What If the Cleveland Browns Don’t Take a Quarterback With Pick Number Four?

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Updated: January 8, 2014

The Cleveland Browns currently own pick number four in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. Many expect (and hope) that the Browns will do something they haven’t done since 1999, draft a quarterback with their top five pick and land that elusive franchise quarterback. Three possible options sit atop many draft boards: Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel.

With Cleveland holding two first round picks and five selections in the first three rounds it seems likely that they can move up to take their guy, assuming of course they can find a trade partner. Both the Houston Texans (number one overall) and the St. Louis Rams (number two via Washington) have said they would be open to a trade, but whether the Browns front office is willing to deal the necessary assets is unclear. Last season Joe Banner and the Browns front office reportedly shot down a trade to move back from the number six pick.

Assuming no move is made by the Browns and they stay at four, there is a chance that all three of the top QB prospects get taken ahead of them. Both Houston and Jacksonville need a quarterback and while it’s unlikely (although not improbable) that St. Louis would also take a quarterback, another team (Minnesota, Tennessee, Oakland) could move up to the number two spot and draft a signal caller. For the Browns that could mean Bridgewater, Bortles and Manziel all get drafted before they are even on the clock. The last time three quarterbacks were taken with the first three picks of the draft was 1999, so this wouldn’t be unprecedented. Even if two of the three quarterbacks are taken and the remaining prospect left isn’t what the front office would consider to be “their guy” Cleveland has plenty of other options besides a quarterback..

The Browns could use pick number four on Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins showcased himself recently in the Orange Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The speedy wide out torched a suspect Buckeyes defense to the tune of 16 receptions, 227 yards and two touchdowns. On the season Watkins has 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns bringing his three year career numbers at Clemson to 240 catches for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. While he might be a bit on the small side (6’1” 205 pounds) Watkins is a good route runner with plenty of downfield speed. He would be a nice pairing with a Browns receiving corps that is made up of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.

Staying on the offensive side of the ball, the Browns could use pick number four on Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews. The son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, Jake is a standout pass blocker for Manziel as well as a good run blocker. While it would create a bit of a logjam at the tackle position for the Browns, Joe Thomas is aging and Mitchell Schwartz didn’t really improve on his rookie season. If the Browns decide to trade Schwartz (or move him to guard) that could open things up for Matthews in Cleveland.

Lastly, the Browns could select South Carolina standout defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is considered by some to be the best prospect in the entire draft class and for good reason. Statistically, Clowney had a down season this year. However for his three year career at South Carolina he has accumulated 125 total tackles, 46 tackles for a loss and 24 sacks. While only three of those sacks came last season Clowney was routinely double teamed and game planned against by opposing offenses. As evidence by the video, Clowney can deliver a big hit to a ball carrier (just ask former Michigan running back Vincent Smith), which leads to another of his strengths – stopping the run.

Clowney is big, quick and physical at the point of attack. He is able to shed blockers and can blow up a rushing play before it ever materializes. These same attributes make him a premier pass rusher that CBS Sports’ Rob Rang calls a “more pro-ready talent than Mario Williams”. While the Browns defense was perceived as a strength last season they did end up finishing 18th in rushing yards allowed and at times struggled to get after the opposing quarterback. Clowney is an instant upgrade for both categories.

While the assumption does remain that the Browns will take a quarterback with their first 1st round selection, a scenario may play out where they are either unable to do so or their top target gets drafted. Should that happen Cleveland shouldn’t reach on Derek Carr, Tajh Boyd or A.J. McCarron at number four overall, all three of those players could be had later in the first round. Instead they should consider Watkins, Matthews or Clowney.

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