The Cleveland Browns have already improved their receiving core during free agency with the additions of Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline. However, General Manager Ray Farmer should not be complacent with the current receiver situation.
There are a number of players in this daft that can come in and make an immediate impact for this team. Amari Cooper and Kevin White will be left out of this even though they are the top two wide receivers in the draft. There are a few receivers though that could be real fits for the Browns.
DeVante Parker, Louisville, 6’3″ and 209 pounds, Top 15 Projection
The first is Louisville’s DeVante Parker was a major beneficiary of Teddy Bridgewater before Bridgewater turned pro after the 2013 season. However, even missing the first 7 games during his senior season he had 43 catches for 855 yards and 5 touchdowns. Parker is the 3rd ranked wide receiver in this draft class, but should be a Top 15 pick and could be a Top 10 pick. He has fluid route running and jump ball ability with his nearly 6’3″ fame. His body type and on-field appearance resembles A.J. Green. His length plays to advantage and his long strides allow him to accelerate very quickly. Parker would fit with the Browns from day 1. He brings another red zone threat, and big-play ability that the Browns need to replace with Josh Gordon’s suspension.
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State, 6’2″ and 217 pounds, 1st/2nd Round Projection
Strong is another receiver to fit the mold for the Browns. He is not going to be the guy to go out there and hit a home run every play, but he is the definition of solid. Strong has excellent possession skills to get to the sticks and get big time first downs. He also has good acrobatic skills to be a dynamic red zone threat, that he possesses through his dad John Rankin who was a basketball legend for the Drexel Dragons. Strong would provide the Browns with consistency throughout a game. He is simply solid. He isn’t the most explosive guy out there, but he could provide the Browns with a great value if he is available when they pick in the 2nd round.
Devin Smith, Ohio State, 6’0″ and 196 pounds, 2nd Round Projection
Next is Northeast Ohio’s own, Devin Smith. Smith is not the biggest guy out there, but he possesses in-air talent that some say is the best they have ever seen. Smith is a natural when it comes to finding the ball in the air and going up to get it and plucking it out of the sky. He excels at positioning to allow himself to make the plays, and has the speed to break away from defenders to hit the home run. Smith’s size will play against him as he is relatively short compared to the top receivers in the draft, but his natural athleticism will be a major component in his ability to stretch the field and be a contributor for the team that drafts him.
Devin Funchess, Michigan, 6’4″ and 232 pounds, 2nd/3rd Round Projection
Smith’s rivalry counter part from the University of Michigan, Funchess, fits the Browns need on the receiving end with his exceptional size. Funchess stands at 6’4” and would replace the red zone threat that was lost when Jordan Cameron decided to sign with Miami. It should be noted that Funchess is more of a wide receiver than tight end, even though he should be considered a hybrid of the two. Any team that takes Funchess needs to know they will not be able to put him in a 3-point stance to block with confidence.
Funchess will be a receiving threat and a game plan threat due to his ability to catch balls in the end zone. He has great size and athleticism, however, he likely will be a number two receiving option for whatever team he may end up with. Regardless, Funchess would be a major upgrade to the Browns receiving core as a hybrid wide receiver and tight end player. He would be an immediate red zone threat to a Browns team that has struggled inside the 20-yard line for quite some time.
Chris Conley, Georgia, 6’2″ and 213 pounds, 4th Round Projection
Last but not least is the Georgia Bulldog receiver. He is most popular for shattering the NFL Combine this offseason, but there is more to him than that. Conley is an athletic freak that absolutely dominated the combine in nearly every single workout. He has the speed to burn corners, and the vertical and leaping ability to out jump them as well. Conley is not the bulkiest player out there and tends to get pushed around, but in terms of athleticism it is hard to find anyone better in this draft.
Conley wont draw the attention of the top guys in the first few rounds, but some team out there will benefit from taking him likely in the third or fourth round. The Browns would be fortunate to be in a position to take Conley in that slot. He provides the team with speed and athleticism making him a dual threat with the deep ball an in the red zone.
Farmer needs to take a receiver in this draft. The major question is when. Truthfully, there is a value argument for every player listed above and how they can contribute to the team. Whether it’s in the first round, or somewhere after, the Browns would vastly improve their team by adding talent with the receivers above. They would provide an immediate threat for defensive coordinators to plan for.
Hopefully, for the sake of Browns fans around the world, Farmer pulls the trigger on a receiver at some point and isn’t complacent and content with the current receivers on the roster–like he was this time last year.