Perhaps no NFL team went through as radical a coaching regime change than the Cleveland Browns over the last month.
After a prolonged search, the Browns named Mike Pettine as the new head coach and early Thursday the former Buffalo defensive coordinator introduced his new staff of 11, including offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, as reported by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
No doubt Pettine, Shanahan, and O’Neil, along with general manager Michael Lombardi, will have a major say as to how the Browns spend their No. 4 overall pick in May’s draft. Speculation has placed Cleveland in the market for a quarterback, especially in the first round, but Cleveland could also bolster its already stellar young defense with a top defensive end or linebacker.
Thanks to the Trent Richardson trade early last season, the Browns are one of two teams to have the luxury of two first-round picks this year, also holding the No. 26 overall pick. Cleveland could address their glaring needs on offense in one quick swoop, and make a playoff push for the first time since 2002.
Should the Browns select any of the top quarterback prospects in Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, or Derek Carr, they could use the No. 26 pick for any of the numerous pass rushers in this year’s draft.
Cleveland, like the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, will likely take a serious look at such top defensive players as Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt, Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, and Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack, among many others.
New York finished eighth in total defense, but was also 25th in sacks with 34. The Giants main concern is a running back of the future to address their 29th overall rushing game, but they can pick up a solid rusher in the second to fourth rounds.
Despite a loaded and talented defensive front, the Lions were 16th in total defense, 23rd against the pass, and 28th in sacks with 33. Detroit needs to put serious pressure on opposing quarterbacks, especially against the NFC Central’s top passers in Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler.
A full first-round mock draft is below, with more to come over the next four months before the draft. The order has been largely set, except for the No. 16 and No. 17 picks, which will be decided by a coin toss between Dallas and Baltimore.
1)Houston Texans, QB, Teddy Bridgewater
2)St. Louis Rams (via Washington), OT Greg Robinson
3)Jacksonville Jaguars, QB, Johnny Manziel
4)Cleveland Browns, QB, Blake Bortles
5)Oakland Raiders, DE, Jadeveon Clowney
6)Atlanta Falcons, ILB, C.J. Mosley
7)Tampa Bay Buccaneers, OLB, Khalil Mack
8)Minnesota Vikings, CB, Justin Gilbert
9)Buffalo Bills, S, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
10)Detroit Lions, OLB, Anthony Barr
11)Tennessee Titans, DE, Kony Ealy
12)New York Giants, DE, Stephon Tuitt
13)St. Louis, OT, Jake Matthews
14)Chicago Bears, DE, Dee Ford
15)Pittsburgh Steelers, OG, Trai Turner
16)Baltimore Ravens (Coin Toss), WR, Sammy Watkins
17)Dallas Cowboys (Coin Toss), DT, Timmy Jernigan
18)New York Jets, OT, Taylor Lewan
19)Miami Dolphins, WR, Marqise Lee
20)Arizona Cardinals, WR, Mike Evans
21)Green Bay Packers, CB, Darqueze Dennard
22)Philadelphia Eagles, S, Terrence Brooks
23)Kansas City Chiefs, C, Marcus Martin
24)Cincinnati Bengals, DT, Louis Nix III
25)San Diego Chargers, S, Calvin Pryor
26)Cleveland (via Indianapolis), DT, Aaron Donald
27)New Orleans Saints, CB, Lamarcus Joyner
28)Carolina Panthers, OT, Zack Martin
29)New England Patriots, DT, Ra’Shede Hageman
30)San Francisco 49ers, WR, Davante Adams
31)Denver Broncos, CB, Loucheiz Purifoy
32)Seattle Seahawks, DE, Dominique Easley