Browns Draft of 2015: Offense Left in Neutral


Browns fans, another NFL Draft has come and gone, and our Cleveland Browns added twelve new players to the roster. You can love it, like it, or hate it, but Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine did bring in a large influx of talent, and for a team that’s philosophy is to build through the draft, Farmer and Pettine are certainly following through.

The Browns draft of 2015 started with selecting a large run stuffing defensive lineman in Danny Shelton (Washington) and a versatile offensive lineman in Cameron Erving (Florida State) in the 1st Round. They followed up those picks on day 2, by adding a pass rushing linebacker in Nate Orchard (Utah) and a potentially explosive play-maker in running back Duke Johnson (Miami (FL)) in the 2nd Round and another defensive tackle in Xavier Cooper (Washington State) in the 3rd Round.

Day 3 brought the Browns the most players, with seven new players in safety Ibraheim Campbell (Northwestern), wide receiver Vince Mayle (Washington State), cornerback Charles Gaines (Louisville), fullback Malcolm Johnson (Mississippi State), tight end Randall Telfer (USC), linebacker Hayes Pullard (USC), and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon) to finish out the Draft.

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Danny Shelton (Washington) poses for a photo with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number 12th overall pick to the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Overall it’s not a draft that reeks of excitement, but it was a solid draft. The Browns biggest needs going into the draft were DT, WR, and QB and Farmer brought in players to fill the voids in two of those three positions.

The one position that was left glaringly untouched though was quarterback. While many rumors had the Browns tied to a trade for Tennessee Titans #2 overall pick QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon), or even Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford, a trade or potential trade was never on the table according to General Manager Ray Farmer via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

So the Cleveland Browns will be entering the 2015 season (barring trade) with Johnny Manziel, Josh McCown, Connor Shaw, and Thaddeus Lewis on the roster listed under QB. The most likely scenarios have Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel competing for the starting job while Connor Shaw and Thaddeus Lewis compete for the third quarterback spot on the depth chart. On paper, the Cleveland Browns might have one of the worst QB quartets in the NFL. So how could the Browns overlook the QB position yet again? Why didn’t they pull the trigger and make a trade for Mariota or Bradford? How about drafting a project QB in the later rounds?

The answer to me is this… The Cleveland Browns are a team in neutral right now.

Now I’m not saying that the Cleveland Browns aren’t going anywhere this year, nor am I saying that they can’t win games. Farmer and his staff had a very solid draft, brought in talented veterans via free agency, and kept the core of this team in tact. The depth and quality of players on this team have improved dramatically over the course of the past few months. However, the most important position on the team is quarterback, and I can honestly say that I don’t know if we have one. It’s the same feeling I have had since 1999.

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The Browns could have the best defense in the NFL, or the best offensive line, but without a quarterback and a competent passing offense, this team isn’t going to go anywhere. Last season the Browns had the #17 overall rushing attack, but the #32 ranked passing offense. When the rushing game was good, it opened up easy passing lanes for QB Brian Hoyer. When it was bad, Hoyer, Manziel, nor Conner Shaw could put the offense on their shoulders. The Browns subsequently fell from a lofty 7-4 with playoff hopes to 7-9 and losers of their last 5 games. The quarterback play just wasn’t good enough.

Oct 19, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Richard Dole-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2014 NFL Draft the Browns selected Johnny Manziel #22 overall. After seven quarters of play last year we don’t know what we have in the 22-year old QB from Texas A&M. This past off-season “Johnny Football” had stepped away from football,  and became “Johnny Rehab” to get his life right.

Personally, I’m not one to write him off yet. The kid (yes, kid) still has a lot to learn, but the veterans claim to see a renewed dedication to football. Joe Thomas told Andrea Kremer of he has seen a “Night and Day” difference, while Joe Haden told Kremer that Manziel is a “workhorse around the facility.” He has been the first one in Berea and the last one out of the facility. There are no pictures of floating swans or money phones, so maybe this is true.

The Cleveland Browns needs this to be true. If the organization is going to get out of neutral, Johnny Manziel has to become the player who deserved his 1st round selection last year. If Johnny falters, there is the veteran Josh McCown to temporarily fill the position, but he’s the definition of journeyman QB. He has played for six other teams in his career with a career passer rating of 76.1. If he’s the answer this year, it’s hard to see the Browns getting anywhere this season.

So did the Browns need to trade up for Marcus Mariota or make a deal for Sam Bradford? Would that have been the better move? Not in my eyes. Had the Cleveland Browns made either of these moves, we might still be sitting in neutral. Marcus Mariota would have been a rookie, coming from a spread offense at Oregon and would have a lot to learn about how to play quarterback in the NFL. Sam Bradford while a veteran, hasn’t played a single NFL regular season game since October of 2013.

If the Cleveland Browns are going to get out of neutral, they need Johnny Manziel to become the quarterback worthy of the #22 pick in last year’s draft. Otherwise it doesn’t matter how many defensive linemen, offensive linemen, or running backs you get, today’s NFL is all about the QB, and the Cleveland Browns needs Johnny Manziel to be the one to put our season into drive.

Next: Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: The Browns' $3 Million 7th-Round Pick