Cleveland Browns Draft Watch: Carlos Hyde and Five Players to Watch in the Orange Bowl

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Updated: January 3, 2014

Most Cleveland Browns fans are, by geographic association, Ohio State Buckeye fans as well. With that said you will likely be watching the Orange Bowl on Friday night. Lucky for you, the Orange Bowl will feature some very prominent NFL prospects on both sides of the field.

While the Browns will be sending four offensive players to the Pro Bowl, the lack of a quarterback, a consistent running back and a second wide receiver crippled the offense this past season. And after watching the defense crumble in the second half of the season – and the second half of games – a few more defensive playmakers can always be added.

As you sit down with your food and beverage of choice on Friday night to watch the Buckeyes take on the Clemson Tigers, pay close attention to the following players who might be playing for your Browns next season.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson, Projected Round: 2-3

Arguably the most intriguing prospect for Browns fans in this game, Boyd is an athletic QB who has the potential to change the face of a franchise. Standing at 6’1”, the Clemson redshirt senior will face the “too short for the NFL” stereotype as he enters the 2014 Draft process. Boyd is currently projected as a third or fourth-round pick by CBS Sports, but a team will likely reach for him earlier in the Draft.

His draft stock has fallen recently due to his performance against the better defenses on Clemson’s schedule, as he has been criticized for having poor pocket presence and thinking “run first” under pressure. The playmakers surrounding Boyd also make his life easy, catching poorly placed passes and turning short throws into long gains. If Boyd wants to be a successful NFL QB he’ll need to improve his timing, accuracy, and poise in the pocket.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State, Projected Round: 2-3

It’ll be hard to miss Hyde on Friday night. The Buckeyes workhorse in the backfield, Hyde will get plenty of touches against the Tigers. He is averaging nearly 6.5 yards per carry over the last two seasons, totaling 30 rushing touchdowns in that span. At 6’0” and 240 pounds, Hyde is a bruising back who also has enough speed to separate from the pursuit.

Hyde is known for his north-south running style, making one cut through the line and breaking into the second level of the defense. With his 240-pound frame, he busts through arm tackles and rarely goes down at first contact. Every step, stiff arm or lowered shoulder from Hyde is purposeful, not taking any false steps – the biggest reason this writer believes Hyde will be a productive NFL running back.

Paired with returning RBs Dion Lewis and/or Edwin Baker, the Browns will have an effective thunder and lightning duo in the backfield. The senior is currently projected in the second to thrid round of the Draft.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson, Projected Round: 1

One of the playmakers mentioned in the Boyd write-up is Watkins, who is widely regarded as the top rated WR in this Draft class.  The junior wideout has elite speed, which he uses to burn by defenders in the open field. His quickness and agility allows Watkins to easily get open and separate from defensive backs.

Smaller than the also highly-touted Mike Evans from Texas A&M, Watkins will fit nicely into an offense that will utilize him in short routes and bubble screens. If the Browns covet Watkins to pair with Josh Gordon they will have to use their fourth overall pick to select him, or will need to package a deal to move up with their second pick. NFL teams crave playmaking WRs with speed, so Watkins will be drafted no later than the middle of the first round, if not sooner.

Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State, Projected Round: 1-2

The junior OLB has yet to decide if he’s staying in school or declaring for the NFL Draft, but if he declares for the draft, Shazier is projected to be a late first/early second-round pick. Tied for sixth in the country with 135 tackles, Shazier is a force on defense.  Consider his seven sacks, four forced fumbles and four pass breakups, and he’s also a game-changer. If the Browns decide to go defense with one of their first three picks, Shazier could be one of them.

At 6’2” and 226 pounds, Shazier has a lean build for a OLB, helping him make plays sideline to sideline; however, he sometimes finds himself being controlled by bigger, mobile linemen with his smaller frame. Shazier could be a great hybrid ILB/OLB in the NFL, utilizing his phenomenal read-and-react abilities to rack up tackles.

Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State, Projected Round: 2-3

I know, I know, it’s not too exciting to watch offensive linemen. In fact, even if you watched all of the Buckeyes games this season, there’s a chance you don’t even know Mewhort’s name. Nevertheless, the senior OT is a team captain and has been called “one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around” by head coach Urban Meyer.

Two of the Browns offensive linemen were named to the Pro Bowl this season, but as a unit seemed to struggle creating running room and giving the QBs time in the pocket. Having started at three different positions over his career at Ohio State, Mewhort could immediately step into the NFL at guard or tackle and be successful. Adding his 6’6” and 308-pound body to the line would give the Browns extra leverage in the trenches. Not to mention he comes from one of the top running teams in the country, and the Browns struggled mightily in run blocking in 2013. Mewhort is currently projected as a second-round pick.

Bonus: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State, Projected Round: Undecided

Miller is not typically thrown into draft discussions, mainly because of his inconsistent passing game and past labeling of being a run-first QB. Oh, and the fact that he’s only a junior. In his two years under coach Meyer, Miller has shown steady improvement as a passer, and continues to be dynamic on the ground. If he decides to declare for the NFL Draft, Miller will be a mid-to-late round selection, but an intriguing one at that. Regarded as a project QB, he could be a successful NFL player if given the proper guidance and coaching.

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