Happy birthday, Todd. For your birthday, the Cleveland Browns are going to get you two franchise cornerstones. I’ve been saying that for years. Let’s take a look how that turned out:
2012: Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden
2014: Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel
2015: Danny Shelton, Cameron Erving
Three of the last six drafts, the Browns owned two picks in the first round of the NFL Draft. Amazingly, only defensive tackle Danny Shelton has done anything in that time span to prove he’s a viable NFL player. Richardson has bounced around the league to several teams, Weeden is a back-up with the Houston Texans. Justin Gilbert ended up with the Steelers in 2016 and flamed out. Manziel has been out of the league and is currently looking for a way back in. And Cameron Erving has done nothing in two years with the Browns to prove he belongs, although he did look at least average playing right tackle.
Today, I want to go over some dream scenarios that will most definitely help the Browns. There will be no trades for any quarterbacks in these scenarios, since Patriots Coach Bill Belichick implied it’s now rather unlikely he moves Jimmy Garropolo. However, there is a building consensus that hometown boy Mitch Trubisky is picking up steam at this week’s NFL Combine and it is becoming more and more likely “the ground is moving beneath Coach Hue Jackson’s feet” the same way he described the workout of Robert Griffin III just one year ago. We all know how that turned out. Mitch Trubisky is drawing comparisons by many draft analysts to Mark Sanchez and Akili Smith. Any NFL fan knows their story. Both Sanchez and Smith, drafted ten years apart, only had one good year in college (15 college starts for Trubisky), and never lived up to their draft hype, especially Smith. Yet many Browns fans are making a bold comparison to the last quarterback to win the Browns an AFC Central Division Championship. For those of you who don’t know what AFC Central means, it was the name of the AFC North prior to 2002, when the NFL realigned the divisions to their current state, a state that has not been friendly to the Browns.
Fast forward to 2017. The Browns are coming off their worst season in franchise history at 1-15. Hue Jackson is the team’s fearless leader, Jimmy Haslam is the brass who is giving his coach a second chance for a change, while Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta are in their second season together. Finally some stability. Sure, 2016 was ugly, and when I say ugly, I mean a near tragedy. But these things have to happen. Take a look at the following:
2010 Carolina Panthers: 2-14, 2011 Carolina Panthers: 6-10
2011 Indianapolis Colts: 2-14, 2012 Indianapolis Colts: 11-5
2012 Kansas City Chiefs: 2-14, 2013 Kansas City Chiefs: 11-5
2013 Houston Texans: 2-14, 2014 Houston Texans: 9-7
2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-14, 2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-10
2015 Tennessee Titans: 3-13, 2016 Tennessee Titans: 9-7
Every single team that has held the worst record in the league improved substantially in their next season. In the case of the Panthers and Buccaneers, both were playoff contenders just two seasons after bottoming out at 2-14. Now take a look at the New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, and Los Angeles Chargers. Every single one of these teams have been close, so close, so many times over the last ten seasons, but they weren’t bad enough. This is what separates these teams from the teams listed above. They aren’t good football teams, even in 2015 when Kirk Cousins led the Redskins to an NFC East Title. The Redskins are still an impact player or two away. Sure, an impact player can be found anywhere in the draft, but many are found at the top. Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Jameis Winston were all taken at number one overall.
Many NFL Draft analysts are stating there isn’t a single quarterback worthy of the number one overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Browns need to fizzle this out. We need to remember that the NFL Draft is the ultimate chess game. There isn’t an easy way to scout these prospects. Last year, the ongoing consensus was that Jared Goff was the superior player to Carson Wentz. Goff couldn’t win in college, so why was he so highly regarded by analysts such as Mel Kiper and Todd McShay? Wentz won in college, but he played his college ball at North Dakota State. Yet Wentz is a proven winner just like former small school studs Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, and Ben Roethlisberger, all AFC North franchise quarterbacks. Many may call bluff on me calling Andy Dalton a franchise quarterback, but he led the Bengals to five straight playoff appearances, and started six seasons. That, by definition, is a franchise quarterback. Do the Browns have one in Trubisky? Give it at least a year, but one thing is for certain, and that is if the Browns think Trubisky is their guy, by all means he needs to go to Cleveland.
Dream Scenario One: Mitch Trubisky #1 overall, Dalvin Cook #12 overall. The NFL is a copycat league, and here the Browns are doing something eerily identical to what the Cowboys did last season. It worked in Dallas with fantastic results. Will it work in Cleveland? The Browns don’t have that offensive line the Cowboys possess and the defense is in transition, but it’s a start. The Browns can most definitely benefit from this, especially with two fantastic committee backs in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. Make Cook the number one back and behind him is a downhill runner in Crowell and a hybrid type of running back in Johnson. If Terrelle Pryor resigns and Corey Coleman slides nicely into the number two spot at receiver, Trubisky has something to work with, especially with Cook lining up in the backfield.
