Will you being doing a mock draft this season?
This is a question many who write about sports teams, especially the Cleveland Browns, get asked every single season. While mock drafts are a fun exercise, there is too much constant change to spend a lot of time doing them, despite the million of them you see out there. Why you ask? Take this tidbit of news for example.
The Cleveland Browns recently hired David Lee as quarterbacks coach, which adds intrigue to the offseason. See before Lee was hired, it was just the “usual suspects” of rumors when it came to the Browns addressing the quarterback position this offseason. However, Lee is connected to two semi-available quarterbacks in Tyrod Taylor and Tony Romo, while he also has links to other less-enticing names like: Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick and EJ Manuel.
To spice things up even more, before Robert Griffin III rocked Hue Jackson’s world in a workout, Jackson was rumored to covet Colin Kaepernick; who may also be available this offseason. Add in having the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and the Cleveland Browns have some huge decisions to make. Franchise impacting decisions.
“We haven’t established the guy at that position so we’re going to look at all options.” Sashi Brown, Cleveland Browns GM
See how this can make “Mock Draft Season” a little less fun?
Before hitching the hiring of Lee to the Taylor bandwagon, just try to fathom the notion that it may not have anything to do with Taylor or even Romo. What if it is to help Jackson turn Cody Kessler into an efficient pro quarterback, or simply to help improve the play of Griffin? Or perhaps, the Browns are interested in Jimmy Garoppolo, who is the same size and from the same school as Romo, who Lee worked with in 2006. Where there’s smoke, there’s normally fire, and the Browns obviously seem interested in quarterbacks.
However … thinking aloud for a second, does Garoppolo scare anyone more than Kaepernick? Now, I am not advocating for him, Kaep can be a distraction, but his play is nearly better than what the Browns had since their return. The real benefit of Kaep is you know what you are getting, and perhaps Jackson can build an offense around him that accentuates his talents and elevates his play. Similar to the way Jackson elevated the play of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
Anyway, Back to Jimmy.
Garoppolo is a 25-year old, 6’2″ quarterback who has thrown 63 passes in three seasons who apparently New England may be willing to trade despite the fact he is the primary backup to Tom Brady, who will turn 40 before the 2017 NFL season begins. How many quarterbacks have come from New England and gone on to be the franchise quarterback anywhere else despite multiple pundits, scouts and coaches singing their praise? Drew Bledsoe, Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett were all starters at some point after exiting New England, but never reached “franchise QB” potential in the league. It seems the unknown commodity (in all cases except Bledsoe) is favored more for it’s potential, simply because they haven’t had the opportunity to fail.
Let’s not limit this to the Patriots though because that is easy, how about Brock Osweiler?
He was drafted by Denver, played well enough in Peyton Manning’s absence to stir a QB controversy and then signed with the Houston Texans in the offseason. Not only that, but the Texans signed running back Lamar Miller and offensive lineman Jeff Allen to lucrative four-year deals before doubling down in the draft by using their first four picks on offense with wide receiver Will Fuller, center Nick Martin of Notre Dame, wide receiver Braxton Miller of The Ohio State and running back Tyler Ervin from San Jose State, in that order. If he does not figure out something soon at quarterback (with Osweiler or someone else), head coach Bill O’Brien may be looking for work as the Texans will have to sort through this mess of bad contracts and underperforming talent that isn’t meshing.
The reason for the mention of how the Texans surrounded Osweiler with weapons and invested in the offensive line is simple, did the Browns do that adequately last year? The arrival of Griffin was not followed with the signing of big names like Miller and Allen. Instead, the Browns invested through the draft with Corey Coleman (WR), Shon Coleman (OL), Ricardo Louis (WR), Seth DeValve (TE), Jordan Payton (WR), Spencer Drango (OL) and Rashard Higgins (WR). While the Browns did make significant investment in the draft, they were putting whoever commanded their offense at a disadvantage by surrounding them with rookies who needed to learn on-the-go, so to speak. Sure, the conversion of Terrelle Pryor from quarterback to wide receiver went well, but trying to develop Cam Erving at center was a mess for the majority of the season, and the rest of the rookies on that list made little to no contribution (aside from Corey Coleman) in year one.
Why is all of this relevant? Keep it in mind when Jackson says he isn’t done evaluating Griffin on his five starts and 147 throws from last year, and he winds up still wearing a Browns jersey come preseason time.
What Does All of This Mean?
Despite the Browns obvious need at the quarterback position, the best player in this year’s draft is a defensive lineman, and this is even more of a reason why I am “mock draft dodging” this year.
Thankfully the Browns could use a boost to their pass rush, after finishing 30th in sacks and 3rd and 4th down conversions, while jumping to 29th in Redzone defense last season. To add more fuel to the fire, the Browns just switched to their fourth defensive coordinator since 2011, Gregg Williams, who favors a base 4-3 scheme (though he does use multiple fronts and spends a large amount of time in Nickel) as opposed to the 3-4 the Browns have ineptly attempted to employ since 2013, the first time recently-released Ray Horton was the Browns DC. Translation: they could use some playmakers on the defense, specifically the defensive line.
There’s the crux for a mock draft. Unless you follow the Hinkie-model of drafting the best available player regardless of fit or depth and talent already on the team, which usually only works in the NBA for the most part, you are stuck when it comes to mock drafts because at some point the team is going to “reach” away from the best available to “best available at a position of major need.” While the idea of four starting-quality centers sounds great for the Cleveland Browns (after watching Erving blow goats at “struggle to learn the nuances of” center), it hasn’t translated exactly transformed the 76ers franchise just yet. And if Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta and everybody else associated with the Browns front office drafts the same position over and over, they would soon be stepping down like Hinkie did in April, or getting fired.
The goal of the GM and front office is to build a successful team, via trades, free agency and the draft. While I could sit here and give you projections on who I think would be the best fit with each pick, a mock draft is going to change with each move the Browns make between now and the last week of April.