Sunday, April 26, 2015

Elliot's 2015 Mock Draft 2.0 Cleveland Browns

   Of course it is impossible to predict who the Browns will draft this April 30, but that minor detail won't stop the Village Elliot.  
      Channelling my inner Ray Farmer, my overall plan is to build a tough defense and fix the worst ranked run defense in the NFL, while building a ball control, cold weather offense.  I don't think we are going to be in the top 15 in passing offense, but we could realistically build a top 5 running game, and that would be good enough to win and make the playoffs.  

     I know everyone wants a quarterback in Round 1. But I predict that we will not bundle a bunch of draft picks for the Tennessee Titans to move up and take Marcus Mariota.  The Philadelphia Eagles will do that because Chip Kelly is Mariota's former college coach.

     Plus in my view there are several quarterbacks with potential to be a starter in the NFL, but no superstars this year.  I think Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley and Sean Mannion are not far behind Mariota and Winston.  I think we can nab one in the second round or maybe as late as Round 4.

    In the first round, we have to stop the run, folks.  Last in the NFL is just not quite good enough, okay?  A lot of mock drafts have us taking Danny Shelton, massive beast who played the Nost Tackle position for Washington.  Originally I was on board with that, but then I found out that he ran a 5.66 time in the 40 yard dash.   Jimminy Christmas, there are old ladies at my Mom's retirement residence who can push their walkers faster than that.   Plus the 9 sacks he got don't translate to the NFL, as he got four in one game against a Division I AA team, and 2 more against an undermanned Hawaii team.    No, 5.66 is far too slow for the first round.   Instead I like Malcolm Brown, a nose tackle from Texas who had 71 tackles last year.   I'll go with him over Shelton who I believe is going to slide a bit.  


Then I have us taking La'el Collins, a terrific run blocking Right Tackle out of LSU.   Mitchell Schwartz is very good, but not dominant in the run game.   Mitchell and John Greco thus will fight it out for right guard, but we are going to run off right tackle this year.

La'el Collins is going to push people out of his way.  Draft him.  


I want a big physical receiver with good hands who can catch a wet ball in cold weather on a sloppy field.  I'm not opposed to a downfield burner who is at the top of his game in a dome stadium, but Browns fans have to get it into their brains that we really are trying to win playoff games in Cleveland in the near future.  David Funchess is a guy who is almost big enough to be a tight end. That's the guy I want in Round 2. 

As long as Petty, Hundley and Mannion are undrafted, the Browns may be content to hang back, even trading back a few spots.  But if necessary they will trade up to get one of the three.   Mannion is the most boring choice, and a few mocks are really down on him because he is slow.  But the Browns have pass blocking, and this kid has an arm that rivals Winston's.   Take him in Round 3 or even Round 2 if necessary. 

Sean Mannion looks good in bright orange.   


In Round 4, here again I am not thinking about Air Coryell, but again who fits a cold weather football team?   How about Jesse James, a big tight end from Penn State, one of the best run blockers among tight ends.  Then for the second pick in the round, let's take Trey  Flowers, an Outside Linebacker from Arkansas

I'm not talking about running once in a while for our Browns. No, I think we will need to run the ball 60% of the time.  I want to build a top 5 running game that is good for well over 2000 yards.  So even though we have two good backs, I draft a big running back in David Cobb from Minnesota in Round 5, and follow up with a fullback in Aaron Ripkowski from Oklahoma.  The Browns also need a punt returner, so how about someone like Marcus Murphy from Missouri.  He is a scatback running back and also ran back kickoffs and punts in college, and he  broke several kick returns for touchdowns in his career. 

In the seventh round, how about a kicker?   Justin Manton from Louisiana Monroe is an interesting guy because he is accurate, has a strong leg and can also punt.  I would look at him strictly as a placekicking challenger for Garrett Hartley.  


