By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
First in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.
Roster: Brian Hoyer, Alex Tanney.
The rapid-fire releases of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell – 35 minutes apart -- on March 12 cleared the decks for the team to enter their next quarterback era. This one will start with Hoyer as the senior member. And he has all of three starts in a Browns uniform. Although his time was short due to a torn ACL in his third start, Hoyer’s impact on the 2013 season was profound. First, he rescued the front office from losing the locker room. Remember, Hoyer took over in Game 3 just as the 0-2 team was reeling from the stunning trade of running back Trent Richardson. In the raucous Metrodome, Hoyer overcame three Vikings interceptions and led the Browns to their first victory. Suddenly, talk shifted away from whether CEO Joe Banner had given up on the season. Then Hoyer put together two 90-plus-yard touchdown drives in a home victory over playoff-bound Cincinnati. In the first quarter of his third start, Hoyer ripped his right ACL scrambling for an 11-yard gain. It happened right in front of new coach Mike Pettine, who was Buffalo’s defensive coordinator on that Thursday evening. Hoyer was seen as former GM Mike Lombardi’s “boy” among the former coaches at the start, but quickly won their respect. It sounds as if he has Pettine’s from Day One. The question about Hoyer is his ability to play through a full season – something he has never done because of lack of opportunity and, last year, injury. Tanney was signed off the Dallas practice squad on Nov. 26 after the QB depth chart unraveled. He was recommended by now-GM Ray Farmer, who was pro personnel director in Kansas City in 2012 when Tanney spent the season on Chiefs injured reserve list.
Needs: A top-flight prospect to challenge Hoyer immediately and ultimately take over at the appropriate time. Another down-the-draft prospect could challenge Tanney as a developmental third quarterback.
Top 5 prospects
1. Blake Bortles, Central Florida.
Big size and a career against mid-level college competition brings to mind Ben Roethlisberger. A seeming meteoric rise out of college obscurity conjures Blaine Gabbert. Figuring out which he will be presents great risk and reward.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.
No player in the draft has his star power. A giant-slayer of mighty Alabama as a redshirt freshman, he parlayed an historic Heisman Trophy season into a mythic figure on and off the field. His size (5-11 ¾, 207 pounds) and undisciplined, schoolyard-style of quarterbacking, along with concerns about his off-field marketing endeavors, make him a polarizing prospect with no consensus on his pro potential. Still, he oozes charisma and he easily is the most mentally tough player at his position.
3. Derek Carr, Fresno State.
Arguably the purest passer, he passes the eye test in controlled situations like workouts and 7-on-7 drills. Can he carry the weight of a franchise on his shoulders is a real question. His older brother, David, succumbed to the enormous challenge of being the first-ever draft pick of a start-up expansion franchise.
4. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville.
Heralded as the most pro-ready after a scintillating four-year college career, he has tumbled the furthest among the QBs in the pre-draft season. An unfortunate performance at his pro day raised concerns about his light frame (6-2 1/8, 214) and his ability to spin the ball without the aid of a glove.
5. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois.
A record-breaking passer at the former Division I-AA level, he climbed into the ranks of the big boys with impressive performances at the Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl. Two assets make him a serious prospect – a natural, quick release and quick decision-making.
Tom Savage, Pittsburgh.
Excellent size (6-3 7/8, 228) and a strong arm belie the spotty college career of this classic dropback passer. He transferred from Rutgers and Arizona before settling in for one season at Pitt, where he was battered behind a bad offensive line. He’s not really under radar but clearly will need time to coach up.
Hoyer’s ahead-of-schedule rehab from ACL surgery lessens the urgency to rush in a drafted quarterback to start immediately. Hoyer conceivably could maintain the starting job indefinitely – as long as he wins. A veteran QB definitely will be added before the draft (Rex Grossman?), but he is unlikely to be considered a legit competitor for the starting job.
Other Draft Needs:
|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. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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