2016 NFL Draft: Top 4 Cleveland Browns Needs Heading Into Day 1

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It is almost time Cleveland Browns fans, the 2016 NFL Draft is just over 24 hours away. For some, you are rolling your eyes at another possibility to be let down on draft day when your favorite player slips away to someone else. But for others—like me—the next three days are like Christmas, because we finally get to see where the players we have been studying for months are going to wind up.

For the Cleveland Browns in particular, the 2016 NFL Draft marks the beginning of yet another regime change in the front office and coaching staff. As it has been many times before, the hope is that the players selected will be the foundation to help this once storied franchise emerge from this nightmare fans have been submerged in since the team’s return in 1999.

Looking for Draft Plans for Thursday Night? Come on out to the No Static Radio Draft Show at Scoreboards in Northfield, Ohio where CSZ Founder Bob Evans will be co-hosting a live draft radio show all night! Can’t make it out but still want to listen, TuneIn has you covered right here! 

Owners of 12 picks total as of now and six in the Top 100 of the draft, Sashi Brown and company have the opportunity to make a major splash in the opening rounds of the draft. The team already surprised many, trading back from the No. 2 overall pick to No. 8. In order to do this, they acquired a 2017 first-round pick, 2018 second-round pick, 2016 third-round pick (No. 77) and 2016 fourth-round pick (No. 100) on top of that No. 8 selection.

Related: Should the Browns Target Cornerback?

While the major components of this trade (2017 first and 2018 second) cannot be used this year, the additions of the third and fourth-round picks added ammo to the Browns arsenal. Their current selections in the 2016 NFL Draft look like this: No. 8, No. 32 (second round), No. 65 (third round), No. 77 (third round), No. 99 (fourth round), No. 100 (fourth round), No. 138 (fourth round compensatory), No. 141 (fifth round), No. 172 (fifth round compensatory), No. 173 (fifth round compensatory), No. 176 (sixth round) and No. 223 (seventh round).

As we all know, the compensatory picks cannot be traded this year, so the team will make selections at 138, 172 and 173 no matter what. What will they do with the picks? Well, that is up for major discussion. My Browns only mock draft will be up on CSZ on Thursday, but before we do that—we need to understand the team’s needs heading into the draft.

I know what many of you are thinking. “This roster stinks, we need everything.” While that may be the case, the below is what I think the Browns need to prioritize in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Wide Receiver

Current Roster: Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Darius Jennings, Marlon Moore, Terrelle Pryor, Rannell Hall, Saalim Hakim, Josh Gordon* (suspended).

For me, there is no bigger need on the Browns roster than wide receiver. After trading out of No. 2, it appears the Browns coaching staff and front office is putting their eggs in the Robert Griffin III basket for now—which means the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft will need weapons to be successful.

When you look at the Browns current wide receiver group, you shake your head at how Ray Farmer and company neglected it through the draft for two seasons. Players like Hartline, Hawkins and Gabriel are nice complimentary pieces, but they are not featured players in the offense—they may not even be No. 2 wide receivers at this stage. They will all likely have a role in new head coach Hue Jackson’s offense, but in order for that offense (and these players) to be effective, the team absolutely needs to add two wide receivers in this draft.

Sitting at No. 8, the Browns have their pick of the top receivers in this class if they want to choose one—or they could trade down and take the best available one a few slots later. Players like Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss) and Josh Doctson (TCU) absolutely fit the mold of No. 1 wide receivers the Browns could take in the top half of round one, while Michael Thomas is a legitimate No. 2 with No. 1 upside the team could take at the top of round two if he is still available. People will toss around the names of guys like Corey Coleman and Will Fuller because of their speed, but they are not No. 1 wide receivers at this point in their career for the Browns to use a first rounder on them.

Other names to watch a little later in the mid-rounds of this draft are Charone Peake (Clemson) and Keyarris Garrett (Tulsa). Both are bigger receivers with a ton of upside who fit the mold Jackson mentioned a few weeks ago in a press conference.

Pass Rusher

Current Roster: Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, Scott Solomon, Armonty Bryant** (suspended), Nate Orchard, Jackson Jeffcoat, Cam Johnson.

I’m going to throw out a number right now, six. Why is that number significant? Well, that is the number of sacks the Browns team leader had last season. Want to know what makes it worse? That came from the defensive end in the Browns 3-4 defense, Desmond Bryant.

