Dealing Trent Richardson may not have killed the 2013 season for the Cleveland Browns, but it certainly feels like it. On the other hand, they now have two picks in the first round of what is expected to be a deep and talented 2014 NFL draft. What are some scenarios that could play out for them?
Scenario #1 – Trade up for Teddy Bridgewater
Make no mistake. Giving up on a top five running back who still has loads of potential signals that the Cleveland Browns front office has no confidence in their current offensive roster. That includes quarterback Brandon Weeden who is 30-years old and not the kind of player head coach Rob Chudzinski prefers under center. By dealing Richardson it gives them 10 total picks in the 2014 NFL draft but most importantly an extra first round choice. Such currency allows a team to become aggressive on the trade market when the clock starts. The best reason for Cleveland to move up is for a quarterback, and the best name expected on the board next may is Teddy Bridgewater. The Louisville product has scouts very excited. He has all the ideal physical attributes from size to mobility and arm strength along with the poise and mental toughness of a pro. His convincing Sugar Bowl win over Florida proved that. He is franchise quarterback material, something Cleveland hasn’t had for years. By deal their two first round picks and possible a couple more it would enable them to jump near the top of the draft to get Bridgewater.
Scenario #2 – Take Jadeveon Clowney early and move up for Johnny Manziel
This idea is less aggressive but has more potential upside. While trading up for Bridgewater is a big but calculated risk, it’s still just one player. The Browns are expected to have a top five pick at least given the state of their roster, which should put them in prime position to select the other can’t-miss prospect in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. While some question his durability due to the need for off-season surgery on his foot following the 2013 season, there is no question his physical talent is rare. He has the potential to become a terror for the next decade in the NFL, regardless of the defense he plays in. Cleveland could take him and then use their collection of later pick in the third and fourth round to possibly move up from the first round pick they got from Indianapolis. One name often connected to them is Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel. For all his personality quirks and controversies, he’s a dynamite athlete who plays big in big games. His mobility is something Chudzinski would want in the Browns offense. The only question is can his arm strength make it in the pros? It’s definitely worth the risk to find out.
Scenario #3 – Trade out of top five to auction Clowney and take Anthony Barr
One strategy many general managers like to use is moving down in the first round to collect more picks. If the Cleveland Browns do end up with a top five or even a top three pick it could put them in prime position to take offers from other teams who might have an eye for a player at the top. For example, they could hold Jadeveon Clowney hostage. While having no qualms about drafting him, the Browns may find other teams in or near the top ten that want him even more and are willing to offer a hefty collection of picks to make it happen. Then the Browns could move down and take UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. In this scenario it makes total sense because though Clowney has the higher upside, Barr is very talented in his own right and would be a perfect fit for the Browns’ 3-4 defense under Ray Horton. The team still gets a pass rusher to put opposite Barkevious Mingo and now have even more picks to entertain the idea of trading up later.