5 2014 Draft Picks Who Could Be Opening Game Starters for the Cleveland Browns
When a team goes 4-12 there is obviously a ton of room for improvement. The Cleveland Browns have glaring needs on both sides of the football and the best way to fix those long term is through the draft.
On May 8, general manager Ray Farmer will draft players with the expectations that these new members should ultimately be starters. Anytime you have a chance to improve a position on your team you need to do so.
Not every player is built to start immediately in the NFL, however. This will be the first time Farmer can show exactly how talented he is at player evaluation. He alone shoulders the responsibility of rebuilding the Browns now.
So whom should he select? Here are five players who could be starters for the Browns Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season.
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Browns will select a quarterback in this draft. Where they will select that quarterback is the big question. Whoever is brought in will have to compete with last year’s surprisingly effective starter, Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer started just three games but was good enough to make waves in that time. In the two games he started and finished he passes for 321 and 269 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
He was not perfect but he was certainly intriguing.
If the Browns select Blake Bortles with the fourth overall pick, he could not only compete for the starting job but also win it. His size, strength and frame make him the most NFL ready of all the quarterbacks in the draft.
Hoyer was not awe inspiring during last year’s training camp. He seems like the type of guy who needs to be in a game to truly show what he has got.
Unfortunately, he will not get that chance if Farmer selects Bortles. That will be his guy, and the UCF product will be the Browns starting quarterback Week 1.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
To some it would seem crazy to select your number two receiver with the fourth overall pick, but for the Browns it just might make sense. They currently have Josh Gordon as their number one option and a log jam of maybes vying for the second spot.
The Browns signed Nate Burleson last week and he might be able to fill that role. Unfortunately, he has played in just 15 total games the last two seasons and will be 33 years old when the season starts.
Greg Little is another option, but the Browns already know what they have in him. He is a very inconsistent option at best. So if the Browns were to take Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick he will start opposite Gordon Week 1. The idea of a Gordon and Watkins pairing is an offensive coordinator’s dream and a defensive coordinator’s nightmare.
But Watkins could also serve as an insurance policy.
If Gordon has one more run in with the NFL’s substance abuse policy he will be suspended for a full season. Watkins could easily slide into the number one role in his absence.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Will Brinson of CBSSports.com has the Browns selecting Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby with the 26th pick and that peaks my interest.
It does not peak my interest because he is an Ohio State product. I think NFL fans overvalue those types of things. I am interested because Roby has the talent of an elite corner and could flourish opposite Joe Haden.
If the Browns select a corner in the first three rounds, and I think they will, that player will most likely be the starter opposite Haden. It just makes sense to move Buster Skrine back inside to play nickel where he is most effective.
Roby could be more than a warm body, however. He has huge upside and would make a very formidable tandem with the Pro Bowler Haden. Roby’s speed is something that the Browns have not had at the second corner position in quite some time.
If the Browns select the Buckeye, you can pencil him in as the second corner come Week 1.
Dakota Dozier, OG, Furman
So far all of the players named would have to be taken in the first round. If you’re selected that high then you better be an immediate starter. The Browns still need help at guard and could find that help in the third round if they select Dakota Dozier.
They need a serious overhaul at both guard positions, and the more competition they can create in camp the better. By selecting Dozier, the Browns would get a 6’4”, 313-pound monster who can move a mountain on the inside.
Dan Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com said Dozier was the top offensive line prospect at the East-West Shrine Game, and if Cleveland were to draft him, the former Furman standout would be a starter for the Browns immediately.
Dozier is the type of prospect who could not only be an NFL starter for a decade but also take some trips to the Pro Bowl along the way.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
If the Browns opt not to take a cornerback in the first or second round there are still some gems to be found. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has the Browns selecting cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska with the later of their two third-round selections.
And I love it.
Jean-Baptiste may not have the wow factor of Bradley Roby in the in the first round, but he has all the talent necessary to start in the NFL.
After a mediocre 40-yard dash at the combine, Jean-Baptiste improved that number dramatically during Nebraska's pro day. His 4.46-second time should help him jump up most teams' draft boards.
At 6’3”, 220 pounds, he is physical enough to play the number two position. While he may not have Pro Bowls in his future, he projects to be a very solid starter for the entirety of his NFL career.
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