Cleveland Browns: Where will the top draft picks fit in?

In my last article I looked at some of the picks made by the Cleveland Browns in this year’s draft and gave some of my personal feedback.  As Cleveland only had picks until the fourth round, most, if not all of their picks should make it onto the final 53-man roster.  Going further than that, I would bet that by the end of the season all six picks will all be heavily contributing to the 2014 campaign.

The media darling that is Johnny Manziel is currently listed as and has been told to act like “the backup”.  But is there a soul out there who thinks he won’t be the starter?

Like him or not, the guy is exciting to watch and it will be hard to keep him off the field.  Personally I like Brian Hoyer, but he couldn’t beat Brandon Weeden for a job last year…BRANDON WEEDEN!  Hopefully Hoyer gets a fair shake come training camp because he did show some promise last season prior to his injury.  But we all know where this competition will end up- with Johnny Football as the starting quarterback of the Browns.

[Reviewing Johnny Manziel and the Browns’ draft]

Also consider that head coach Mike Pettine is a defensive minded guy.  In the NFL, coaches from a defensive background tend to follow a certain formula: great defense, strong run game, and a serviceable quarterback.  The Jets found themselves in back to back AFC Championships because of this formula.  The Panthers won the NFC South this past season because of this formula.  The Seahawks won a Super Bowl because of this formula.  It can work in Cleveland too if Manziel is able to make plays without causing turnovers.

Justin Gilbert

Justin Gilbert

Speaking of defense, the Browns drafted Justin Gilbert and he will start right away, there is no doubt about it.  You don’t take a corner in the top ten (or any player for that matter) picks of the draft without an expectation of immediate production.  While many analysts thought that Darqueze Denard and Kyle Fuller were both more polished prospects than Gilbert, the consensus was that Gilbert had the highest upside of any corner in the draft.

Starting opposite Gilbert will be shutdown corner Joe Haden, whose presence will force opposing quarterbacks to throw at Gilbert and test the rookie early and often.  For the Browns’ sake I hope he is not another Dee Milliner, but with Donte Whitner providing support from the safety position I believe that we will see a very scary Cleveland secondary come September.

One of my favorite of Cleveland’s 2014 draft picks was their choice of Joel Bitonio.  While his listed position is tackle, he has the versatility necessary to play both tackle and guard.

This past season the Browns had two Pro Bowl offensive lineman in center Alex Mack and tackle Joe Thomas, but their guard play was iffy all season long.  I think it would be beneficial to both the Browns’ o-line and Bitonio if he would start his career at left guard.  By playing between two great players, he’ll feel less pressure to perform right away and will also be able to learn a lot.

Another defensive player that the Browns added was inside linebacker Christian Kirksey.  At first I didn’t really understand this pick, because the Browns had just paid a ton of money to Karlos Dansby and the Browns could have used a receiver in an incredibly deep draft.  However, they went with Kirksey instead.

I think of all the picks, Kirksey will probably see the least amount of playing time only because the player ahead of him on the depth chart (Craig Robertson) had 85 tackles in 14 games.  If Kirksey does see an extended period on the field I have a feeling it will be due to an injury to the aging Dansby.  That’s not to say that Kirksey doesn’t deserve some game action.  During the draft, Mike Mayock was very high on this pick by the Browns, but usually young linebackers have to make their contributions on special teams before they find their way into the starting lineup.

iowa football

In the third round the Browns may have added a bell cow running back in the form of Terrance West.  At 5-foot-11 and weighing 225 pounds, West is the biggest running back on the roster.  If Ben Tate fails to produce early or gets bit with the injury bug, look for West to step in and take the starting job.  Its fairly likely that West may win the job outright as well.  I’ll do a fantasy football article later this summer, but I will say that West is a sleeper on my list this year.  Running behind a pretty good offensive line will help West make the transition into the NFL.

Cornerback Pierre Desir was the Browns final pick in the draft, but I believe he may be a bigger contributor then one might think.  In some mocks I saw he was projected to go as high as the middle of the second round.  And it certainly seems that he has that kind of potential.  At 6-foot-1, Desir is fairly tall for a corner.  I see him starting as the nickel corner that will be responsible for covering the slot receivers.  If he could put on a little more weight he would also be well equipped to cover some of the more athletic tight ends in the league.

I think that by looking at their draft picks you can get a real sense of what Cleveland is trying to build.  They choose a quarterback, a running back, a tackle/guard, and three defensive players.  The Browns are going to try and build a defense that shuts opposing offenses down while running the ball down the opponents’ throats.  Their offensive line with Tate and West behind it as well as the threat of Manziel all in a Shannahan offense could produce a prolific ground attack in 2014.