With the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft roughly three months away and glaring needs at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive and defensive line, the Cleveland Browns could go in a myriad of directions.
With a recent front office purge including former general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine, the new analytics-driven Browns brain trust led by Executive Vice President of Operations Sashi Brown, Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta, vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry and new head coach Hue Jackson, Cleveland appears to be all in on this new and drastically unique direction.
Based on their current needs in the draft and upcoming decisions on the fate of offensive lineman Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz and Joe Thomas, the murky futures of current-suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon, troubled former first-round quarterback Johnny Manziel and disappointing busts such as Barkevious Mingo and Justin Gilbert.
In association with the mock-draft website Draft Utopia, here are my two-round mock predictions of whom the Cleveland Browns will select in April.
Round 1, No.2 Pick, Jared Goff, QB, Cal: At first if you don’t succeed, try and try again right?
In the case of the Cleveland Browns, taking a quarterback in the first round has been an exercise in both insanity and torture to be kind.
In an effort to exorcise the past first-round demons of Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and the forementioned Johnny Manziel, Cleveland rolls the dice on the former record-setting signal-caller from Cal-Berkeley in Goff.
At 6’4 and 210 pounds, Goff may need to bulk up if he hopes to survive in the physical and rugged AFC North against the likes of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore two times a year. If the football gods somehow bless Cleveland with a little bit of fortuitous luck—which for this writer is asking a LOT—in the reinstatement of Flash Gordon, the retention of Mack, Schwartz and Thomas, the re-signing of speedster Travis Benjamin and a couple of top-tier free agent signings such as Marvin Jones then Goff will have some weapons to work with in his rookie year.
While not as taylor-made for the AFC North like North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or Memphis’s Paxton Lynch, Goff is by far the more polished prospect, who can be a Week 1 starter thanks to passing for 4,719 yards, 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing closing to 65 percent of his passes(64.5) and averaging 363 yards passing a game.
If you’re a Browns fan, a Goff-led offense featuring Gordon, Benjamin, Gary Barnidge—possibly Jones—and Duke Johnson is tantalizing to say the least.
Round 2, 32nd overall pick, Braxton Miller, WR, The Ohio State University: in an effort to display their outside-the-box approach, the Cleveland Browns grab a regional hero and uber-talented playmaker in former Ohio State quarterback-turned-wide receiver in Braxton Miller.
Miller, a native of Huber Heights, a suburb of Dayton, was the former two-time Big Ten Player Of The Year before separating his shoulder in preseason, thus paving the way for J.T. Barrett—and later on in Cardale Jones—during the Buckeyes magical national title run in 2014.
After deciding to return for a fifth year as a converted wideout, Miller quickly flashed his b-button in front of a national audience down in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech.
For the year, Miller flashed his multi-purpose versatility in catching 26 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns and rush for 260 yards on 42 carries and one touchdown.
Out of the wildcat, under center, in of the slot or even as a returner, Miller has the makings of a Randall Cobb/Antonio Brown-like threat for the Browns. Miller landing in Cleveland at No.32 will be a boon from both a PR standpoint in having a beloved Buckeye and a dynamic game-changer of a weapon in Miller, whose draft stock really rose thanks to a standout week of practice down at the 2016 Senior Bowl.
Luckily for Braxton, new Browns head coach Hue Jackson has a history of working with converted quarterbacks-turned-receiver, as he worked wonders with current Bengals wideout Mohamed Sanu, and with the exact mesaureables as Sanu at 6’2 and 215, one can only wonder what Jackson would do with Miller in Cleveland.