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Grossi's QB Tracker: Week 10

Apr 28, 2015 -- 7:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Heading into the final days before the draft, the Quarterback Tracker shows less of chance of the Browns adding a major player to the position than when the pre-draft season began.

Trades for a veteran or for Marcus Mariota appear less realistic than any time since the 2014 season ended. It doesn’t mean one won’t happen, but it would be more of a surprise now than before.

That doesn’t mean the Browns won’t have discussions. It means the possibility of pulling something off is remote.

This installment marks the end of the Path to the Draft portion of the QB Tracker. It will go on hiatus until the Browns open training camp and the competition for the Browns’ starting position is charted on a regular basis.

Veterans

• Josh McCown widened his lead on the premise that he is being paid as a starter and will be hard to unseat unless a new quarterback is added.

• Any hints of trade for Sam Bradford or Philip Rivers dissipated to nothing more than false hope. Bradford’s agent has made it evident the quarterback doesn’t want to end up in Cleveland. Rivers remains a faint possibility of being dealt to Tennessee, but it’s been reported as not likely.

• Connor Shaw inched ahead of Johnny Manziel by another point. Shaw reported to the offseason program 10 pounds heavier than a year ago and with the attitude that he is in the mix for the starting competition.

 

Rookies

• For the third week in a row, Marcus Mariota’s number stayed the same. While speculation increased that Tennessee has gotten off the idea of Zach Mettenberger as franchise savior, the Titans still might be willing to trade the pick if they are blown away with an offer.

• Garrett Grayson remains in the lead. He is the only QB prospect known for sure to have a private workout and dinner meeting with the new offensive coaches.

• Sean Mannion made a big move as heads into the final days as the QB most likely to be selected if the Browns pass or are blocked from taking Mariota or Grayson.

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Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

A look at the history of players taken with the Browns' assigned 2015 draft selections

Apr 28, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Morning Kickoff …

(First of two parts.)

Draft rewind: The Browns have 10 picks in the NFL draft this weekend – their own selection in each of the seven rounds, plus Buffalo’s picks in the first and fourth rounds, and Baltimore’s in the sixth round.

What kind of talent can they expect at each pick?

History is the best guide, so we tracked the last five NFL selections at each of the Browns’ selections, plus the previous picks in team history.

First round: No. 12 overall

Last five NFL drafts

2014: WR Odell Beckham, Giants

2013: CB D.J. Hayden, Raiders

2012: DT Fletcher Cox, Eagles

2011: QB Christian Ponder, Vikings

2010: RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Comment: In an historic draft for receivers, Beckham was the best of the class. Cox has been a sturdy defensive lineman on the precipice of Pro Bowl recognition. Mathews had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but has been injury-prone and this year signed with the Eagles in free agency.

Past Browns picks at No. 12

1978: LB Clay Matthews, Southern California

1954: OG John Bauer, Illinois

1952: QB Harry Agganis, Boston University

Comment: Matthews is one of the greatest players in Browns history and is father to NFL linebackers Clay 3 and Casey. Bauer was included in a trade with Green Bay for quarterback Babe Parilli and only a month later the Packers traded him to the Giants. Agannis spurned the Browns to play baseball with his hometown Boston Red Sox. He died of a pulmonary embolism in 1955 at the age of 26.

First round: No. 19 overall

Last five NFL picks

2014: OT Ju’wuan James, Dolphins.

2013: OT Justin Pugh, Giants.

2012: DE Shea McClellin, Bears.

2011: CB Prince Amukamara, Giants.

2010: LB Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons.

Comment: James, Pugh and Amukamara are solid starters with their clubs. McClellin is searching for a role in a new Bears defense. Weatherspoon is trying to re-establish his career in Arizona after missing 2014 with an Achilles injury.

Past Browns picks at No. 19

1960: RB Prentice Gautt, Oklahoma

Gautt was the first African-American player to start at Oklahoma. He played only his first season with the Browns, and then six years with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Second round: No. 43 overall.

Last five NFL picks

2014: C Weston Richburg, Giants.

2013: CB Johnthan Banks, Buccaneers.

2012: WR Stephen Hill, Jets.

2011: TE Kyle Rudolph, Vikings.

