off is how the ball pops out of his hand thanks to his quick release and excellent arm strength. He is also a supreme athlete and long-strider, making him a threat in multiple areas of the game. If you only watched one game here or there, you could fool yourself into thinking he is an early-round prospect.
Unfortunately with Bridge, there are a number of concerns—with his footwork being a major one. He also needs to learn how to look off the coverage and not stare down receivers. Despite the negatives, Bridge could make someone look like a genius in the middle rounds if he is given the time to develop and the proper coaching.
Hutson Mason, Georgia, 6’2” and 212 pounds, 7th Round/Priority Free Agent
In his lone season leading the Bulldogs as their starter, Mason accumulated 2,168 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions on 67.9 percent passing. For his career, he finished with 3,492 yards, 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 65 percent passing.
When you watch Mason on film, the first thing that stands out is that he is a pocket passer in every sense of the term. He has a very good release, the ability to step up in the pocket with ease and great instincts for always knowing where his receivers are and should be on any given play. Mason is also a leader in every sense of the word, constantly praised by his teammates and those around him for his positive/winning mentality.
The concerns for Mason lie with his average arm strength, his smaller framer and his accuracy when throwing down the field. For this reason, many people feel he is not a starting caliber prospect. Despite this fact, he is definitely someone the Browns should be considering to add to the mix here in Cleveland late in the draft or as a free agent—because he could be an absolute asset to the team and a potential long-term backup with spot start capability. And who knows, he could maybe surprise someone one day and come out of nowhere as the exception to the late round rule.
Check out More of our “Top 5 Positional Fits” for the Browns in the 2015 NFL Draft!