Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Seventh in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.
Roster: Jason Campbell, Thad Lewis, Brandon Weeden.
Weeden came from a quick-read, shotgun spread offense at Oklahoma State and was jammed into a language-heavy, slow-moving West Coast offense in his NFL rookie year. In 15 starts, he threw for 3,385 yards and produced five wins – more than any Browns rookie QB. But his first season was marred by pass rejections at the line of scrimmage, interceptions and breakdowns in the red zone. After the dust settled from his first year, Weeden was criticized for his age, command of the huddle, work ethic, commitment to his job, high gas prices and national debt. The best thing to happen to Weeden was Chip Kelly turning a cold shoulder to the Browns’ overtures and Rob Chudzinski replacing Pat Shurmur as coach. Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner tossed a lifeline to Weeden, who clearly was not loved initially by higher management. Weeden’s big arm and stature in the pocket mesh with the vertical passing game the coaches want to run. Promises to provide Weeden competition were kept when the team signed Campbell in free agency. Campbell, 31, still has a live arm after 71 career starts and could press Weeden for the starting role. Lewis, a developmental QB under Shurmur, now is the square peg because of his questionable arm strength. He probably would be gobbled up by the Eagles, for whom Shurmur was hired as Kelly’s coordinator, if the Browns released him.
Needs: Until Weeden makes believers of everybody, a franchise quarterback to lift the team to a higher level. Also, a developmental QB with the appropriate arm strength, though it’s not a must.
Top five prospects
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia.
Hit a brick wall second half of his senior season, raising doubts about whether he can fulfill the expectations of a franchise QB. His gaudy career numbers (98 TD v. 21 INT) came to be viewed as a product of his offensive system.
2. Matt Barkley, Southern California.
Might have been a top 10 pick a year ago, but came back for senior year and suffered a sub-par season. A late-season shoulder injury prevented him from winning over skeptics in the pre-draft workout season.
3. E.J. Manuel, Florida State.
The best athlete of the passers, he may benefit from the success of read option QBs Robert Griffin 3, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernik in 2012. He has to prove he can read defenses from the pocket.
4. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse.
Looked polished in a shotgun offense under current Buffalo coach Doug Marrone. He is an adept ball-faker and might be the most pro-ready. Possesses the best array of intangibles for the position.
5. Mike Glennon, North Carolina State.
A tall, thin passer with perhaps the best arm of the bunch. His quiet temperament is not seen as a positive.
Landry Jones, Oklahoma.
Once considered a high first-round pick, his disappointing last two seasons knocked him down to a mid-round prospect. He still has NFL size and arm strength.
With seven draft picks and plenty of position needs elsewhere, eschewing a quarterback in the draft altogether might be the best way to go. If Weeden fails to impress the new management, the next QB most likely isn’t in this draft.
|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 National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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