The Cleveland Browns made a few first-round deals in last year’s NFL draft and may do the same in 2015. The Browns are reportedly willing to trade their two first-round picks – No. 12 and No. 19 – to Tennessee to move up to No. 2, where they would almost certainly take Marcus Mariota.
Should we believe the reports? And, more importantly, would this be a wise thing to do from Cleveland’s standpoint?
“Look, I think there’s certainly some conversations that have taken place, but I think it would be a huge mistake on the part of the Browns,” former MVP quarterback and current NFL on CBS analyst Rich Gannon said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Look, you drafted Johnny Manziel last year. He was one of your first-round picks. You just feel like you . . . can’t give up on him after six months and a couple opportunities to run around a little bit on the field. He never got a chance to play a lot. Obviously this is a learning experience for him last year. He failed in many respects to earn the respect of his teammates, but they went ahead and got Josh McCown, a veteran guy. They got Johnny Manziel. I think you muddy the waters if you make that move to move up to the second overall pick and take Marcus Mariota.”
Doug Gottlieb completely agrees. By the same token, though, if the Browns know that Manziel doesn’t have it together, why wait? Why not find a replacement right now, especially with a high-character guy like Mariota available?
“I like (Mariota),” Gannon said. “So much has been made of the system out there at Oregon. It’s a spread system. It simplifies the reads and the progressions for the quarterback. I think when you really study the tape, I think there’s plenty of indicators that he’s going to be a really fine player if he goes and gets in the right system and there’s some patience. I think we need to have some patience with these young players.”
Mariota completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,454 yards and 42 touchdowns last season.
“Some people say, ‘Well, there’s so many bubble screens and so many short and intermediate (throws),’” Gannon said, referring to Mariota’s system-aided completion percentage. “But I think you see plenty of examples of him driving the ball down the field. You see good touch throws, throwing to the corner of the end zone. His ability to throw the deep ball, I think, will get better with more reps. But 42 touchdowns last year and just four interceptions – I think he’s a legitimate prospect.
“Now, this is a risk-assessment business,” Gannon continued. “I think we need to be patient with these players. But when it comes to the three most critical criteria when I evaluate players, it’s character, intelligence and passion. He is off the charts in all three. I really like him, and I think he’s going to do well given the right situation. I don’t think Tennessee is going to pass on Marcus Mariota at No. 2.”
Gannon, for what it’s worth, wouldn’t pass on Mariota at No. 1.
“I would (take him first overall),” Gannon said. “Because as I said before, it’s a risk-assessment business. I think Jameis Winston, there’s a lot to like there as well, especially when you put the tape on and study him. He makes all the throws. He’s in a pro-style offense. I saw some great examples of him being able to pull the ball down and run. Obviously he’s not as fast or maybe gifted with the lower half of his body, as opposed to Marcus, but he’s got some swagger. He’s got some juice to him. He’s an intelligent player. He made some poor decisions. I guess that’s the biggest concern that you have. Is he really ready to be the face of the franchise?
“And I would say this,” Gannon continued. “It’s not just whether the player’s ready; is that team ready? Is the team ready for a young quarterback? They were 2-14 last year. Is there good leadership in the locker room? Is there a good enough offensive line? Is there a sound running game? I just think there’s still too many issues. I just think they have so many holes right now that one guy isn’t going to do the trick, and I think that may be a real adjustment period for (Winston) down there in Tampa.”