Dream Scenario Two: Myles Garrett #1 overall, Malik Hooker #12 overall. As previously mentioned, the defense is in transition, but with Gregg Williams, a smooth transition is assured. If Gregg Williams were an illegitimate descendant of Paul Brown, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I see a lot of Brown in Gregg Williams. If you give two former college football studs for Williams to work with, that defense just went from worst to somewhere in the middle of the pack in a three hour timespan.
Dream Scenario Three: Mitch Trubisky #1 overall, DeShaun Watson #12 overall. Bear with me on this one and let’s take a voyage back to the year 1989, where the Cowboys took Hall of Fame Quarterback Troy Aikman at number one. During that year’s NFL Supplemental Draft, the Cowboys took Quarterback Steve Walsh, burning a first round pick on the guy. It worked, especially due to the fact not Aikman, but Walsh, gave the Cowboys their lone win in the 1989 NFL Season. The same could happen here. What if Trubisky turned out more like Tim Couch or Mike Phipps? And what if Watson developed into a superstar somewhere else? It’d be better if the Browns took Watson. Sure, the drawback here is that a quarterback controversy is all but guaranteed. However, one of these two HAS to be legit! If neither are, this goes down as the worst draft in the history of the Browns. If they’re both good, the Browns just earned themselves another first round pick in 2018, because someone (probably the New York Jets) will be working the phone.
Dream Scenario Four: DeShaun Watson #1 overall, Mike Williams #12 overall. Two college football teammate trading in their orange and purple for orange and brown. Doesn’t that just sound right? Sure, they may not have blown everyone away during their collegiate careers, but at least they won a lot of games together. The Browns will have two winners looking to turn around a hard luck, pained franchise.
Dream Scenario Five: Myles Garrett #1 overall, Jonathan Allen #12 overall. Sure, this is highly unlikely, but just imagine the possibilities. The Browns would most definitely have to trade up in order to draft both Garrett and Allen, possibly even trade up to the number two pick. This could easily be a ringer or two for the franchise. Sure, the Indianapolis Colts tried this once upon a time with Steve Emtman and Quentin Coryatt back in 1992, the only time an NFL team held the first two picks since 1958. And trust me, it didn’t work out well for Indy.
There you have it, five dream scenarios for the Cleveland Browns.Which scenario is most likely to occur? If I had to do a top twelve mock draft at the moment, it would look like this.
- Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE/Texas A&M: The best player in this draft overall. The Browns need help at defensive end, where only Emmanuel Ogbah is a legitimate threat.
- San Francisco 49ers: DeShone Kizer, QB/Notre Dame: Kizer struggled to win with the Fighting Irish, but the 49ers reportedly like him a lot. The NFL Combine speaks more wonders than it does smokescreens, especially for the highest picking teams.
- Chicago Bears: Mitch Trubisky, QB/North Carolina: The Jay Cutler experiment is all but over. Sure, Tony Romo or Tyrod Taylor could come to town, but if I’m the Bears, I want a guy to build around. Neither Romo nor Taylor are leading anyone to the Super Bowl.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Jonathan Allen, DE/Alabama: A dream situation for the Jaguars. With Allen falling to four, the Jaguars just landed a franchise cornerstone on defense.
- Tennessee Titans (via L.A. Rams): Marshon Lattimore, CB/Ohio State: The Titans looked strong on offense en route to a 9-7 finish. Now is the time to look over to the defensive side of the ball if the time would like to party their way to a Music City Miracle like it’s 1999.
- New York Jets: Pat Mahomes, QB/Texas Tech: You’re probably wondering why I put Mahomes here, right? This is the same New York Jets that reached for Christian Hackenberg last season, and in all honesty, I had Hackenberg going to New York in the first round in last year’s final mock. Mahomes is shooting up draft boards everywhere, and the Jets prey on that.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Leonard Fournette, RB/LSU: They have a back in Melvin Gordon, but Gordon has proven he’s nothing more than a short yardage back, albeit a very good one. Enter the 240lb Fournette, and party like it’s 2001. I know LaDanian Tomlinson will be.
- Carolina Panthers: Mike Williams, WR/Clemson: Sure, I’m probably going against conventional logic, but since I started watching the NFL Draft back in 2003, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to go against logic.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Jamal Adams, SS/LSU: Arguably the best safety in the draft class, Cincy wins big here by taking the best player available at this point in the draft.
- Buffalo Bills: DeShaun Watson, QB/Clemson: Finally, Watson goes to the Buffalo Bills, who are very likely going to be in the quarterback hunt when the new league year begins later this month. The only question: will he be the next Jim Kelly or the next E.J. Manuel?
- New Orleans Saints: Malik McDowell, DL/MSU: The Saints defense has long been the weak point ever since the departure of former Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams.This is a team that is an entire defense away from being competitive once again.
- Cleveland Browns: Malik Hooker, S/Ohio State: The Browns had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL in 2016. While Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun looked like a decent trio, too many teams threw over the top and picked on the inexperienced, non-existent safeties. Hooker helps out here.