By Matt Stevenson
March 25, 2015
The Cleveland Browns didn’t make much of a splash in the first week of free agency, letting big-name targets walk away while trying to keep the boatloads of money in their pocket from falling out.
The Browns added Quarter Back Josh McCown, Defensive Linemen Randy Starks, Defensive Back Tramon Williams, and of course Wide Receivers Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe.
With two first round picks the Browns were expected to snag a WR and DL due to the availability of talent at those respective positions. However, now with boosting both positions, the Browns aren’t really in need of first-round talent at these positions.
So with two picks in the first round, where exactly do the Browns go from here? Wait for it folks… the Cleveland Browns will once again try to trade up for a Quarter Back for the second consecutive year.
That’s right, I said it! After the horrid Manziel saga ending with him in rehab for the past few months, the Browns have once again fell in love with a QB, Marcus Mariota. Before I begin my reasoning behind this, let’s explore why we would even consider it.
Mike Pettine voiced his plans and concerns at the NFL Owners Meeting today, March 24th. He revealed a lot of information regarding the upcoming season. The Browns expect to have Johnny Manziel at camp on April 20, as his rehab stint has reportedly shown great signs of improvement although no date has been specified for his discharge. Pettine also addressed the QB situation adding the draft, “will be another opportunity to address the position” as well as stating “Two 1st round picks gives you options, QB the 1 position trading up becomes viable”. Pettine also went on to praise Mariota for his intelligence while adding he hasn’t had any private workouts with anyone and they’re very aware and informed due to the relationship between Mariota and O’Connell.
The signing of the 2 WR is odd, especially considering both have eclipsed 1,000 yard seasons numerous times… Hartline and Bowe aren’t number 1 receivers but they’re also no scrubs. Let’s not forget about Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel, in which both impressed the organization and fans their first year with the Browns.
Defensive line still remains in question after losing Jablaal Sheard and Ahtyba Rubin in free agency although with Phil Taylor, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Armonty and Desmond Bryant, Billy Winn and the newly signed Randy Starks, there isn’t much room for drafting a starting linemen in the first round.
Now to Mariota. Owner Jimmy Haslam said recently that the Cleveland Browns will not succeed in the NFL without a top-10 caliber QB, and that the fix needs to come sooner than later. I’m not quite sure about you, but I know Josh McCown is not a top-10 QB. McCown is a decent starter for the short-term, but both McCown and the Browns know this. However, with trading up to draft the “future” and “face” of the Cleveland Browns last year in Manziel, it’s odd that the owner would act as if we don’t have our QB of the future. Clearly, Manziel is not a reliable option and has obviously disappointed the front office especially after Haslam’s comments.
But why Mariota? Mariota has numerous ties within the organization already, such strong ties that opposing General Managers were complaining to the NFL about it. New QB coach Kevin O’Connell worked Mariota out for 6 weeks prior to his signing with the team, although it was well-known O’Connell was going to be added to the staff. Mariota is comfortable with O’Connell, knows his style, how he likes to run a team starting with the Quarter Back position.
This all was happening in early February. Fast-forward to present time to Marcus Mariota’s Pro-Day a few weeks ago on March 12. Guess who ran the flashy Oregon QB’s Pro-Day? You got it, Kevin O’Connell was. Not only was he calling plays for the young prospect, but he also had Mariota in the huddle with his players. This is an unusual event at a Pro-Day, as it’s usually just throwing and mechanics for Quarter Backs, however O’Connell had Mariota display his leadership as well almost as if it was his own player.
With the top 2 WR likely to be taken by the Browns’ first pick at 12, look for the Cleveland Browns to make a splash elsewhere potentially trading up a few picks to secure their guy. It’s not like we’ve been shy to do so as we’ve traded up to draft Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, and of course the legendary Johnny Manziel.
With a big play threat in Dwayne Bowe who has had experience with winning teams, a slot receiver in Brian Hartline who can run routes better than a school bus, and the quickness of Gabriel and Hawkins, it seems like a fast-paced offense that has a certain Oregon Ducks name written all over it.
Leadership, personality, work-ethic and talent. These are the 4 traits that Mariota has possessed over his time at Oregon, 4 traits that Manziel lacks when compared to Mariota at QB.
It shall be an exciting draft once again for the Cleveland Browns, and all signs are pointing towards them tip-toeing their way into the top 5 picks to capture the Oregon Duck that will hopefully take them to the clear watered pond of success.