INDIANAPOLIS (92.3 The Fan) – Sure the quarterbacks always steal the show, and in Cleveland all eyes will be on them at the NFL Combine, but the Browns have plenty of other needs and a lot to watch for this week.
With 12 picks total and 6 of them coming in the top 65 of the upcoming draft in April, general manager John Dorsey will be able to fill several of the Browns’ other needs that include cornerback, free safety, receiver, running back and left tackle.
With it widely assumed the top pick will be spent on a QB, what the Browns do with No. 4, acquired from Houston last April, could be extremely intriguing.
As for the players that could be selected with that pick, the options are just as intriguing.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is entering the draft after his junior year following three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Nittany Lions that saw him average 5.7 yards per carry. He scored 18 touchdowns on the ground in each of the last 2 years and would provide – at least on paper – Hue Jackson with the type of explosive back he is looking for. Barkley is almost the same size as Isaiah Crowell, whom the Browns are expected to allow to walk in free agency, but some regard the Penn State back as the best prospect in the entire draft. His 40-yard dash will be must see TV.
Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick is by far the best defensive back available in the draft and his versatility has inflated his stock. It would also make him a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Browns desperately need a ball hawk in the back end of their secondary and Fitzpatrick, who has 9 interceptions (4 returned for touchdowns), 24 passes defensed and 5 sacks over 3 seasons for the Crimson Tide, fits the bill to a T.
The Browns appear to be set with their edge rushers by drafting Myles Garrett last year No. 1 overall and Emmanuel Ogbah in the second round in 2016 but Bradley Chubb of N.C. State is expected to be a show stopper in Indianapolis this week. Chubb has racked up 10 sacks in each of the last 2 seasons. While Garrett had 7 sacks in 11 games and Ogbah added 4 more in 10 (he has 9.5 in 26 games over his first 2 seasons) Chubb has totaled 98 solo tackles, 25 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and interception in 38 games over 3 seasons at defensive end.
Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson is regarded by some as being the best offensive lineman in the draft and top-5 selection worthy, but the problem is the Browns have committed a ton of money to guards Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler in the last year. So while Nelson is expected to impress this week, the Browns likely won’t show much interest.
This class of receivers is not thought of as one of the better ones, and like quarterbacks, the position is becoming more difficult to evaluate or project. Nevertheless, 2 years after spending 4 draft picks – including selecting Corey Coleman 15th overall, the Browns are in desperate need of more impact playmakers at wide-out besides Josh Gordon, who they’re praying is able to stay out of trouble. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, who totaled 224 receptions for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns over 3 seasons for the Crimson Tide, appears to be the star of the class. Keep an eye on Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Courtland Sutton of SMU, Oklahoma State’s James Washington and Anthony Miller of Memphis because they could be second- and third-round options for the Browns who have picks 33, 35, 64 and 65.
That’s just for starters.
Dorsey and his staff will be very busy this week vetting information they’ve already gathered on the prospects and digging deeper on them as they prepare to add another massive draft class to the foundation of the team come April.
So enjoy picking apart the quarterbacks and clinging to their every word and throw this week but the Browns will be sharing their attention with a few others as well.