The Los Angeles Rams trading up to the No. 1 spot in the 2016 draft, where the Tennessee Titans were once set to pick, makes things incredibly interesting for the Cleveland Browns, who currently hold the second overall pick this year. Though it has been long assumed that the Browns would use that pick on the quarterback position, selecting either North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or California’s Jared Goff, the Rams’ moves on Thursday could help spur the Browns to head in another direction altogether.
Since 1999, 24 different quarterbacks have started at least one game for the Browns. It’s clear that it has long been a position of need, the one thing the Browns must find, stick with and make successful in order to turn the franchise’s fortunes around. But the 2016 draft may not be the place to find it, even at the second overall pick, if the Browns aren’t convinced about either Wentz or Goff, depending on who the Rams do take at No. 1.
Right now, the reports are mixed. Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times believes the “Rams are targeting Carson Wentz,” while ESPN’s Adam Schefter says the team is currently “leaning toward Goff.” Schefter did continue by quoting his source, who added that the Rams and Titans made this deal now to allow the Rams “two weeks to debate between Goff and Wentz. You can make a convincing case for both. Both are going to be good.”
If both truly are going to be good NFL quarterbacks, then the Browns may be foolish for thinking of doing anything else with the No. 2 pick. But that also depends on how sold they are on the quarterback remaining after the Rams make their selection. There could be other quarterbacks in later rounds of the draft who could serve the Browns’ needs better, especially if they aren’t banking on whomever they draft to start as a rookie.
The Browns have other considerable roster needs that could also be better addressed at No. 2 than quarterback. If the Rams take Wentz at No. 1, for example, and the Browns like Goff, but not enough to consider him a second overall talent, their newly analytics-forward front office may be wary of what could be, in their eyes, “over drafting” Goff. And they wouldn’t be without quality players to choose from who could meet their needs while also providing No. 2 overall-level talent to their team.
Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is now a realistic option, someone who can replace right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who left in free agency. Defensive back Jalen Ramsey is also in the mix; he can step in as a safety as a rookie in place of Tashaun Gipson and move to cornerback in 2017, if need be. Joey Bosa can help the Browns’ pass rush and overall performance of the defensive front-seven and Myles Jack has the coverage linebacker skills the team desperately needs.
The Browns could also trade out of the No. 2 spot, depending on the partner and who they may target later in the first round. The Philadelphia Eagles have recently been linked as a potential trade partner and that continues to this day. As a rebuilding team, the Browns could use the additional draft ammo that a trade down would give them. Currently, the Browns have 10 picks in the 2016 draft — one in each of Rounds 1, 2 and 3, two Round 4 selections, three Round 5s and one each in Round 6 and Round 7. A move down in Round 1 could net them at least two and perhaps as many as four more picks, likely including one in Round 2.
Unsurprisingly, the Browns have already fielded calls about trading down in Round 1, with director of football operations Sashi Brown confirming to SiriusXM NFL Radio that “There’s been some interest in the pick.” Though he did add that this is only natural for this time of year, saying, “But there always typically is toward the top of the draft, just teams feeling each other out. I think in all honesty as you get closer to the draft, we’re probably a week’s time from getting real calls, with more substance and traction to them.”
That increase in traction could come quickly after this Titans-Rams trade, especially as it is all but certain the Rams will be taking either Wentz or Goff at No. 1 and there being a number of quarterback-needy teams that may prove to be a bit more desperate than the Browns.
This doesn’t mean that the Browns won’t draft a quarterback at any point later this month. Currently, the Browns have four on the roster — Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Connor Shaw and the recently-acquired Robert Griffin III — but only McCown and Griffin seem capable of being taken seriously in a competition for the starting job. And the Browns have been clear that finding a quarterback is a priority this year.
Head coach Hue Jackson said in January that, “I do believe that this team does need a quarterback… We need a very consistent and dominant quarterback. That’s what this team has to have in order for us to be successful.” And he also hinted that McCown, even if he sticks all the way through to 53-man roster cuts later in the year, would not be the ideal answer, saying, “I think what we need to do is look to the future to find what we think is going to be the best fit for us and go from there,” noting that McCown is “getting up there age-wise.”
If the Browns do take a quarterback at No. 2, that doesn’t mean they lacked any other options, but rather that they chose the one they felt is best among them. Taking Wentz or Goff at No. 2 was never a given, and now that the Rams have traded up to No. 1, it remains a possibility but is still not a lock to occur. Though the Browns certainly need to shore up their quarterback position for the long term, it would be unsurprising if they go in a different direction with their second-overall pick in Round 1 this year.