Starting to Scout – 2015 Targets by Position
It’s well established that the Browns are pretty far from a finished product and will require improvements to be playing in the months of January and February. But what positional groups should Ray Farmer and his scouts look at first and foremost? We’ll take a glance at the top five for the Cleveland Browns – hopefully they can address these, while obtaining depth at other key areas of the team. I omitted special teams in this section, as they will likely be addressed either late in the draft or via free agency.
#1 – A Stalwart Offensive Tackle (or Guard)
A tremendous offensive line can lead to a solid unit overall. I have been less than impressed by the play of right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, but he might still be with the team in 2015. I would be on board with drafting a great tackle in the second round of the draft and moving Schwartz to guard. Joel Bitonio was a solid pickup last season – why shouldn’t this type of superb drafting continue?
#2 – An Exceptional Outside Linebacker
Paul Kruger was the only guy who the Browns could depend upon at outside linebacker in 2014. Barkevious Mingo was oft injured, as was Jabaal Sheard (who is a pending free agent). Even if is re-signed, I would still like the team to draft an outside linebacker in the first round of the draft. Putting pressure on opponent is a huge component of the NFL, and the Browns must be ahead of the curve in this aspect.
#3 – An Interior Defensive Lineman
Surrendering multiple 200-yard outings by opposing running backs is unacceptable, and the Browns must fix this problem immediately. I anticipate Ahtyba Rubin to not be re-signed, so that will leave a big opening on the roster. Phil Taylor, Billy Winn, and John Hughes are three guys who will play some nose tackle next season. With the rash of several injuries, the team must build the team heavily here. Getting two productive linemen in the draft is critical.
#4 – Options at Quarterback
All of the turnover and poor play at quarterback makes this position a huge question mark. I would not be surprised if the team acquires another signal caller during the later rounds of the draft – to challenge Johnny Manziel and whoever is brought in to compete for the starting gig. All options will be exhausted, and the right guy must be found – perhaps he could be the answer.
#5 – Weapons at Wide Receiver
Will Josh Gordon be traded in the coming months? What will the team do with Miles Austin (a free agent to-be)? I do not believe that Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel can do it alone – they need a pair of phenomenal mates on the outside. I want one drafted very early and another either picked late or via free agency. Improving this area significantly can make it easier on the guy under center – provided that athlete has his head on straight.
Conclusion: While it is still extremely early in the offseason, it is never a bad idea to gauge what the front office will be keying on during the draft in late April. I hope Ray Farmer can hit home runs with these five (or at least four, if Manziel becomes good) positional groups. Doing so would be huge for the organization.