CLEVELAND (AP) — For months, the Browns have analyzed college quarterbacks as if they were looking to buy a new house. They’ve inspected each thoroughly, measured them, timed them, interviewed them, checked and double-checked their backgrounds to find out if one can lift them from NFL irrelevance.
It’s time to draft.
Unable to resolve their biggest need since their expansion return 15 years ago, the Browns are expected to use one of their two first-round picks Thursday night on a quarterback. Will it be Johnny Manziel, the dynamic mystery man in this year’s draft, at No. 4? Or will they wait until No. 26 and grab one of the QBs likely to slide such as Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater. Or get a second-tier QB like Aaron Murray or A.J. McCarron? Will they trade up, move down, punt?
Cleveland fans have been counting down the days until this draft, their hysteria stoked by the movie “Draft Day,” a fictionalized account of the Browns maneuvering to land the No. 1 overall pick.
It’s unlikely that life will imitate art, but the Browns seem prepared to get a quarterback — either to back up Brian Hoyer or supplant him — and first-year coach Mike Pettine is confident the team has done its homework.
“I got to spend time with all of them, a good amount of time,” Pettine said last week. “We talk about the `it’ factor a lot with quarterbacks, just that type of personality, those traits that you want to have in your quarterback: a guy that is confident, assertive and poised, that can handle teammates when they need to be handled at things going on in the offensive huddle.”
With 10 picks, including six of the first 106, the Browns should be able to add talent and depth.
Pettine understands they must choose wisely.
“It’s absolutely critical that we have a solid draft,” he said. “We don’t need to hit a grand slam.”
Here are five things to keep in mind when the Browns are on the clock:
JOHNNY B. GOOD OR BAD?: Like everyone, the Browns have debated whether Manziel’s a franchise savior or bust. Hope or hype? He’s intriguing, for sure, but Cleveland, which hasn’t drafted a QB higher than No. 22 since Tim Couch went first in 1999, can’t afford to be wrong. Manziel will likely be available at No. 4. But if they covet him, the Browns might be able to pass on him there and, using the No. 26 pick they got in a trade with Indianapolis, move back up and snag Johnny Football.
MACK ATTACK: Pettine’s roots are in defense, and after Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is considered the best defensive prospect. The 6-foot-2, 251-pounder has the speed and strength to play in any system. Pettine likes him, as does Browns general manager Ray Farmer.
“He can rush the passer. He can play in coverage. He can do a little bit of everything,” Farmer said. “This guy looks like the real deal.”
SLAMMIN’ SAMMY: A game-breaker at Clemson, wide receiver Sammy Watkins is the complete package. The possibility of pairing him alongside Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon should be enough to keep defensive coordinators up at night. Watkins can catch the ball over the middle or stretch a secondary over the top.
Watkins would also be a safety net in the event Gordon, who has been suspended for substance abuse, has an off-the-field slipup.
UNDER PRESSURE: Farmer’s first draft is arguably Cleveland’s most important in decades. He was promoted in February when owner Jimmy Haslam fired president Joe Banner and GM Michael Lombardi. Now, Farmer has a chance to upgrade Cleveland’s roster and make a favorable impression on his boss, who has promised not to be intrusive.
“He hired me to do a job, and he’s going to allow me to do it,” Farmer said.
HAPPY ENDING: After so much disappointment and another coaching change — Pettine is Cleveland’s third coach in three years — the Browns can energize their fan base with a successful draft. As long as they don’t reach, they should get a quality player capable of making an immediate impact at No. 4.
Farmer knows this draft is vital to Cleveland’s success.
“It’s really the lifeblood of every organization,” he said.
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