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2014 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Possibility of a First Round Quarterback in 2014 Still Very Real
By Sam Ingro
Mel Kiper Jr. released his 2014 NFL Draft Big Board today. On that list sat three potential franchise quarterbacks ranked in his Top 25. Those quarterbacks include Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Texas A&M’s Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel.
For better or worse, the 2013 NFL Draft gave some teams answers at the position, at least for the next couple seasons. The Bills selected Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and the Jets selected West Virginia’s Geno Smith, and both men will at least be given the benefit of two or three seasons to claim their place. Tampa Bay chose N.C. State’s Mike Glennon in the third round, and they will be evaluating both him and Josh Freeman moving forward. To a lesser extent, the Eagles and Raiders picked USC’s Matt Barkley and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson in the fourth round, both prospects that displayed a lot of talent in college and will attempt to be developed for the long term.
That leaves four teams to be evaluating their starting passers this season for a possible change at the position in the 2014 draft: The Jaguars with Blaine Gabbert, the Rams with Sam Bradford, the Vikings with Christian Ponder, and yes, the Browns with Brandon Weeden.
For Cleveland, Weeden was a Top 25 pick in the 2012 draft, but the men in charge of that decision are no longer employed by the Browns. Cleveland general manager Michael Lombardi is on record during the 2012 draft saying he was not a big fan of Weeden, so to say he is on a short leash is by no means an inaccurate statement. He will have to play lights-out football this year in Norv Turner’s offense to retain his starting job, otherwise, you can be sure that Lombardi and Joe Banner will pull the trigger on a quarterback in the next draft.
This coming season’s schedule certainly favors Weeden’s chances of holding onto his job. The Browns drew the 12th easiest schedule in the NFL, their opponents combining for a .492 winning percentage and a 126-130-0 record last year. He will likely head into battle against: Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins, Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings, Manuel and the Buffalo Bills, Matt Stafford and the Detroit Lions, Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears, Smith and the New York Jets, twice against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, twice against Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals and twice against Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens.
Combined with the favorable schedule, the Browns added more weapons for Weeden. Lombardi made trades for running back Dion Lewis and wide receiver Davone Bess while adding slot wideout David Nelson in free agency. Bess brings dependability and experience to the position, anchoring a receiving core that features promising young pass catchers Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Nelson presents a big-time red zone target for Weeden at 6’5″ as well as additional NFL experience, and Lewis brings a shiftiness and quick element to the running game.
If Weeden cannot get it done this season in Turner’s quarterback friendly offense, the cards are laid out on the table for the 2014 NFL Draft. Weeden will need to stay in the present, however, as the more experienced Jason Campbell is still chomping at the bit to take another shot at the starting role after his premature run ended in Oakland. If Weeden falters, you can bet Coach Rob Chudzinski will pull the plug and make Campbell your new starting quarterback, en route to seeing Bridgewater or Boyd in orange and brown in 2014.
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