Browns outside linebackers on the current roster combined for 11 sacks last season, with 5.5 of those coming from Bryant—who is suspended to start the 2016 season. Now, with Ray Horton back in charge of the defense, players like Kruger (4.5 sacks in 2013) and Mingo (5 sacks in 2013) should be able to bounce back—but the team simply cannot go into 2016 with just these guys on the roster.

If the Browns are looking for a heat-seeking missile with a nose for the football, Correa could be their guy.
If the Browns are looking for a heat-seeking missile with a nose for the football, Correa could be their guy.

Pass rusher is certainly in play for the Browns in the first round, as players like Joey Bosa (Ohio State, debatable 3-4 fit) and Shaq Lawson (Clemson) could be there at No. 8. If the team decides to trade back or address the position later, Noah Spence (Eastern Kentucky), Emmanuel Ogbah (Oklahoma State), Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State) and Kamalei Correa (Boise State) could all be in the range of their second-round pick.

Quarterback

Current Roster: Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Connor Shaw, Austin Davis.

Some will debate the QB situation is handled after the signing of Griffin, but the team cannot go into next season without bringing another QB into the fold in this draft class. After he was hired, Jackson said the team would absolutely draft one in this class—and a few days ago he eluded to the fact that the team may view a QB outside of Jared Goff and Carson Wentz as the top ones in this class. To put it lightly, the Browns have their eyes on a guy in this class to bring into the fold.

Who is that player? Your best guess is as good as mine at this point, however, they did visit with the likes of Connor Cook (Michigan State), Kevin Hogan (Stanford), Cody Kessler (USC), Paxton Lynch (Memphis) and Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) at some point during the draft process according to this list at Walter Football. This was aside from meeting with Goff and Wentz, and there could be other QBs out there they met with that were not reported.

Of that list, Lynch is the only one who is likely a lock to be selected in the first round. There have been rumors Cook could creep into round one, so if he was a Browns target they would probably need to move up from No. 32 (for the love of all that is good, not 22) to get him. Prescott and Hogan are considered by many to be fourth/fifth-round picks at this point, while Kessler and his gigantic hands (10.875 inches) is more of a late-round project at this point.

One name not mentioned, Jacoby Brissett from N.C. State, is someone in particular to keep an eye on in my eyes if Jackson is looking to groom a young passer in the mid rounds of this draft.

Standing 6’4” and 231 pounds, the transfer from Florida has a huge arm, natural instincts and is a high character guy. He accumulated 5,268 yards, 43 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 59.9 percent completion percentage in his two years at N.C. State—a school that produced two of the better QBs in the NFL, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson (before he graduate transferred for his final year to Wisconsin).

Running Back

Current Roster: Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson Jr., Raheem Mostert, Terrell Watson, Glenn Winston.

Here is the beginning of a discussion that usually ends in a lot of arguments. The running back position has been de-valued over the years after players like Trent Richardson, C.J. Spiller, Knowshon Moreno and more did not live up to lofty expectations being drafted in the Top 15. In fact, it got so bad that two years went by (2013 and 2014) without a running back selected in the first round of the draft—something that had not happened since 1963 according to NFL.com.

Is it true that running back talent can be found at any point of the draft? Absolutely, but if you need to know the importance of adding top-tier talent to your team at the position, look no further than last year’s top rushers to see who led the way. Adrian Peterson (No. 7 overall), Doug Martin (No. 31 overall), Todd Gurley (No. 10 overall) and Darren McFadden (No. 4 overall) were the top four rushers in the league last year in total yards.

Can the Browns get by with a duo of Crowell and Johnson for the time being? Sure. But if they want to be a true power team like Jackson mentioned, they are likely going to want to look to add a more complete running back to the mix. Crowell does not have elite burst, and Johnson did not look ready to run between the tackles on a regular basis last year.

Could the Browns make Buckeyes fans very happy at No. 8?
Could the Browns make Buckeyes fans very happy at No. 8?

Ohio State Buckeye Ezekiel Elliott is obviously the name that stands out because of his production and ability to both catch and block out of the backfield, and he is certainly in play at No. 8 for the Browns. After Elliott, there likely will not be another back taken in round one unless Alabama’s Derrick Henry finds a way in later. Other names to watch are Kenneth Dixon from Louisiana Tech, Devonte Booker (Utah), C.J. Prosise (Notre Dame), Alex Collins (Arkansas) and many others, as the running back class is more talented than most people are willing to give it credit for right now.

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Bob is the Founder, Site Director and Senior Writer of Cleveland Sports Zone. He has been writing about sports for over nine years thanks to his passion for Cleveland sports and a Journalism degree. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, ESPN, USA Today and other major sports networks.

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