By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The most overlooked, almost forgotten position of need on the Browns in the pre-draft season is cornerback.
You haven’t heard the Browns say a word about it, but it is very much on their minds.
In fact, I would be surprised if the Browns don’t come away from Thursday’s first round of the draft without filling that need.
Their problem is this: No cornerback is quite worthy of the Browns’ first selection at No. 4 and the best ones to fit coach Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme likely will be gone at No. 26.
In his first-ever draft in charge, rookie GM Ray Farmer adamantly insists he will not “reach” for a need – not for a quarterback, and certainly not for a cornerback. But he and Pettine have been conjuring contingent trade scenarios at both ends of the first round to position themselves for a cornerback capable of starting opposite Joe Haden from Day 1.
I believe if the Browns trade down from No. 4. or trade up from No. 26, the target will be a cornerback – not a quarterback. If they can’t find a trade partner and are forced to stay at either spot, Farmer will fall back to highest-ranked player on his draft board.
This final mock draft does not take into account trades. That is why I do not include a cornerback in either of the Browns’ first-round selections. But if a trade occurs, I expect it to result in a cornerback.
This final mock also extends to the Browns’ pick in the second round, No. 35 overall. I picked a cornerback there solely based on need. It would be voided if one is selected earlier after a trade.
1. Houston: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Highest pick ever for a pass rusher off a three-sack season.
2. St. Louis: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Trade down is still possible.
3. Jacksonville: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
After much debate, they turn to the surest offensive playmaker.
4. Cleveland: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
He is Mike Pettine’s personification of playing ‘like a Brown.’
5. Oakland: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
It’s possible this player could draw trade action.
6. Atlanta: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
If no trade with Browns, Falcons would settle for third-best OT.
7. Tampa Bay: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Coach Lovie Smith solidifies his defensive front.
8. Minnesota: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
In the end, head coach Mike Zimmer turns to defense.
9. Buffalo: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
QB EJ Manuel can throw it up and let him get it.
10. Detroit: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
I can’t leave now. The only pick I never changed in 12 mocks.
11. Tennessee: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Didn’t Ken Whisenhunt shepherd in Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie?
12. N.Y. Giants: OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
Late, great former GM George Young is smiling down on this selection.
13. St. Louis: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Prime spot for Browns trade-up from No. 26 if they didn’t trade earlier.
14. Chicago: FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
At very least, takes over immediately for Devin Hester as kick returner.
15. Pittsburgh: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Depth at wide receiver in this draft swings pick to cornerback.
16. Dallas: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Jerry Jones can’t resist. Nor should he.
17. Baltimore: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Trade down possible here because Ozzie Newsome sees a few players he’d take.
18. NY Jets: WR Odell Beckham, Louisiana State
Third-best wideout falls in place for them.
19. Miami: OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Offensive line rebuild has been their offseason theme.
20. Arizona: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Unexplained drop for athletic playmaker at tight end.
21. Green Bay: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Packers need speed upgrade on defense.
22. Philadelphia: WR Marqise Lee, Southern California
Chip Kelly is well aware of him from his Oregon encounters.
23. Kansas City: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Best available receiver.
24. Cincinnati: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Bengals take a quarterback in the second round.
25. San Diego: CB Jason Verrett, Texas Christian
Chargers aren’t put off by his lack of height.
26. Cleveland: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
If they can’t or don’t move up, Ray Farmer’s top QB will back up Brian Hoyer.
27. New Orleans: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Saints coach beats Jaguars and Patriots to the punch.
28. Carolina: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Cam Newton can play that high-wire passing game with this towering receiver.
29. New England: DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
As usual, Bill Belichick’s pick will be hailed as brilliant.
30. San Francisco: DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Plenty of picks give 49ers room to take chances.
31. Denver: OG Xavier Su’a-filo, UCLA
Absolute priority to keep inside pressure off Peyton Manning.
32. Seattle: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Now that he’s arrived, QB Russell Wilson always has to be supported.
33. Houston: QB Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
Texans balk at parking another Carr in their garage.
34. Washington: OT Joel Bitonio, Nevada
Draft pick-deprived Redskins are desperate to trade Kirk Cousins.
35. Cleveland: CB Phillip Gaines, Rice
Only if a CB isn’t taken with first two picks.
|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 hashtage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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