Browns enter draft armed with picks, may select quarterback
CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns have invested heavily into the quarterback position in recent years with scant success.
That might not stop them from making a deeper commitment.
Despite selecting a quarterback in the first round in two of the past three NFL drafts, the Browns could be in the market again to find the franchise leader they've coveted for decades.
With 10 picks, including Nos. 12 and 19 and six of the first 115, Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer has the ammunition to maneuver up and down the board.
Last year, Farmer earned the nickname ''Trader Ray'' for making three deals in the first round and there's a belief he'll be just as active in 2015.
There's even some speculation Farmer will trade his top picks and move up to take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, last year's Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon.
''Sure,'' Farmer said, joking about the possibility. ''Why not?''
Well, a strong case can be made that the Browns should do whatever's necessary to acquire Mariota, a dual-threat QB who went 36-5 in college and has a squeaky-clean, off-field image.
After all, Cleveland has gone through 22 starters since 1999, and the club's revolving door at the position has undermined any progress.
However, the cost to jump as high as No. 2 could be steep, and the Browns, who recently broke out new uniforms, have other pressing needs along with four quarterbacks on their roster. They signed free agent veteran Josh McCown in the offseason and are waiting to see if Johnny Manziel, the No. 22 overall pick a year ago, can straighten himself out following a 10-week rehab stint.
Farmer says he no longer believes in ''the fairy tale'' that one player can turn around a franchise, but it seems quarterback has been the missing piece in Cleveland for far too long.
The Browns have unique insight into the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Mariota, who was tutored in the offseason by Kevin O'Connell, Cleveland's new quarterbacks coach. The team was so confident it had the necessary background on the 22-year-old that the Browns didn't host him for a visit or private workout.
Maybe the Browns feel they won't have a chance at him.
Maybe they're plotting a power move to get him.
Either way, there's always drama when it comes to the quarterback situation.
Cleveland fans never rooted for their team in the Super Bowl, so the draft is as big as it gets.
Here's some other things Browns backers are focused on:
ANALYZE THIS: There are no certainties in the draft, and one of the biggest guessing games is trying to project college quarterbacks as pros. Because the college game is flooded with up-tempo spread offenses, it's become increasingly difficult to predict if a quarterback's skills translate to the NFL.
''The league, in general, has got to figure out how you take guys from this system, change kind of what they are, if you are going to do something different with them, and plug them in,'' Farmer said.
''You have to figure out either how to make the adjustment or everybody is going to start running the spread in the National Football League. I think the teams that figure it out the fastest or change the fastest will reap the benefits.''
PLAYMAKERS NEEDED: With wide receiver Josh Gordon suspended for the year, the Browns lack a deep threat to keep defenses honest. Farmer passed on taking a quality wide receiver in last year's draft, but he could snap one up from a deep '15 class. Louisville's DeVante Parker and Central Florida's Breshad Perriman will both likely be on the board if the Browns stay at 12.
BOOM OR BUST: Cleveland's top two picks last season - cornerback Justin Gilbert and Manziel - both struggled as rookies, but Farmer doesn't feel any more urgency to ensure this year's early picks contribute immediately.
''You'd love for everybody to come in and play and be great,'' he said. ''I don't think that they're done. I think they have more to offer. At the end of the day, I'm going to do the same thing. I'm going to try to add guys to this roster that I think can improve us.''
TWO-FOR-ONE: The Browns have made two first-round picks eight times, three times since 2007. Cleveland's most successful first-round twosome came in 1978 when the club selected linebacker Clay Matthews (No. 12) and tight end Ozzie Newsome (No. 23), who went on to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
START ME UP: Although Cleveland's first two draft picks had their issues, all six members of the 2014 class started. The best selection was second-rounder Joel Bitonio, who started all 16 games at left guard and was one of Cleveland's best linemen.
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