Top choices at #4 – ranking (the realistic) non-quarterback options prior to the draft:
With just over two weeks left until the draft, the direction of the Browns is still unknown. They could select a signal caller with this first selection, but there’s a great chance that does not occur. Under that assumption, let’s review a few of the guys who can become a part of the organization on draft weekend. I’m omitting Jadeveon Clowney, as I believe he will be selected within the first three picks. Let’s review my three top options, as well as other possibilities.
1 – Sammy Watkins
I know many will argue that Watkins would not be the team’s number one wide reciver, and you cannot take a second wide out that early. I also understand this is a deep draft for this postion, but the former Clemson star is rated as the best option and gives offenses an explosive outlet for the passing game. While Josh Gordon will either “stretch” or “take the top off” defenses, Watkins can become the “quick hitter” and secure shorter passes and advance the football quickly. No matter if Brian Hoyer or a rookie signal caller is under center, the combination of Watkins, Gordon, and Jordan Cameron will reduce the burden on the quarterback.
2 – Khalil Mack
Despite choosing Barkevious Mingo with the number six pick last year, the Browns could opt to select another athelete early who plays the same position. Coach Pettine would love an opportunity to shuffle Mack, Mingo, Jabaal Sheard, Paul Kruger, and Karlos Dansby around on a regular basis. This ought to confuse and frustrate offenses; something foreign to the Cleveland Browns. I would hope they then go “offensive-heavy” for the remaining portion of the draft; including securing a quarterback, wide receiver, and running back with the next five selections. Mack would be an excellent option and be a day-one impact athlete – I, for one, would not complain if the general manager gets the linebacker from Buffalo on May 8th.
3 – Greg Robinson
While a tremendous athlete, I would be rather disappointed with an offensive tackle at the fourth selection. The two highest-paid members on the team are already on the offensive line (Alex Mack and Joe Thomas); the Browns need to invest in guys who can advance the football routinely. Provided the above two guys are already selected, and Ray Farmer does not want a quarterback that early, the team will have a difficult decision to make. But there are worse prospects than Robinson at number four.
Remaining options: Realistically, there are only two options (with Anthony Barr as a remote possibility) past these three guys and any signal caller. These are offensive tackle Jake Matthews and to trade the pick down and acquire more selections. I’m in the same boat with the Texas A&M lineman as I am with Robinson – a nice pick, but the resource could be used better with other alternatives. While not popular by many, a trade down could be a fine route to travel. However, with ten choices in 2014 they should opt for future picks to have more ammunition going forward.
Conclusion: All of this speculation has been extremely difficult to sort out and predicting what the top four teams will do in the draft has been nearly impossible. If the Browns forgo a quarterback (at the fourth pick), I look for the franchise to decide upon an athlete who opponents will have to game plan against. This waiting game is finally winding down, and we will see how the 2014 roster starts to take shape.