Round 1:   Malcolm Brown, NT, Texas
                 La'el Collins, ROT, LSU

Round 2:  Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan State

Round 3:  Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
               
Round 4:   Jesse James, TE, Penn State
                 Trey Flowers, OLB, Arkansas

Round 5:  David Cobb, RB, Minnesota

Round 6:  Aaron Ripkowski, FB, Oklahoma
                Marcus Murphy, RB/KR Missouri

Round 7:   Justin Manton, K, Louisiana Monroe

Friday, April 24, 2015

Predictions for the 2015 NFL Draft

   The NFL Draft is fun because it is wacky and unpredictable.  I whiffed completely on most predictions I made in 2014 starting with saying the Browns would NOT draft Johnny Manziel due to Banner (a big advocate of JFB) being fired.  Nevertheless I'm willing to make predictions again this year.  

1. Winston and Mariota will go 1-2 this year because the league is completely nuts about quarterbacks.  Neither one is really that attractive as a draft pick and in fact to me Winston should be sent to the second round because of his off-the-field issues.   

Marcus Mariota's reaction upon hearing that the Browns will not draft him. 

2.  Philadelphia will trade a boatload of picks to the Titans for the privilege of signing Marcus Mariota. It's obvious that he is more valuable to a team coached by the guy who recruited Marcus for Oregon.   Most of those picks might be 2016 picks, and the Titans might use those picks to trade back in to the later rounds of 2015.   Philly will seek to deal spare qbs Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford to obtain additional picks in 2015 also.


3.  The Browns number one pick will be a 300 pounder, maybe Danny Shelton a Nose Tackle from Washington, but lately I have started to like Malcolm Brown from Texas, who is not as slow as Shelton.  Man, we need some help there. Most of the offseason news has been about not having the right quarterback, but the greatest chance for improvement is run defense.  
Brett Hundley will play in the NFL but so will  Malcolm Brown!


3.  The Browns will draft a qb, but not in the first round.   National media thinks we are desperate for a quarterback but this is not so.  We still have not figured out whether Manziel can play, but in the meantime we have respectable hedges in Josh McCown, Thad Lewis,  and Connor Shaw. Nothing wrong with these players, and just as Charlie Batch compiled a winning record for the Steelers in a long career, so might one of these guys as a backup for the Browns.   Anyway, I don't think they will give up on Manziel, but they will bring in some honest competition.  My sleeper qb pick is Sean Mannion, who is not fast but has great accuracy and arm strength.   I believe long term he will have a better career than Jameis Winston without the off the field nonsense. I think Farmer prefers a more mobile guy, however.   


4.  The Browns will also sign an undrafted free agent who is eligible for the Practice Squad.  I think the Browns will try to send Connor Shaw to the Practice Squad in 2015, but he may not clear waivers.  If so, they will need another guy.   Hence they just about have to pick up a UFA qb.  It's a battle for fourth string.   

5.  The Browns will draft an Offensive Lineman, either in a high round as a starter or a late round to add depth.  When Alex Mack went down the entire OL fell apart and nobody wants that to happen again.  Moving Joel Bitonio to Right Tackle is an option, but I think they would rather draft a big RT and slide Mitchell Schwartz to guard.   John Greco will be the new backup center/guard.  

6.  The Browns may draft a wr in a late round, but they are not desperate for WR this year.  WRs Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel and Miles Austin were above average last year, with Josh Gordon only a shadow of his former self.  The guy we are really trying to replace is Austin, and we have upgraded that position with Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline. The Browns have depth at that position but no superstars. 

7.   The Browns will consolidate some picks by trading up a few times, or else will trade 2015 picks for 2016 picks.  The have enough depth that they won't be able to carry 10 guys from the draft.  Six is a more reasonable number, particularly if we want to try to hit on undrafted free agents again this year (remember we got three part time starters that way, in Isaiah Crowell, K'Waum Williams and Taylor Gabriel).  

8.  Fans will cry that they didn't get a great new quarterback and speed demon wide receiver, but the team will come away much improved.     

