2018 NFL Draft

Projecting the draft: Cleveland Browns

Projecting the draft: Cleveland Browns

By Dane Brugler | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst
Thus far, the Mike Holmgren regime in Cleveland hasn't gone exactly according to plan with a 9-23 record the past two seasons. And as the organization enters year three of the Holmgren era, the rebuilding process has taken a little longer than most expected, making the 2012 NFL Draft crucial for the future of the franchise.

Since the Browns returned to the league in 1999, a common theme that has haunted the organization is the lack of a consistent quarterback under center. The Colt McCoy experience has seen more downs than ups in his short stint in Cleveland and Seneca Wallace has proved to be a nice back-up at-best. Holmgren and Browns General Manager Tom Heckert attempted to rectify the situation by trading up with the St. Louis Rams, who owned the No. 2 pick, in order to draft Baylor's Robert Griffin. However, the Rams spurned the Browns offer and made a deal with the Redskins. With Andrew Luck and Griffin likely coming off the board with the first two picks, the Browns, sitting at pick No. 4, will need to go to Plan B. While they could take Ryan Tannehill there, the more likely scenario has Cleveland passing on a quarterback and sticking with McCoy for another season.

With 13 total draft picks as of now, the Browns have the most picks in the NFL for draft weekend, including three selections in the top 37 picks. And with one of the most loyal, but restless fan bases, Holmgren and Heckert know they need to come out of this draft with not only several starters, but numerous impact players who will bring some life to a franchise desperate for a winner.

Five prospects the Browns might consider:

RB Trent Richardson, Alabama (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 4)
You don't take running backs in the top five…unless his name is Trent Richardson. The latest fad in the NFL has been to wait to select a running back because of the propensity to find talent at the position later in the draft. However, Richardson is a special player who impacts the offense in a myriad of ways. He brings the foot quickness to make defenders miss, power to run through them and the instincts to set up his moves and keep would-be-tacklers off balance. Richardson is also reliable out of the backfield as a receiver and when left in the backfield to block in pass protection. Drawing comparisons to Maurice Jones-Drew, Richardson forces opponents' defensive coordinators to plan against a dangerous run game, opening up passing opportunities on the outside. If the Browns are dedicated to improving the offense, they need to select the best player available with the No. 4 pick, which looks to be Richardson.

WR Kendall Wright, Baylor (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 18)
This year's draft class of wide receivers is strong, but lacks an elite talent like AJ Green or Calvin Johnson at the top. While either Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd are considered the top draftable wideout at the position, there are many who believe that distinction belongs to Baylor's Kendall Wright, who is expected to be drafted in the 17-26 overall range. And sitting at pick No. 22, an ideal scenario for the Browns would be to grab the running back at 4 and then Wright with their second first rounder. Robert Griffin received most of the praise for Baylor's offensive success last year, but Wright bailed out the Heisman Trophy winner on a number of occasions with this ability to track the ball, go get it and then do something after the catch. If the Browns are going to give Colt McCoy another chance, they'll need to surround him with talent and Wright would be a very good compliment to last year's second rounder Greg Little who led Cleveland in receiving as a rookie with 61 catches.

OLB Lavonte David, Nebraska (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 48)
One of the most underrated prospects in this draft class is Nebraska's Lavonte David who would probably be mentioned in the top 25 picks if he was a little bigger. But maxed out at 6-0 and 233 pounds, he will likely slip to the second round and the Browns would be thrilled to see him fall to their 37th overall pick. David was a JUCO transfer and made an instant impact when he arrived in Lincoln, totaling 285 tackles the past two seasons. His athletic fluidity and range are obvious, but his read/react skills are elite with the innate ability to constantly be around the ball. David studies the opponent during the week and it shows on game day, receiving rave reviews from former coaches for his commitment and football passion on and off the field. He is a tick undersized, but is a tackling machine and would project as the starting WLB in the Browns 4-3 scheme.

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 53)
If the Browns decide to pass on Morris Claiborne in the first round, they'll need to address the cornerback position with one of their other draft choices. Hosley is undersized at 5-10 and 178 pounds, but plays bigger than his size would suggest and competes with a chip on his shoulder. He is quicker than fast with above average foot agility and change of direction skills to play tight coverage. Hosley has the skill-set to be an ideal nickelback at the next level, but also has the physicality and confidence to compete and start on the outside. His play is somewhat reminiscent of Joe Haden, showing the physical nature and explosiveness to warrant the Browns third round pick (67th overall).

OT Donald Stephenson (NFLDraftScout.com overall ranking: 93)
With the release of incumbent starter Tony Pashos, the Browns currently have a hole to fill at the right tackle spot. And a name to keep an eye on in the fourth or fifth round is Oklahoma's Donald Stephenson, who manned the left tackle position for the Sooners the past two seasons. At 6-5 and 312 pounds, he looks the part and has a naturally wide base to be effective when he stays balanced. He isn't a sudden mover and is more of a lumbering athlete, but he mirrors better than expected and turned heads at the Combine when he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time among offensive linemen (4.98). Stephenson still has some learning to do and needs to cut down on several errors, but almost all of them are correctable. He projects as a back-up, but with more reps he has the skill-set to evolve into a starter who can compete week-in and week-out in the NFL.
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