2010: LB Sergio Kindle, Ravens.

Comment: Richburg, Banks and Rudolph are starters for their teams. Hill never seized opportunities with the Jets and is now with Carolina. Kindle is out of football.

Past Browns picks at No. 43

1986: WR Webster Slaughter, San Diego State

A key player on four Browns playoff teams, his 1,236 receiving yards in 1989 stood as the franchise season high until Braylon Edwards (1,289 in 2007) and Josh Gordon (1,646 in 2013) exceeded it.

Third round: No. 77 overall.

2014: LB Chris Borland, 49ers.

2013: OT Dallas Thomas, Dolphins.

2012: LB Demario Davis, Jets.

2011: DT Jurrell Casey, Titans.

2010: WR Damian Williams, Titans.

Comment: Borland gave up a promising career by surprisingly retiring after his rookie year because of potential health concerns. Casey is one of the league’s under-rated defensive stars. Davis is starting at inside linebacker for the Jets. Williams is now with the Rams, his third team.

Past Browns picks at No. 77

1984: QB John Bond, Mississippi State

A prolific running quarterback in college, he was the 77th pick of the 1984 supplemental draft of United States Fooball League players, and never played for the Browns.

Fourth round: No. 111 overall.

2014: C Russell Bodine, Bengals

2013: SS Shamarko Thomas, Steelers

2012: TE Evan Rodriguez, Bears

2011: WR Edmond Gates, Dolphins

2010: CB Walter Thurmond, Seahawks

Comment: Bodine is the Bengals’ starting center. Thomas was selected with the draft pick traded by the Browns and is now the heir to Troy Polamalu. Rodriguez, Gates and Thurmond are with their third teams, respectively.

Past Browns picks at No. 111

2008: TE Martin Rucker, Missouri

2002: LB Ben Taylor, Virginia Tech

1965: DB Mike Howell, Grambling State

1961: OT John Frongillo, Baylor

Comment: Rucker had two catches in one season and bounced around four other teams. Taylor overcame a staph infection to start 26 games in four seasons. Howell had 72 starts and 27 interceptions in eight years. Frongillo chose to play with Houston in the American Football League and never played for the Browns.

 

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns 2015 draft position preview: Running back

Apr 27, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

Last in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.

Position: Running back.

Roster: Isaiah Crowell, Shaun Draughn, Terrance West, Glenn Winston.

Analysis: As rookies, Crowell and West combined for 1,280 yards, a 4.0 average and 12 touchdowns. And when you add departed malcontent Ben Tate’s 333 yards and four TDs, 2014 was one of the more productive Browns rushing seasons in the expansion era. But things are changing. Kyle Shanahan, architect of the 2014 running game, resigned as coordinator. And although replacement John DeFilippo espouses to keep Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme and some of the playbook language, a philosophical change could result in more emphasis on the running game. And because of that, there is a major question of whether Crowell and – more pointedly – West, can be trusted with more responsibility. Neither was a factor in the passing game (20 receptions combined) and West, in particular, spent three different terms in the coaches’ dog house. Winston, a.k.a. the Mean Machine, was touted as a potential force, but he didn’t carry the ball once. And Droughn was used only on special teams, too.

Needs: If Mike Pettine intends to reincarnate the Rex Ryan “ground and pound” offense then a premier feature back must be found. He should be adept, too, at executing a screen route and releasing from an initial block and finding a zone to catch a pass. Another need is at fullback. There is none on the roster and none of the tight ends should really double as a short-yardage blocker.

Top 5 prospects

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia.

A prime Heisman candidate before he tore his left ACL in November, he has regained his place as the premier back in the draft. Positive medical reports project him ready for training camp, but his NFL career may start tentatively. Otherwise, his running, blocking and receiving skills are top notch. One of the youngest players in the draft, he’ll be 21 on Aug. 3.

2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin.

Ultra-productive runner, his humongous 2,587-yard, 29-TD season included a 408-yard game against Nebraska. May get dinged on NFL draft boards for receiving and blocking deficiencies

3. Jay Ajayi, Boise State.

An instinctive runner and good pass catcher who led the NCAA with 397 touches (runs and catches) last year for 2,358 total yards and 32 touchdowns (tying Gordon). He plays with a chip on his shoulder and is relentless driving for positive yards.

4. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska.

Only 5-8 ¾ and 205 pounds, he will find a role as a triple threat (runner, receiver, returner) who makes plays in the open field. But his 25 career fumbles may be an issue in the NFL.

5. Tevin Coleman, Indiana.

Despite a relatively thin frame, he averaged 142.6 yards a game and 7.5 per carry over the last two seasons. He can block and catch and doesn’t have to come off the field on third down.

Under radar

Jalston Fowler, Alabama

The draft’s top fullback appeals to coaches who like versatility at the position. He can run or block in short-yardage, and also line up in various spots like an H-back and catch a pass in the flat.

Last word

If the Browns lack playmakers at wideout, tight end and even quarterback, Gurley or Gordon would qualify as the focal point of the offense if added. Using a first- round pick on either would be a repudiation of West, who cost the Browns a sixth-round pick last year to move up and take in the third round.

Part 6: Cornerback and safety

Part 5: Offensive line

Part 4: Wide receiver and tight end

Part 3: Linebacker

Part 2: Defensive line

Part 1: Quarterback

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Tony Grossi's Mock Draft 10.0: A surprise, new defensive player for the Browns with their second pick

Apr 24, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

The Morning Kickoff …

Mock draft 10.0: Heading into the final week of draft speculation, Marcus Mariota remains the pivotal player of the April 30 lottery.

As many as six teams, including the Browns, are linked in some way to the Oregon quarterback. Where Mariota is ultimately taken, and by which team, will naturally affect the flow of the upper half of the first round.

In this mock, the Browns take two defensive players for the second week in a row.

For the first time, Virginia linebacker Eli Harold appears as the Browns’ pick at No. 19 even though Nebraska’s Randy Gregory is still on the board. We’re feeling that Gregory is red-flagged off the Browns’ board because of repeated positive marijuana tests.

The selection of Harold would seem too early for a player many evaluators project for the second round and with so many highly rated receivers still on the board. It’s very possible the Browns would be agreeable to trade out of this spot if they have the chance.

If not, they probably would still have a choice of receivers at No. 43 in the second round. A pass rusher of Harold’s skill set might not be available then.

Our final mock draft of the entire first round will post on Thursday.

1. Tampa Bay: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

There is no scent of a trade at this point.

2. Tennessee: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

I’m fairly convinced Titans will move down.

3. Jacksonville: OLB Dante Fowler, Florida.

Not likely Jags would pass on this Gator.

4. Oakland: DT Leonard Williams, Southern California

Raiders will get their receiver in second round.

5. Washington: OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson

Assured of getting a dynamic pass rusher.

6. N.Y. Jets: DT Danny Shelton, Washington

Hey, now. This would throw a curve down below.

7. Chicago: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

This is not an easy choice for a defensive head coach.

8. Atlanta: DE Shane Ray, Missouri

Falcons have a tough choice here and go with the safer pick.

9. N.Y. Giants: WR Kevin White, West Virginia

The “value” is there for this offensive playmaker.

10. St. Louis: OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa

This won’t play well in Los Angeles.

11. Minnesota: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

Clears the path for trade of Adrian Peterson.

12. Cleveland: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

Truly a Brown who plays like a Brown.

13. New Orleans: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State

Top cornerback trumps all other defensive players.

14. Miami: WR DeVante Parker, Louisville

Signing of Greg Jennings won’t block this selection.

15. San Francisco: DE Arik Armstead, Oregon

Sure feels like a natural pick for them.

16. Houston: OLB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky

Tight call over an offensive lineman.

17. San Diego: RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Highly ranked player fills a top need.

18. Kansas City: OL Cameron Erving, Florida State

Snatched before the Browns could take him.

19. Cleveland: OLB Eli Harold, Virginia

Much debate here about a receiver or trade down.

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

At the end of the day, speculating on the Browns' draft is what it is

Apr 23, 2015 -- 1:57pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

Pre-draft waterboarding: At his pre-draft press conference, Browns GM Ray Farmer spun analogies about brewing coffee, about building a house, about a man dying of thirst in the desert.

