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Another year, another regime in Cleveland, as Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine are now the general manager and head coach, respectively. With new management and a new coaching staff, change is inevitable, especially when it comes to personnel.
The Cleveland Browns have some great building blocks to work with already. Josh Gordon led the NFL in receiving a year ago, while Joe Haden joined an elite class of lockdown corners. Now the task is surrounding those players with a supporting cast.
Who will be throwing the ball to Gordon? Brandon Weeden has already stated he wants to get out of Cleveland, and behind him there’s 32-year-old journeyman Jason Campbell. Brian Hoyer impressed in a short span of starts last season, but that body of work is not enough to anoint him the franchise quarterback just yet.
The Browns possess two picks in the first round and are positioned to take the best quarterback available after the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars make their selections. The consensus top-three quarterbacks this year are Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles. Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, is the hybrid playmaker who has shown a knack for improvisation. Bridgewater, largely considered the top-rated prospect, is the most NFL-ready at this point in his career. And Bortles, fresh off lifting UCF is a Tostisto Fiesta Bowl victory, has the prototypical NFL size and arm.
The interesting factor here is how much the Browns covet Johnny Football. While many mock drafts project Houston to nab him with the No. 1 overall pick, reports in January indicated the Browns were willing to trade up to grab Manziel because of owner Jimmy Haslam is in a win-now mode.
Cleveland also owns the No. 26 overall pick, and with it the team can give whomever their quarterback is Week 1 another weapon to throw to. Gordon thrived despite Greg Little and Davone Bess being ineffective as receivers. And because of the abundance of talented wide receivers in this class, the Browns should be able to find a good complementary piece.
One of the quickest risers since the NFL Combine is Odell Beckham Jr., who is a big-play waiting to happen as well as a return specialist. Beckham could jumpstart the Browns’ deep-passing game and would force attention away from Gordon.
The team acquired this pick by trading away former first-round pick Trent Richardson, so perhaps the Browns will spend the pick on drafting the top running back in this year’s draft — local product Carlos Hyde. The Ohio State standout is one of the few workhorses available and has drawn comparisons to reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy. He could join the Browns’ new quarter and Gordon to form a young, dynamic trio of offensive weapons.
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