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Elliot's Mock Draft for the Browns 2015

Of course it is impossible to predict who the Browns will draft this April 30, but that minor detail won't stop the Village Elliot.  Channelling my inner Ray Farmer, my overall plan is to build a tough defense and fix the worst ranked run defense in the NFL, while building a ball control, cold weather offense.  I don't think we are going to be in the top 15 in passing offense, but we could realistically build a top 5 running game, and that would be good enough to win and make the playoffs.  

I know, I know everyone wants a quarterback in Round 1.  But I predict that we will not bundle a bunch of draft picks for the Tennessee Titans to move up and take Marcus Mariota.  The Philadelphia Eagles will do that because Chip Kelly is Mariota's former college coach.

Plus in my view there are several quarterbacks with potential to be a starter in the NFL, but no superstars this year.  I think Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley and Sean Mannion are not far behind Mariota and Winston.  I think we can nab one in the second round.

In the first round, we have to stop the run, folks.  Last in the NFL is just not quite good enough, okay?  A lot of mock drafts have us taking Danny Shelton, massive beast who played the Nost Tackle position for Washington.     That's exactly what this team needs.


Then I have us taking La'el Collins, a terrific run blocking Right Tackle out of LSU.   Mitchell Schwartz is very good, but not dominant in the run game.   Mitchell and John Greco thus will fight it out for right guard, but we are going to run off right tackle this year.

La'el Collins is going to push people out of his way.  Draft him.  


As long as Petty, Hundley and Mannion are undrafted, the Browns may be content to hang back, even trading back a few spots.  But if necessary they will trade up to get one of the three.   Mannion is the most boring choice, and a few mocks are really down on him because he is slow.  But the Browns have pass blocking, and this kid has an arm that rivals Winston's.   Take him.

Sean Mannion looks good in bright orange.   


I want a big physical receiver with good hands who can catch a wet ball in cold weather on a sloppy field.  I'm not opposed to a downfield burner who is at the top of his game in a dome stadium, but Browns fans have to get it into their brains that we really are trying to win playoff games in Cleveland in the near future.  David Funchess is a guy who is almost big enough to be a tight end. That's the guy I want in Round 3. 

In Round 4, here again I am not thinking about Air Coryell, but again who fits a cold weather football team?   How about Jesse James, a big tight end from Penn State, one of the best run blockers among tight ends.  Then let's take Trey  Flowers, an Outside Linebacker from Arkansas

I'm not talking about running once in a while for our Browns.  No, I think we will need to run the ball 60% of the time.  I want to build a top 5 running game that is good for well over 2000 yards.  So even though we have two good backs, I draft a big running back in David Cobb from Minnesota in Round 5, and follow up with a fullback in Aaron Ripkowski from Oklahoma.  

In Round 7, I'm taking a chance with Karlos Williams another big strong running back with character issues.  But in Round 7 you have to take risks. 

Round 1:  Danny Shelton , NT, Washington
                 La'el Collins, ROT, LSU

Round 2:  Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State

Round 3:  Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan State
               
Round 4:   Jesse James, TE, Penn State
                 Trey Flowers, OLB, Arkansas

Round 5:  David Cobb, RB, Minnesota

Round 6:  Aaron Ripkowski, FB, Oklahoma

Round 7:  Karlos Williams, RB Florida State

Sunday, April 5, 2015

What Should the Browns Do With Johnny Manziel?


   This is actually not so complicated. The Browns should keep Johnny Manziel on the roster as long as he is good enough to be at least the third string quarterback.  You don't cut him unless there really are three guys that are clearly better.  I doubt whether that will be the case in 2015.

    Many enraged Browns fans, some with questionable sanity, want to cut Manziel immediately, feeling that he has betrayed them by not being an immediate superstar and for having a problem with substance abuse.   

      Let's deal with that right away:   If the Browns cut Johnny Manziel, they will be penalized because of the rules about guaranteed contracts.  The Browns would not save money by cutting Manziel. Their salary cap would be reduced in 2015 and they might have to cut payroll to make their cap limit. That would be stupid.   

