It’s that time of year again. The time where everyone builds up their hopes for a “new Cleveland Browns team” due to drafting. The time where when we draft a QB with our 22nd overall pick our city acts like we won the Super Bowl, but in reality we just drafted another bust (shout out to Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, and Johnny Football). The time where our hopes for our Brownies are the highest, just to be brought down next year.

Yes, it’s the beginning of the NFL Draft process. All the underclassmen declared by 1/15/15, and the NFL Draft field is set. As hard to recognize as it may be, the Browns are tied for first in the AFC North for the 2015-2016 season right now, and the organization has to do all it can in order to keep us atop. They’ve gotta watch film, record stats, and find a fit for the weakest positions on our Cleveland Browns. Because although 7-9 is an improvement, it’s nothing close to perfect. Let’s take a look into the future. Let’s dive into April 30, 2015 and break down our team’s top three needs.

3.) Defensive Line

Stretches (guys who will already have been drafted, most likely): Leonard Williams, USC; Shane Ray, Missouri; Randy Gregory, Nebraska

Good Fits: Danny Shelton, Washington; Dante Fowler Jr., Florida; Eli Harold, Virginia; Vic Beasley, Clemson; Arik Armstead, Oregon

Sleepers: Michael Bennett, Ohio State; Eddie Goldman, Florida State; Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma; Malcom Brown, Texas; Ellis McCarthy, UCLA

After dismal play from the whole defensive line unit this year, we need to step up our game. We were last in the league in run defense, allowing nearly 142 rushing yards per game to our opponents. Aside from pretty average play from Desmond Bryant, our whole defensive line looked awful. 28 tackles from Ahtyba Rubin and only one sack is not ideal out of a big DT.

Assuming we can’t grab any of Leonard Williams, Shane Ray, and Randy Gregory, our best fit is looking to be Danny Shelton. At 6’1” with 332 pounds,  not only can he take up two blockers, but he can also tackle. He had 93 Total tackles at Washington and five fumble recoveries, proving excellent field vision. He could be an impact to the team right away and is the most viable option here. Dante Fowler out of Florida is a big question mark, as his size as a defensive end but speed and ability to drop into coverage could end him up as a linebacker later in his NFL career. Recording 60 tackles at 6’3”, 260 lbs., the Browns could eventually develop him into an effective defensive end.

Similarly, Eli Harold (6’4”, 250) and Vic Beasley (6’3”, 235) could develop into playmakers in two or three seasons. Additionally, Arik Armstead looks to be a possible contributor at a DT or DE, at 6’8”, 290. He only recorded 34 tackles in his 2014 season, but shows extreme potential. Finally, don’t sleep on Malcom Brown. At 6’2, 320,  his 70 tackles and 2 forced fumbles help to showcase an impressive player.

My Top 3 for the Browns:

1.)  Danny Shelton

2.) Dante Fowler Jr.

3.) Malcom Brown

2.) Inside Linebacker

Stretches: None

Good Fits: Denzel Perryman, Miami; Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State; Paul Dawson, TCU; Eric Kendricks, UCLA

Sleepers: Ramik Wilson, Georgia

A draft class pretty low on quality ILB’s, the Browns should be looking for more out of Dansby and Robertson. Although not awful last season (second and third leading tacklers on our team), Dansby is getting older and Robertson doesn’t look to be a long-term answer. If the Browns were to bring in an ILB and develop him for three or four years behind Dansby, sophomore Christian Kirksey and the new rookie could make a dominating duo for years to come.

Denzel Perryman (6’0”, 242) had an outstanding season, with 102 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and an INT to go with it. Originally an OLB, Perryman has displayed his ability to play ILB just as well during his four years in Miami. He’s seemingly a player who, once shown the ropes, could become a productive MLB. Benardrick McKinney, a natural MLB of 6’5”, 249, has been on the downfall since his freshman season. For a standout Mississippi State team, McKinney recorded a measly 56 tackles. Regarded by many as the ILB with the highest upside in the draft, I see him as a potential bust who could stand out for two seasons at most.

Paul Dawson, (6’2, 230) played OLB for the Horned Frogs, but could make the switch over to ILB. With a colossal 136 tackles, 6 sacks, and 4 INT’s this season, Dawson looks absolutely outstanding compared to the rest of the linebackers. His OLB base could contribute to depth chart problems and he could easily learn coverages. Lastly, Eric Kendricks (6’0, 230) played a nice season for the Bruins, recording 96 tackles along with 3 INT’s. Regarded as both an OLB and ILB, Kendricks can blitz and cover.

My Top 3 for the Browns:

1.) Paul Dawson

2.) Denzel Perryman

3.) Eric Kendricks

1.) Wide Receiver

Stretches: Amari Cooper, Alabama

Good Fits: Devante Parker, Louisville; Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma; Kevin White, West Virginia; Devin Smith, Ohio State

Sleepers: Jaelan Strong, Arizona State; Devin Funchess, Michigan;

The Browns need a young receiving core, undeniably. Josh Gordon can’t stay out of trouble, Miles Austin won’t become a staple in the Browns offense, Jordan Cameron is a  free agent, and Travis Benjamin isn’t really meant to play receiver.

We’re left with Andrew Hawkins, the only consistent, reliable receiver on the team. And when we’re left with an unexperienced QB (either in Hoyer or Manziel), they need more than one target. Unfortunately, that target won’t be Amari Cooper, the nation’s best receiver. An absolutely dominant force for the Tide, he’ll be a top ten pick. That leaves us with the next guy up, Devante Parker.

Showcasing his skill with 43 receptions for five scores, Parker is a great short or midrange target, something that our West Coast offense could definitely use. Although he isn’t the quickest receiver in the draft class, he more than makes up for it with his hands.

Kevin White had a huge season for the Mountaineers, catching 109 passes for nearly 1500 yards and 10 scores. White, West Virginia’s leading target, is a wild card in the draft. Many people have him as high up as No. 4 and as low as No. 25. He’d be able to contribute and has great awareness in terms of the defender.

Dorial Green-Beckham sat out 2014 due to transfer rules but looks to improve off a 59 reception, 12 score sophomore season at Missouri. A tall receiver at 6’6” can make the plays over shorter DB’s, but him sitting out a season has to question his transfer.

Lastly, Devin Smith may be the nation’s best deep threat. Ohio State went 22-0 in every game he caught a touchdown, and he caught 12 TD’s this year. Although he lacks a short game, his deep threat may be enough to pull the trigger on him this year.

My Top 3 for the Browns:

1.) Devante Parker

2.) Kevin White

3.) Devin Smith

This time marks the beginning of a new Browns season. A new start is granted to us as well as 31 other teams, and everyone has an equal chance to make the most of it. While the Super Bowl is still ahead of us, the Browns season is behind us, and a new one has already started. Let’s just hope that we don’t draft Leon Sandcastle.

-Max Alter

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