While the Cleveland Browns still have a lot of salary-cap cash left, they also have a young roster that will command more money in the coming years.
New veteran additions aren't out of the question between now and April's NFL draft—they just signed quarterback Jason Campbell to a two-year deal (via the Cleveland Plain Dealer) to provide competition and potentially back up Brandon Weeden—but the bulk of their attention will now shift to the crop of would-be rookies available next month.
The Browns have the sixth-overall pick in the first round, which will has been and will continue to be dissected to death. However, with no second-round pick after grabbing receiver Josh Gordon in last year's supplemental draft, what the Browns do with their middle-round selections are nearly as important as what they do in the first. Here are a few players they could consider in rounds three through five.
CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers
The Browns made a few free-agency cornerback additions, including Kevin Barnes and Chris Owens, and it's possible one of these two players show enough talent to take the starting job outside along Joe Haden, but they'll probably also try to grab a useful rookie corner in the draft to enhance the competition.
Without a second-round pick, cornerback becomes a major third-round priority should the Browns pass on top corner Dee Milliner in the first round. This year's draft has a deep corner class, which give the Browns many options. One of those is Rutgers' Logan Ryan.
Ryan had 94 tackles, 17 passes defensed and four interceptions in 2012, played well in man coverage and could handle myriad duties including stopping the run. He has the versatility to excel in Ray Horton's physical defensive scheme and could become a star like Haden in a short time. Not bad for a third-round pickup.
OG Justin Pugh, Syracuse
Like the cornerback class, this year's group of draftees at the offensive guard position is also deep. There is the potential that many guards could come off the board in the first two rounds as well, with many teams sharing the same need. With that being said, Syracuse's Justin Pugh may or may not be available to the Browns, but if he falls to the fourth round—which he could—they should absolutely pick him up.
The Browns have a mostly solid offensive line, but guard is an area they could stand to improve. Pugh is a bit undersized at 301 pounds, which means he won't likely be a tackle as he was in college. However, as a guard he could certainly add value in the run game. He could be used rotationally this year and developed into a 2014 starter.
OLB Jamie Collins, Southern Miss
The Browns upgraded their pass rush in free agency by bringing on defensive tackle Desmond Bryant and outside linebacker Paul Kruger, but that doesn't mean they are done adding players who can create chaos for opposing quarterbacks.
Though outside linebacker is a position they may address in the first round, it's not guaranteed. If the Browns take Dee Milliner, for example, with their sixth overall pick, then outside linebacker is a position they'll likely look at later on.
One good mid-round option is Southern Miss' Jamie Collins. Collins had 92 tackles, 10 sacks, 20 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles in 2012, and similar numbers in 2011 show that Collins is no fluke, but rather a consistent pass rusher who could certainly be used situationally—and heavily—in his rookie season.
Collins has all the traits of an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker—speed, athleticism, great tackling ability—and he'd certainly round out the group of linebackers the Browns are amassing as they transition into Ray Horton's Steelers-style 3-4.
WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
The Browns aren't entirely set at the wide receiver position presently. Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi are free agents that won't be coming back and last year's draft pick Travis Benjamin is a work-in-progress. That leaves the team with just Josh Gordon and Greg Little as the team's primary wideouts. They'll certainly want to add another this year, and Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton might be a perfect middle-round prospect.
Patton had 104 receptions for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012. He's a very physical receiver with strong route-running ability and speed and shouldn't need much time to adjust to the NFL. The Browns need to continue to upgrade their receiving corps but can only do so in the draft by finding good value. Patton represents some of the value to be had in the middle rounds.
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