Cleveland has ten picks in the draft (thanks to compensation picks for losing Buster Skrine, Brian Hoyer, and Jabaal Sheard last season). What do they need with those picks? Everything! However, there are certain priorities, to be sure, and I’m going to rank the top seven in reverse order.
7. Safety — I’m treating safeties and cornerbacks as separate. Jordan Poyer was meh at safety last season, as was Ibraheim Campbell, but either could work in a pinch. If we cut Donte Whitner to save on the cap, this jumps to #6. There are bigger problems with Cleveland than safeties.
6. ILB — We’re running a 3-4 and have one capable inside linebacker (Karlos Dansby) and one guy who might be good if he could stay healthy (Craig Robertson). The defense lacks leadership, and most of the time, leadership comes from the middle linebacker.
5. WR — I’m relatively pleased with Josh Gordon’s talents if he can stay on the field this season, and I’m more confident of Cleveland’s ability to find a wideout in free agency or even an undrafted free agent than I am any of the four positions rated above this one. Still, Cleveland could use a big, tough receiver. I’d love to get a playmaker, but we have more pressing needs than that.
4. OL — I don’t know whether or not Erving can be trusted to fill Mack’s shoes, but I suspect he can’t. The better question is can he at least be mediocre, with a chance to develop into above average? A lot will depend on the offseason, but I’m not optimistic. Even if Erving is terrific, Bailey is probably nothing more than a stopgap, John del Greco has little upside, and Austin Pasztor is a tackle more than a guard or center, but I don’t know if he’s starting RT material. If we’re going to take a QB, we have to invest in the offensive line. If Joe Thomas wants to leave Cleveland or gets traded, this jumps to #1 because I don’t want to turn the next rookie QB into Tim Couch 2.0.
3. Pass rusher — Kruger is probably done (at least metaphorically) as an elite pass rusher, if he ever was one. Barkevious Mingo seems to be condemned to underachievement. Nate Orchard is okay in bursts. The point is, Cleveland lacks a disruptive force in the front seven, and could really use one. If Joey Bosa falls to Cleveland at #2, there’s going to be a lot of pressure to take him, but at the same time, I don’t think Bosa is as important as the top two choices in this list, and there’s no way he falls to #32.
2. CB — Joe Haden’s injury exposed how bad our secondary truly was last season. Whatever magic Cleveland had in 2014 vanished in 2015, and Haden isn’t likely to become super healthy overnight. Were I a devotee of the college game, I might call for a specific player, but alas, I am not. I don’t know if there’s a defensive back good enough to take at #2.
1. QB — Josh McCown is a decent QB who gets hurt a lot. He’s also the best QB on Cleveland’s roster by far. #2 picks don’t come around often, especially in a draft where you know #1 isn’t taking a QB. I like Wentz or Goff at #2, but Goff slightly more, just because he seems more athletic.
Can we fill seven positions with ten picks? I’d like to think so, but the front office’s decision to let Mitchell Schwartz go does not fill me with confidence. Let us see how the next few days go.