Welcome to the 2014 football season!
Well, not actually. The FNY (Football New Year—a very real and heavily celebrated holiday in our household) actually occurred on March 11th with the beginning of free agency. But I realize that many of you may not celebrate that particular holiday (kinda like how I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day), and instead view today as the official start of football season.
That’s right folks, it’s DRAFT DAY!!!
And I know that’s super exciting. Trust me. I’m pumped. But before we get carried away, let me explain why you should switch over to the Browns Babe calendar and start celebrating FNY in early March: In order to be validly ecstatic (or—if we’re going for historically accurate statistical probabilities—completely disappointed) by the Browns draft picks over the next few days, you need to know what players have been picked up in free agency so far and what positions are still lacking talent.
Here’s your overview:
1. Karlos Dansby—Inside Linebacker—Brought in to replace the beloved D’Qwell Jackson.
Upside—Finished last season with 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 4 interceptions, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns. Also notoriously healthy, having started at least 14 games every season of his NFL career. (Knock on wood.)
Downside—His age. He’s kinda old. But, age and experience bring leadership, so this isn’t a complete negative.
In the draft—The Browns should still pick up another inside linebacker. In Coach Pettine’s 3-4 defense, you need two. Craig Robertson, who is still on the roster, worked inside next to Jackson last year and just didn’t seem to hack it.
My Favorite ILBs—C.J. Mosley (Alabama), Chris Borland (Wisconsin), Shayne Skov (Stanford)
2. Donte Whitner—Strong Safety—Brought in to replace T.J. Ward
Upside—ProBowler for the last 2 seasons. Finished last season with 78 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. Also, hometown hero from Glenville and former Ohio State Buckeye that seems PUMPED to be back in Cleveland.
Downside—His age. He’s actually not that old, but he’s been in the league 8 years. That takes a toll.
In the draft–With Whitner as their strong safety and Tashaun Gipson returning at free safety, I don’t see safety as a priority position for the Browns in this draft.
3. Isaiah Trufant—Cornerback/Special Teams
Upside—Was one of Jets’ special teams tackling leaders. Decent backup corner that worked with Pettine in NY and already knows his defense.
In the draft—The Browns are rumored to be looking for a cornerback in this draft. As a big fan of Buster Skrine’s improvement last season, I don’t necessarily see this as a huge priority. That being said, Joe Haden’s contract expires at the end of the season, and Skrine is not an acceptable replacement. Probably better to be safe than sorry.
My Favorite Corners—Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech), Jason Verrett (TCU), Bradley Roby (Ohio State)
4. Jim Dray—Tight End
Upside—Finished last season with career highs in starts (15), receptions (26), receiving yards (215), and touchdowns (2). Dropped zero passes. (As I am still recovering from Little-induced dropped-ball PTSD, this sounds amazing to me.). Also known as a true blocking tight end, something Gary Barnidge cannot claim. Nice complement next to Cameron.
In the draft—The Browns have more tight ends than they know what to do with. (There are so many jokes there…)
5. Ben Tate—Running Back—Brought in to replace Willis McGahee
Upside—Averages 4.7 yards per carry over career. Finished last season with 771 total yards and 4 touchdowns, despite serving as the Texans’ #2 runner. Super tough, having played last season through four broken ribs.
Downside—Somewhat injury prone.
In the draft—The Browns may or may not pick up another running back. Dion Lewis, who showed promise during the 2013 preseason, is returning after spending all of last season on injured reserve with a broken leg.
My Favorite RBs—Carlos Hyde (Ohio State), Tre Mason (Auburn), Jeremy Hill (LSU)
6. Andrew Hawkins—Slot Receiver—Brought in to replace Davone Bess
Upside—Finished the 2012 season with 51 receptions, 533 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns. Injured during preseason 2013, and only played in final 8 games last year. During those games, showed tremendous speed, averaging 16.6 yards after the catch.
Downside—Lack of experience, somewhat of an untested talent.
In the draft—The Browns found a new slot receiver with a lot of potential, but they will most likely be looking for another wideout in the draft to pair next to Josh Gordon.
My favorite WRs—Sammy Watkins (Clemson), Mike Evans (Texas A&M), Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU), Brandin Cooks (Oregon State), Marqise Lee (Southern California)
7. Paul McQuistan—Offensive Guard
Upside—Veteran with versatility, has played both guard and both tackle positions. Gives the Browns needed depth on the offensive line.
In the draft—The Browns will likely choose to pick up at least one offensive lineman in this draft for 2 reasons: 1) This draft class has spectacular O-line talent, and 2) The line was a little too porous last year. (I’m looking at you, John Greco. And you, Mitchell Schwartz.)
My Favorite Guards—Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA), Joel Bitonio (Nevada), Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State), David Yankey (Stanford), Cyril Richardson (Baylor)
8. Nate Burleson—Wide Receiver
Upside—In the last 4 years had 194 receptions, 2,083 yards, and 12 touchdowns, despite missing 17 games in the last 2 seasons. Huge leadership potential for a very young receiving corps.
Downside—Injury prone in last 2 seasons.
9. Chris Pressley—Fullback
Upside—Much more of a true fullback than Chris Ogbannaya. In 2011, ranked sixth out of all NFL fullbacks. In 2012, helped BenJarvus Green-Ellis lead NFL in 3rd-and-1 conversions.
Downside—Spent 2013 injured, doesn’t have tons of experience.
In the draft—With Chris Ogbannaya acting as a receiving fullback and Chris Pressley acting as a blocker, the Browns are probably pretty solid at fullback.
10. Zac Diles—Linebacker
Upside—Journeyman linebacker. Likely brought in to add depth and increase competition during the offseason.
11. Vince Young—Quarterback
Upside— Previously went 31-19 as a starter, making 2 ProBowls. Was 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Over career has passed for 8,964 yards and 46 touchdowns and rushed for 1,459 yards and 12 touchdowns. Familiar with Browns QB coach Dowell Loggains from their time with the Titans.
Downside—Last played for Eagles in 2011. Also, he’s Vince Young.
12. Tyler Thigpen—Quarterback
Upside—Mobile, would fit into Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Downside—Last on a roster in 2012 (Bills). Last started in 2010 (Miami).
In the draft—The Browns are most likely going to pick up a quarterback in this draft. Young and Thigpen were low risk pick-ups–one will likely serve as a backup this year, and the other will likely get cut at the end of training camp. Hoyer is the presumed starter, but that could change. (But I hope it doesn’t.)
My Favorite QBs—I adamantly refuse to weigh in on this debate. Guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens tonight!
IT’S DRAFT DAY BABY!!!