He used the crutch phrase, “At the end of the day …” so much, you longed for the end of the day to come. Or at least the end of Farmer’s question-and-answer session.

He followed coach Mike Pettine’s lead in addressing rumors about the Browns’ intentions with the team’s seemingly-emergent new battle cry.

Would you seriously consider trading the No. 12 and No. 19 picks for Marcus Mariota?

“Sure, why not?”

Would you consider drafting a running back in the first round?

“Sure, why not?”

All of Farmer’s verbal gymnastics were crystallized in a stirring defense of his department’s evident negligence a year ago in ferretting out pertinent background information on 2014 first-round flops Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel.

“Not one iota do I feel we missed it or didn’t do it,” he said. “At the end of the day, there’s a balance between what you know and what you can expect and what you can change. End of the day, I do appreciate our staff and feel it does a really good job.

“We’ve taken extra steps in trying to challenge kind of what others can dig up and what they can figure out and what they would know and utilize to garnish a better idea for who a player is. The reality is, I think we do a really, really good job unearthing the information that’s out there.

“At end of day, you’ve got to believe what people tell you about kids. No team gets the luxury of living in whatever city for four years of understanding who that young man is. So you’re at the mercy of what people tell you. The information we got was consistent around the league, as far as I’ve been told.

“At the end of the day, the character background stuff is what it is.”

About Mariota: Unable to peg Mariota with the right quarterback-starved NFL team, all the national insiders point to the Browns as the desperate team willing to overpay for him in trade.

One reason is the Browns were aggressive last year and they are armed again with two first-round picks and 10 tradeable picks overall, most in the draft.

“I think the big thing for us now is the fact we have picks, regular picks, so we can move any of them,” Farmer said. “I think that’s what spurs people to call you, the flexibility you may have in the draft because of the number of picks you possess.”

Another reason is that Farmer for over a year has been tabbed as having a football man-crush on Mariota.

“I don’t know where this stuff comes from,” Farmer said, chuckling. “Last year somebody asked a question about Marcus Mariota and I answered it differently than everybody else I was talking about. I got to Mariota and said, ‘Yeah, he’s good.’ From that moment on, he’s been my guy.”

Yet another reason, of course, was Pettine’s off-the-wall hiring of Kevin O’Connell, Mariota’s personal guru in the pre-draft season, as Browns quarterbacks coach. On Thursday, Farmer confirmed the Browns did not privately work out Mariota this year or even invite him to Berea for a visit with owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam.

Was that non-invitation a smokescreen in itself?

“For us, when we have a good feel for a player, that’s what it comes down to. We think we know what he’s capable of, where he would fit for us. So there’s no reason to take that any further,” Farmer said.

In another context, Farmer reiterated the club’s support of Manziel in his recovery from a dependency problem.

“At the end of the day, he’s part of our organization moving forward,” Farmer said.

Yet, to another question about how taking a quarterback (Mariota) might affect Manziel, Farmer said firmly, “I have to make the best decision for the Cleveland Browns, not for Johnny Manziel, not for Ray Farmer.”

Predicting the unpredictable: Farmer is exceptional at leaving everybody guessing as to what the Browns will do. This seems to be his passion.

“I would (trade) up if it was the right circumstance and I would (trade) back if it was the right circumstance,” he said.

In his first draft, Farmer did both – trading down with Buffalo (for this year’s hole-card extra first-round pick), then trading up with Minnesota (for Gilbert), and then up again with Philadelphia (for Manziel). Those trades were conceived and consummated “on the clock,” throwing the Browns’ draft room into an emotional frenzy.

“You can play the what-if scenario 10 million times,” Farmer said. “Seems like we’ve played it so many times, you feel like you know where things are going to go, but it’s almost like going to the batting cage and you feel like you get in a rhythm and you know where it’s at, then there’s this curveball and one ball dives on you and you swing and miss like you haven’t been in there all day. That’s what the draft has become in my mind.

“There’s always going to be that one selection, that one move that nobody truly anticipated, and that’s what you’ve got to be able to adjust to.”

Last year, it was Buffalo’s generous trade offer to move up to No. 4 for Sammy Watkins, which resulted in the selection of Gilbert and then Manziel.

