2013 NFL Draft Team Needs: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are completely starting over in 2013. Their ownership has already changed hands, they already fired head coach Pat Shurmur, and they might be one and done with 2012 first rounder Brandon Weeden, too.
We definitely saw improvements in Cleveland in 2012 from a competitive stand-point, but it’s clear the new regime isn’t content with just playing elite teams “close”. That’s great, but they have a lot more work to do than just getting “their guy” at head coach or quarterback. Besides, I personally think we might have seen enough out of Weeden last year to warrant at least one more year as the team’s starting quarterback.
Then again, I’m not an NFL GM. Let’s breakdown the quarterback position and everything else the Browns may want to change before the 2013 NFL season rolls around:
Offensive Needs: QB, WR, TE
Brandon Weeden is going to be 30 soon after the 2013 season starts and he was wildly erratic at times as a rookie in 2012. He certainly flashed some nice potential, but at 30 it seems the Browns were hoping for much more stability. That means he could be on a short leash in 2013, or Cleveland could go in a different direction, altogether. Don’t be shocked to see the Browns spend their third round pick on a quarterback. There’s a chance Tyler Wilson or Ryan Nassib slip that far.
I can still see the Browns sticking with Weeden as their future. If they do, and even if they don’t, they’d be wise to keep adding weapons to the passing game. Josh Gordon is a special talent with loads of upside, but Greg Little drops the ball too much and doesn’t make enough plays. He’d almost be better suited as a #3 receiver at this point, which means there’s definitely room to bring another big-time play-maker in. There have been rumors about the Browns being interested in Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace, so that could be something to watch. If they don’t snag him, they could take a shot on another project in the middle rounds. Michigan’s Denard Robinson could make some sense. After all, Josh Cribbs isn’t exactly what he once was and is a free agent. Robinson could play receiver and be their new return man.
I think Jordan Cameron could have a bright future with the Browns. Ben Watson is done in Cleveland, so there’s a chance Cameron gets the starting job in 2013. However, he hasn’t really shown us what we need to see to this point, so it’s certainly possible the Browns bring in added depth to push him. I’d bank on Cleveland drafting a tight end in the middle to late rounds. If they’re really serious about making this position a strength, though, they might as well just bring in a reliable veteran like Dustin Keller.
Defensive Needs: OLB, CB, DE
The Browns need to generate a more consistent pass-rush. Jabaal Sheard can’t be all they have in their 3-4 come 2013, so getting a top level pass-rusher via free agency or the draft to fit into their system is key. I do like Sheard on one side, but Cleveland needs to look outside of their own roster for the other. That could have them pulling the trigger early on a guy like Jarvis Jones or Damontre Moore, should either fall outside of the top five to the six spot. A more realistic option might be BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah, although he’s quite raw and some will argue that would be a gigantic reach.
Shelden Brown wasn’t bad last year, but he’s a free agent and is 34 years old. It’s time to get a sharp talent to slot along-side borderline elite corner, Joe Haden. Depending on what Cleveland does in free agency, reaching for the top corner in the draft, Dee Milliner, isn’t really out of the question. They could simply re-sign Brown and/or bring in a guy like Sean Smith, but I think starting over would work best. They could also wait until round three and grab a more versatile guy like David Amerson.
Last, but certainly not least, the Browns need to add some talent and depth all over their defensive line. They’re rolling with a 3-4 scheme in 2013, so they’ll need to make changes across the board. They can still put Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin to great use, but what do they have after them? They don’t need a complete over-haul here, but they definitely need some depth. Look for them to add a little in both the draft and free agency.
Cleveland also needs to make decisions on special teams, as their kicker and punter are both free agents. But other than that, their real issue is going to be adding one more play-maker on offense and then spicing up their defense as they make a new transition. Then comes the golden question: is Weeden the guy? He’s almost 30 and he’s only entering his second season, so the jury is still out, yet the clock is very much ticking. How the Browns answer that question in the coming weeks will dictate how they run free agency and the draft.
Despite some of the flaws and the question mark under center, Cleveland took positive steps in 2012, and is not without talent on offense as they prepare for 2013. They aren’t likely to contend for a playoff spot just yet, but at least it’s starting to look like they’re headed in the right direction for the first time in a while.
Kevin Roberts owns and operates NFL Soup and heads the fantasy football division of the site. Roberts also finished 2nd in the Wide Receiver position in Fantasy Pros expert fantasy football rankings in 2010 and 3rd in the Quarterback position in 2011. In addition to running the fantasy football section of the site, Roberts contributes to NFL Soup's NFL Draft coverage and breaking news reporting. Follow Kevin on Twitter @NFLSoupKevin