1. Cleveland holds a very interesting pick because there are quite a few top-tier players that meet the Browns’ needs. Do you think they’ll just take the best available player in the six spot?
I do. Where prior general managers and various decision makers tended to reach for position, Tom Heckert has done an unbelievable job in his short tenure with the Browns in terms of evaluating not only positions of need, but where else in the draft these needs can be filled out. The guy came away with three starters last season, a number that could have easily been five if not for the preseason injuries to Montario Hardesty and Shawn Lauvao.
As you said, the position — while not in the top five — allows the Browns to take the best player of those who are left. Sure, having a multitude of holes allows a GM to take the best guy on the board, but like last year (Joe Haden had slipped down several other NFL teams’ boards), I have faith that Heckert will take his guy.
2. What are your thoughts on the quarterback situation? Obviously there’s at least a chance Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton slide down. Is it too early to give up on Colt McCoy?
I think Colt McCoy will have at least another two seasons to show progress and that he can be the man going forward. Mike Holmgren all but hitched his cart to McCoy’s horse on draft day, stating that this was “his” pick. If Gabbert or Newton slide to six, all this does is open up trade possibilities as the Browns would certainly be more than willing to move down a handful of slots if it meant acquiring another first- or second-round draft selection. Also working in the Browns’ favor is the fact that there is not an immediate need at the quarterback slot and they can afford to assess the situation for a season and see where they are when Stanford’s Andrew Luck becomes ripe for the picking.
3. Rank the Browns’ top needs for me. Is there a “need” that you think isn’t as dire as most are saying?
If I were to rank the needs in a nominal fashion, they would go pass-rushing (likely defensive lineman given the pending 4-3), offensive playmaker, secondary and then pass-blocking on the right side of the line. Thankfully, Heckert has unearthed several offensive play-making gems in his time as a general manager, so addressing said need in the first round is not of utter necessity. I think the pass-rushing and the secondary will go hand-in-hand as solid defensive backs will allow the ends more time to rush the quarterback; solid pass-rushing will allow the DBs to not have to cover as long. I firmly expect one of those two areas to be addressed first with the others following in the later rounds.
4. Any specific players you’re hoping they land with that sixth pick?
Two, actually: Marcell Dareus and Patrick Peterson. Dareus is looking more and more like a pipedream on the defensive line, but if he falls, the Browns should run to the podium before someone realizes their awful, awful mistake. If he’s gone (likely second overall), Peterson is the guy who has been there at six in a lot of mock drafts and continues to be a top-two (if not best) talent on the board. Pairing him with Joe Haden will not only set the defensive backfield for the next six or seven years, it will also allow fans to rekindle the flame left by the originators of the Dawg Pound, cornerbacks Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield. Conversely, this also allows the Browns to give more snaps to defensive lineman Marcus Benard, who many peg to be the next Cameron Wake. Win-win if you ask me.