This year, the pivotal move figures to center on Mariota, whether he falls past Tennessee or another team at No. 2. If he does, watch the Browns swing their bat once again. Let’s all hope they get better wood on the ball this time.

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns 2015 draft position preview: Cornerback and safety

Apr 23, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ESPN

Sixth in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.

Position: Cornerback.

Roster: Pierre Desir, Justin Gilbert, Joe Haden, Kendall James, Robert Nelson, K’Waun Williams, Tramon Williams.

Analysis: In his sixth NFL season at age 26, Haden is embracing a leadership role – which is the natural next phase of his pro development. Haden is sick of losing and if he can help make Gilbert, Desir and K’Waun Williams better players, it will only help the overall cause. To that end, Haden hooked up with Gilbert for over a month of training in south Florida. If Haden can get through to Gilbert, it would result in a big boost to the defense. Ex-Packer Tramon Williams, signed to replace Buster Skrine, is an experienced pro who can play Mike Pettine’s press man coverage. But the gas gauge is in red, so it would help the cause a lot if Gilbert could hold down the other outside spot and let Williams slide down to cover the slot. Desir, who sat most of his rookie year, came off the bench at the end and pleasantly surprised. He won’t need to be rushed in his second season, and should be able to contribute more.

Needs: Pettine always will seek to bring in a cornerback, one preferably with size who can play his press man coverage technique.

Top 3 prospects

1. Trae Waynes, Michigan State.

A thin six-footer who has the speed and quickness and aggressiveness to excel in press coverage. He might not have a lot of bulk, but he is not shy about sticking his nose in run coverage. Clearly the best at his position.

2. Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest.

Another pencil-thin corner with the skills and attitude to play any coverage and also not afraid to tackle, though he won’t be winning any bench-press contests.

3. Marcus Peters, Washington.

He has first-round talent but could be red-flagged by some teams. He was dismissed from the team in November of 2014 after several run-ins with coaches and team violations. Also has a failed drug test and an academic suspension on his record.

Under radar

Quinten Rollins, Miami (Ohio).

A four-year starting point guard on the basketball team -- and two-time captain -- he played one year of football and led the MAC with seven interceptions, third most in the nation.

Jerod Cherry's Under the Radar Breakdown: Quinten Rollins

Last word

K’Waun Williams and Nelson made the team last year as undrafted free agents even after the Browns used a first-round pick on Gilbert and a fourth-round pick on Desir. If a corner is not drafted, Pettine and his coaches no doubt will bring in a few undrafted ones to get a closer look at.

Position: Safety.

Roster: Johnson Bademosi, Tashaun Gipson, Micah Pellerin, Jordan Poyer, Donte Whitner.

Analysis: Gipson’s boycott of the offseason program indicates he is not pleased with the tone or pace of negotiations for a new contract. A restricted free agent, Gipson was not happy to receive the second-round tender from the Browns for $2.35 million – about $1 million less than the first-round tender. By declining to sign it, Gipson can continue his boycott through training camp without the threat of any fines. Ultimately, Gipson has little choice but to agree to a deal – either the one-year tender or a multi-year contract. The Browns most likely will draft a safety to give themselves some leverage as this dispute proceeds through the summer.

Needs: Gipson’s contract dispute and Whitner’s age (30) make a developmental safety at either free or strong a wise investment.

Top 3 prospects

1. Landon Collins, Alabama.

Projects as a physical, in-the-box safety who can be an intimidator, but may be a liability in coverage.

2. James Sample, Louisville.

Left Washington after two years and a major shoulder injury, he eventually put together one productive year at Louisville to impress scouts as a value pick in the third round.

3. Damarious Randall, Arizona State.

Undersized but productive, he projects as an immediate contributor on special teams and in sub defense packages who may develop as a starter at free safety.

Under radar

Anthony Harris, Virginia.

A ball hawk who had eight interceptions his junior season and was a captain with great work ethic.

Last word

The depth chart is thin behind Whitner and Gipson, so it would be a surprise if at least one safety isn’t added in the draft.

Part 5: Offensive line

Part 4: Wide receiver and tight end

Part 3: Linebacker

Part 2: Defensive line

Part 1: Quarterback

 

 

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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