       Sportrac lists that Manziel's 2015 "dead money" at  $6.5 M.  This is the amount of guaranteed money over the life of his contract, that has to be accounted for immediately when he is cut or traded.  That money has to come out of the Browns 2015 payroll.  Conversely if they keep him on the roster, they will have $4.6 Million dollars more to work with in 2015.   

     What about the risk of Manziel failing a drug test?   Well, what risk is that?    Nothing really bad happens to the Browns if he fails a test, other than he is not allowed to play.  They do not have to pay him if he is suspended!



What if Manziel has a positive drug test?  In that case the Browns are not penalized.   You can argue about the logic of the rule, but it clearly favors the Browns in this situation. 


If Manziel is as good as Seneca Wallace (a short third string qb who made some contributions to the Browns), he is worth keeping on the roster for another year.  How good do you really have to be to be a third string quarterback?  

       Suppose Manziel is not a superstar, but is good enough to be third on the depth chart for the Browns; say, as good as Seneca Wallace.   Yeah, he would be overpaid, but again that should be noted on Mr. Farmer's report card.  It's not the player's fault if the team gave him too much money.  But to reiterate, nothing bad happens to the Browns if he is second or third on the depth chart.   There is no reason why the Browns have to give him away if he doesn't establish himself as the starter in 2015.  

       Many Browns fans love to hate the second and third string qbs of the Browns.  But I'm calling into account the "Superstar or Bust" mentality of many Browns fans.  Who says every quarterback has to be a superstar?   This is not Fantasy Football where you have three quarterbacks and they are all Pro Bowl candidates.  Every team in the NFL has a backup quarterback who they think is good enough to win a couple games, and about half the teams have a third string quarterback at close to the league minimum.   You cut a guy if he is fourth string and you only have room for three guys. You don't cut a guy just because you're disappointed after two games or because you thought he would make the Hall of Fame his first year.   Right now the Browns have Josh McCown, Thad Lewis and Connor Shaw, and remember Shaw is eligible for the Practice Squad if he can clear waivers, and my guess is he can.  

Is two games really enough to conclude that Manziel can not play in the NFL?  No.  We don't know what we've got yet.  

     It might be that the Browns drafted Manziel too early. They definitely expected way to much out of a kid entering the NFL after his sophomore year of college.  So blame that on the Browns brass, probably Jimmy Haslam who wanted him the most.  But that is not Manziel's fault. 


     The fact is that we don't know what he can do.  We know that he is one of the shortest qbs in the NFL (along with Russell Wilson of the Seahawks) and that he has a substance abuse problem.  We also know he failed to pick up the Browns' offense last year.   But he also has a first round caliber arm, and he has better than average speed and very good improvisational skills.    Let's see what he can do. Maybe he be a flop.  Maybe he'll be a star.  More likely he will be somewhere in between.  But we will never know if we don't keep him for another two years.  

    At the same time, we are not giving him the keys to the car automatically.  He is going to have to earn that by first proving that he can practice better than Josh McCown and the other challengers.   

    In previous years the Browns would create a number one quarterback by trading away the other candidates.  I think Farmer is going to bring some additional talent via the draft or trade. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota may be out of reach, but if either slips to about nine or ten, I could see the Browns moving up.   Alternatively Bryce Petty, Sean Mannion or Brett Hundley are  also candidates.  I would be surprised if we don't select at least one of them in the draft.   

     I think the Browns will ultimately form their depth chart with McCown at the top (for now), with Manziel, and a draftee competing for two additonal spots.  Thad Lewis has a a small chance of dislodging Manziel if Manziel does something completely awful, but my guess is that Manziel will survive that challenge.   Connor Shaw is eligible for the Practice Squad one more year, and I think the Browns will be willing to expose him to waivers.   

     From here on out, Manziel will be treated like everyone else with a uniform number.  Hustle like hell if you want to earn a roster spot, my man.  I think it's very likely he will do so.  
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