In the wake of Thursday’s blockbuster trade between the Titans and the Rams, the Cleveland Browns have quietly emerged as the x-factor of the entire first round of the NFL Draft.
To recap: the Titans received a bounty of early-round picks in the next two drafts from the Rams in exchange for the first overall pick in this year’s draft.
At first glance, the Titans were the trade’s clear winners: they now have a treasure trove of assets they can use to build around second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Rams, meanwhile, made the understandably risky decision to trade up in order to nab either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, the two top quarterbacks in this years draft — one of whom they will hope will be L.A.’s new franchise quarterback.
But now that the dust of the trade has settled, it is the Browns who find themselves in the most fascinating position, all because they own the second overall pick.
Prior to the trade, Cleveland had their choice of Wentz and Goff, as the Titans were not going to take a quarterback first overall. Now, the Browns will be left with whichever quarterback the Rams don’t pick. It’s no secret that Cleveland could use a quarterback (that’s an evergreen statement at this point), and in a league so quarterback focused it’s entirely likely that the Browns will settle for whichever quarterback is left at no. 2 and be done with it.
What happens, though, if the Browns don’t love that option? Scouts have pegged both Wentz and Goff as three-year projects, and quarterbacks as a position group are wildly overvalued in drafts. With the no. 2 pick, the Browns could decide to opt for a sure-fire defensive star, like Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, Ohio State pass rusher Joey Bosa, or even Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner.
Or, the Browns could take a hard look at the teams lingering below them — several of whom also need a quarterback — and consider shopping the second pick for a more enticing package.
Both the San Francisco 49ers (seventh overall pick) and Philadelphia Eagles (eighth overall pick) could use quarterbacks, and there is a sharp dropoff after Goff and Wentz to either Paxton Lynch of Memphis, or Connor Cook from Michigan State. The Niners look especially desperate after the blockbuster trade dropped them out of the Wentz/Goff conversation.
Even the Cowboys might consider drafting a new QB with the ninth pick considering Tony Romo’s age and injuries. The Browns need work in just about every position around the field; leveraging their pick (effectively leveraging the second quarterback in a two-QB draft) could be the smarter move in the long-term rebuilding process.
None of this matters if the Browns like Wentz and Goff equally. If that’s the case, then they will happily take whoever is left … sorry, Robert Griffin III. But one way or the other, the whole first round hangs in the balance of the Cleveland Browns. It’s not every year that this happens. Browns fans better hope their new front office doesn’t mess this up.
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