It’s weird to write this mock draft as a Browns fan. I’m not used to not looking at all of the top prospects and thinking ‘man, whose career are we going to ruin?” The phrase “drafting for depth” had never even occurred to me, but here we are.
After an extremely successful free agency period, the Cleveland Browns aren’t only not picking in the top of the first round. They’re not even picking in the first round at all. But to be fair, OBJ is a pretty good compensation for a slot in the first round.
So we see Cleveland enter the draft in a really weird place: as a pretty decent team. But you can always get better in April and so here we go with a wild, flaying shot in the dark into what may come out of the war room in Berea. Also, I’m making the assumption that John Dorsey doesn’t make any trades this weekend which he really doesn’t need to do.
You’ll notice my picks are very defense-heavy, which is where the biggest needs still are. The secondary has been consistently banged up, so getting some depth behind Denzel Ward et. al. should be the top priority.
Just a side note: these are total guesses on my part. Based on what’s needed and whose projected to still be around after tonight, I picked the guys I felt best in the Browns system. I’ll consider it a win if most of these guys are still on the board in the rounds where I have them.
ROUND 2 – PICK 49
Trayvon Mullen, CB – Clemson
- A long corner who didn’t surrender a touchdown in his junior season with the Tigers, he’s a versatile athlete who can step in on either side of the field. He’s not as much of a ball hawk, but he plays receivers physical and didn’t get beat that often. He will benefit greatly from an NFL lifting program, but he’s talented enough to make the opening day rotation.
ROUND 3 – PICK 80
Max Scharping, OT – Northern Illinois
- A versatile tackle who can play on either side of the line, Scharping played all 52 possible games at NIU. He should be able to pick up NFL schemes quickly, uses his length to his advantage and recovers well after the initial push. There’s some work to do on his footwork, but he flashed great potential at the Combine.
ROUND 4 – PICK 119
Marquise Blair, S – Utah
- Another long and athletic pick, Blair worked his into the starting spot for the Utes in his senior year. He plays well over the top, has good closing speed and is aggressive to the ball, even though the scheme he was in didn’t lend well to interception opportunities. If there’s one knock on him, its that he’s a little undersized at 195. He’ll have to add some muscle over the summer, but could step into a backup role quickly.
ROUND 5 – PICK 145 (FROM JAX)
Cameron Smith, LB – USC
- He’s not a flashy pick, but he could easily develop into a three-down player. He plays fast, he’s got a high football IQ and he’s strong enough to shed blocks. Another guy that needs to add mass, he’ll be a project but could become a starter in a season or two.
ROUND 5 – PICK 156
Tim Ward, DE – Old Dominion
- Ward could be the depth at edge rusher that Steve Wilks is looking for. He plays much better than his numbers would suggest, as his teammates would gobble up the headlines. He’s got all the physical tools to make a team, but will need to work on his field vision to grab a regular spot.
ROUND 5 – PICK 170 (FROM NE)
Daylon Mack, DT – Texas A&M
- The Browns could use a big run stuffer and Mack is that. He’s got a good sense when a double team is coming and is quick to break them up. He is also versatile enough to play special teams as well, logging a blocked kick during his senior season. He has some conditioning issues that will have to be addressed in camp, but he could be a Day 3 steal.
ROUND 6 – PICK 189
Malik Gant, S – Marshall
- The secondary would benefit from adding a hitter and Gant is a hitter. He was Marshall’s team MVP last season who’s motor never seems to stop running. He’s got the speed and tackling ability to drop down in coverage to act as an extra LB. The mechanics issues that became apparent can be overcome, making a guy that plays downhill as well as Gant does a huge benefit.
ROUND 7 – PICK 221 (FROM JAX)
Nik Needham, CB – UTEP
- Here’s your sleeper pick. The NFL doesn’t even have an info page for this kid, despite him being a first-team All-Conference USA player and holding the all-time record for the Miners in PBU. He’s got great speed, he’s a physical hitter and he’s not afraid to get into the rushing game. He also has potential as a kick and punt returner.
Photo credit: Getty Images