The Cleveland Browns have been on the clock for months and yet, just hours from the start of the 2017 NFL Draft, there’s little, if any confidence they can get this right. The Browns own five of the first 65 picks in the draft and seven of the top 142, so they have a legitimate chance to jump-start a rebuild this week. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around often, and Cleveland absolutely can’t afford to screw it up.
The Browns own the first and 12th picks in the first round. At No. 1 they almost certainly have to go with Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett is the one true star in this year’s draft and even if he doesn’t pan out, no one could blame the Browns for taking him. He’s an athletic freak who can get after the quarterback. That’s a skill that’s value can’t be understated in the modern NFL. They must to take Garrett No. 1. They simply can’t pass him up.
The 12th pick is where things get interesting. Reports have ownership desperate to add a quarterback. So desperate in fact, that they might even try to trade up to get their man. After a ton of film study I’m not sure I could justify taking any of the signal-callers in this draft in the top 20. Mitchell Trubisky (no, it’s no longer “Mitch”) appears to be the guy the Browns like, but taking him at 12 or higher would be a complete waste of resources as far as I’m concerned. At that spot a ton of great players will be available, and the Browns have holes all over the roster.
There should be several good cornerbacks there at 12, if safeties Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker fall either would be a great value at that spot as well. What about Alabama tight end O.J. Howard or a top-end receiver? The possibilities are endless and the Browns shouldn’t hem themselves in by having to select a quarterback there.
Cleveland’s focus all through the draft should be taking the best player available at every spot. This team desperately needs to add talent everywhere. Heck, the Browns could even afford to trade down from 12 and stockpile more picks.
If the Browns pass on a quarterback in the first round and feel they have to find one, there should be a few on the board at No. 33. That said, I still think they should avoid doing that just to get a young QB on the roster. Take the best player available and build. Even with a young quarterback and all these picks, Cleveland is likely going to be bad again in 2017. That will put the franchise in a position to select a quarterback high in what should be a far better class in 2018. If the Browns play this right, they could collect a ton of talent this year to put around that guy when he takes the reins for the 2018 season.
There is no quick fix in Cleveland. This will be a multi-year process and the focus right now needs to be asset acquisition. Gather as much talent as possible and figure out how to put it all together on the field. Reaching just to have a “franchise quarterback” on the roster would be the height of folly. If this new Browns front office is truly different, it should lead the way by eschewing the typical logic that has doomed Cleveland in the past.