Football Memo

AFC North Draft Grades: Cleveland Browns

The Browns will use their second first-round selection at 26 overall.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel

Quarterback Johnny Manziel

Cleveland Browns
The Browns went boom-or-bust with its two first-round selections. First, they selected cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8 overall, then traded up to No. 22 to grab quarterback Johnny Manziel – and all the headlines that go with him. Gilbert is as athletically gifted, and has the best ball skills of any cornerback in this draft. The problem is: He isn’t very physical, and struggles when playing off coverage. The second part is correctable, but not many players gain toughness. You either have toughness … or you don’t. Cleveland is hoping the third time is the charm. In the past 8 seasons, the Browns have twice before traded up to the No. 22 spot to select a quarterback. In 2007, the Browns traded up to grab Brady Quinn, and in 2012 they moved up to get Brandon Weeden at No. 22. Now, the Browns are pinning their hopes on Manziel, and it should be fun to watch how this situation develops. Manziel can play the game. However, to become a winning quarterback in the NFL, he’ll have to learn that being a leader, doesn’t mean trying to be a hero on every play. He needs to learn to play within the parameters of an offense, and when the time comes, let his natural instincts take over. If he’s able to accomplish this, he’ll be a star. If not, Cleveland may be looking at a third bust. The Browns made a very good selection in the second round by landing offensive tackle/guard, Joel Bitonio, who is a hard-nosed, high-effort player. Linebacker Christian Kirksey brings coverage ability to the linebacking corps, and should find time as a situational player in passing situations. Running back Terrance West could immediately challenge for playing time, and team up with Ben Tate to give the Browns a solid 1-2 punch. Cleveland continued to add quality talent with its final selection – cornerback Pierre Desir – who is a physically gifted cornerback. Desir could use a few years to develop, but has all the skills to become a very good press corner in the NFL. The Browns major area of need was wide receiver, but decided to use their six selections on other areas. Time will tell if the Browns should’ve remained at No. 4 and selected receiver Sammy Watkins. In a few seasons this grade will not only come down to how Manziel develops, but if Gilbert can become a top cornerback? If he can’t, and Watkins becomes a star, Cleveland will have plenty of regrets … and probably another regime change.
Grade: B

Cleveland Browns – 2014 Draft Selections
1 (8) Justin Gilbert, DB, Oklahoma State
1 (22) Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
2 (35) Joel Bitonio, G, Nevada
3 (71) Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
3 (94) Terrance West, RB, Towson
4 (127) Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

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