Big needs, big deals, big names

Rookie GM Ray Farmer had a strong first night, filling the Browns’ two positions of highest needs, while pocketing a precious first-round pick for next year.

With cornerback Justin Gilbert, Cleveland gets a starting-quality player to pair with Pro Bowler Joe Haden, while Buster Skrine can move to full-time slot duty. Both Haden and Skrine are entering their contract years, and no other corner on the roster has proven his pro adequacy, so this was the right position to target with their top pick. And they maneuvered into the proper slot, down from fourth, then up from ninth to eighth, netting Buffalo’s top pick in 2015 in the process.

I’m no expert on college football or scouting, but I can say that the NFL’s collected wise men drafted nine defensive backs in the first round, including five corners. From this deep pool of quality talent, we got the first guy. And it’s a high-salary position, so getting a quick starter in place under the rookie wage scale is a much better deal than shelling out eight-figure salaries for established veterans.

The Browns’ other glaring need, of course, was for a quarterback. Sure enough, Farmer finagled another trade, sacrificing a spare third-rounder to move from 26 to 22, the same spot that prior regimes traded up to in order to draft QBs Brady Quinn in 2007 and Brandon Weeden in 2012.

So that’s how Johnny Manziel enters the pro ranks. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is one of the most polarizing, perplexing, and flat-out fascinating faces to enter the league in recent years. Johnny Football is a cocky competitor and superb scrambler who, if all goes well, will settle into the more staid pro game without losing his inclination to make big plays when things break down.

Just when he gets his chance will depend on his adjustment and the comfort level he can provide the coaches. In Cleveland, the quarterback controversy storyline never seems far away, and, well, it’s officially back. This version features the undrafted veteran from the area, Brian Hoyer, finally poised for his first real shot at the reins of a franchise, and a little hotshot Texan with a chip on his shoulder and a reputation to both live up to and live down.

Looking ahead to tonight, the Browns have the third pick of the second round and plenty of remaining needs: inside linebacker and wide receiver especially, but also at safety, offensive line, and running back. Some possibilities:

  • Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
  • Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal
  • Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
  • Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
  • Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame.