The Cleveland Browns seem to have had a very good draft. Just let that sink in for a minute.
It wasn’t sexy like some people in the media wanted, they didn’t draft a quarterback early, nor did they take a wide receiver. However, what they did do was address a major weakness.
For all the moaning and hand-wringing about the quarterback play in 2014, the Browns ranked 20th in the league in passing yards. Granted, that is in the lower half of the league, but it is not the worst, which is where their defense against the running game was in 2014.
So, in their first five choices in the first three rounds, they picked three defensive players, two of them specifically picked to help against the run.
Washington NT Danny Shelton was the pick at #12, and at 6’1″ and 343 pounds will play in the middle of the defensive line for Cleveland. He, along with a healthy Phil Taylor, will occupy blockers and make plays against the run.
In the third round, GM Ray Farmer traded back in to pick another interior defender, DT Xavier Cooper from Washington State who weighs 293 pounds. Cooper is said to need more strength, but is very fast for a tackle, which should help him rush the passer as well.
Farmer didn’t ignore the pass rush either, selecting OLB Nate Orchard in the second round. Orchard, from Utah had 17.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss last season, and was said to give first round pick Andrus Peat from Stanford fits when they played the Cardinal in ’14.
The Browns needed play makers in the front seven and they may have added three in this year’s draft. You really can’t complain about that.
On the offensive side of the ball, perhaps no team in the NFL has a better threesome on the left side than Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio and Alex Mack. However, as good as they are, the right side had problems. So, Farmer addressed that by taking Cameron Erving from Florida State, who can play any position on the line.
He will no doubt move in here at either right guard or right tackle.
And the offense also lacked a change of pace running back, which the Browns addressed in the third round by taking Duke Johnson from Miami. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, which is not a strength or Terence West or Isaiah Crowell. This gives the offense an added dimension.
It seems when the Browns draft skill position players, they are criticized for not addressing the offensive and defensive lines. And when they take care of the infrastructure and take care of the basic needs of the team, then they get heat for not making a splash.
We don’t know if the players they have taken so far will be Pro Bowl talents, but it does appear that both Shelton and Erving should start in Week 1, which first round picks should do.
That’s why you draft them there.
You have to give Ray Farmer credit for addressing the weaknesses of his football team. Are there still more to fill? Yes, we undoubtedly need a play making wide receiver. But, it’s not like he took a left tackle instead of one.
The Browns can’t be a contender until they can run the ball and stop the run. That’s basic football.
Last year, they showed big improvement in the running game, and this year they are taking strides to stop the opponents.
That seems like a plan, which they are usually mocked for not having one.