With the rush of free agency in the rear view mirror it is time to focus in on the NFL Draft, specifically on team needs. In this article we look at the Cleveland Browns draft needs for 2016 as we approach the April 28th first round from Chicago. Perennial basement dwellers in the AFC North and it seems the NFL, every year Cleveland seem to draft high as they try and right their ship but they never seem to gain on their rivals. They were woeful last year and in some games completely uncompetitive. To add to that, this has been one of their worse off seasons in terms of the losses they have felt in free agency. If they were able to, with the exception of maybe 4 players, they would cut their entire roster. They have holes everywhere, however the following are the biggest needs for a desperate franchise.
Biggest Need: Offensive Line
This isn’t the popular pick at this point as the entire franchise seems to believe that a Quarterback is what will solve the many problems. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how good your Quarterback is if you can’t protect him. The offensive line has never been a particular problem for Cleveland, with stand outs such as Joe Thomas, Cameron Erving, Alex Mack and Geoff Schwartz. However the offensive line became an issue this offseason with the departures of Geoff Schwartz and most importantly Alex Mack. Mack is an all-pro centre and perennial pro bowl player – a player of his calibre only comes along once in a generation. He had an opt-out clause on his contract and it is a telling sign that he finally used it this year. The second player they lost, Geoff Schwartz, is less of a big name, but a very solid starter and one that they will sorely miss. They need investment all over their squad, however offensive line is a must pick up early and often. They need to replace these players, and quick. Fortunately they aren’t a team in must win mode, so future projects can be drafted now and developed for the future.
Other Needs: Quarterback, Middle Linebacker, Wide Receiver
The Cleveland Browns need a Quarterback and they need one now. The Browns have needed a Quarterback for many years now, and their last attempt at finding one has just ended, and very messy it was too. With Manziel being the latest failure in Cleveland, it would seem like Quarterback would be the biggest need, but for two reasons, it isn’t. Firstly, they have recently signed Robert Griffin, while most people have started to see him as a bust, he still won rookie of the year and he is still a very good Quarterback, who had a year off to learn and mature. Secondly, the more pressure they put the next rookie Quarterback, the more likely he is to fail. Signing a young Quarterback to sit behind Griffin is the best step Cleveland could take. With the recent release of Karlos Dansby, the Cleveland Browns just got much worse at MLB. While he had begun to regress, his leadership is what the Browns will miss most. They will miss that ‘Quarterback on defence’ and they need to replace him fast. The problem with the Browns picking at number 2 is there is an expectant fan base who want a superstar. While they may want to be more conservative with their picks, they may be forced to go all in on a ‘brand name’. Wide Receiver is the final need, if you can say they have a final need. With the suspension of Josh Gordon and the departure of breakout start Travis Benjamin, the Browns look very thin at Wide Receiver. If Josh Gordon is reinstated then this need falls down the list, due in the most part to his big play ability. He will however be rusty and there is no guarantee they want him back. Cleveland should still look to draft a Wideout if they fall in love with him.