Cleveland Browns Play it Safe, and Smart, with First Round Picks

By Casey Drottar
Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images

As the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft neared, many people were keeping an eye on the Cleveland Browns. Even though they didn’t own any top five picks, the Browns seemed to find themselves involved in more than a few juicy rumors.

There was talk of Cleveland making a pitch to the Tennessee Titans in attempts to trade up and select quarterback Marcus Mariota. Additionally, many were claiming the Browns were still making attempts to swing a deal for Sam Bradford, despite the fact he had zero desire to play for them.

However, as the dust settles on Cleveland’s first round, none of the rumors actually came into fruition. Instead, the Browns stuck with their No. 12 and No. 19 picks, selecting University of Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton and Florida State center Cameron Erving.

Was it the splash many thought Cleveland would put together? Not even a little bit. But, though it will hardly steal headlines across the nation, the Browns opened the 2015 Draft with very smart selections.

First of all, despite the glaring hole at quarterback, Cleveland made the right call in not selling the farm for Mariota or taking a swing at Bradford. While Mariota is obviously talented, it would be a tough sell to the fan-base if the Browns had given Tennessee the king’s ransom they were requesting for the right to pick the former Oregon Duck. As for Bradford, I’ve already said all I need to say about why Cleveland needed to steer clear of an oft-injured quarterback who reportedly wanted nothing to do with the team.

In breaking down the Browns’ actual picks, they hit an obvious need with their first selection of the night.

Cleveland’s rush defense last season was, to put it bluntly, heinous. It was clear stopping the run was an obvious priority this offseason, and Shelton should help out big time. He recorded 9.0 sacks last season, his stats improved each year at Washington, and he was also an academic All-American. At surface level, Shelton appears to be a perfect pick at No. 12.

With many expecting the Browns to go receiver at No. 19, the team decided to take a different route. It may have seemed odd to see Cleveland select Erving, especially when considering they already have Pro Bowl center Alex Mack on their roster. However, this, too, was a wise choice.

One thing Erving brings to the Browns is versatility. He’s been moved around a lot in his football career, and certainly appears as though he can play multiple positions on the offensive line. On top of this, Mack is currently recovering from a broken leg. As soon as Mack went down last year, Cleveland’s offensive line saw a significant decline. Erving provides solid depth in case Mack needs additional time to rehab his injury. Once Mack returns, Erving can be moved to another position on the line, particularly the right side.

Of course, another thing to consider is the fact Mack can opt out of his contract after this season. Since odds don’t seem to favor the Browns contending this year, there’s a very legitimate chance Mack moves on from the team at season’s end. If he does, though, Cleveland should be set to plug Erving in as a replacement.

At the end of the night, no splashes were made by the Browns, nor were any farms sold for a top prospect. And yet, despite the lack of fireworks, Cleveland can leave the first round knowing they made the right choice with both selections.

While Shelton and Erving aren’t going to sell a ton of jerseys, they fill apparent holes the team needed to address. The Browns may not be known for making the smart call, but tonight, it looks like they did just that. Twice.

Casey Drottar is the Cleveland Beat Writer for Follow him on Twitter or “Like” him on Facebook

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