As the only winless team in the NFL, it goes without saying that the Cleveland Browns need help.
If there is a silver lining for the long-suffering fans in the Dawg Pound, however, it is that the Browns will have plenty of chances to improve the roster in the 2017 NFL Draft. Even after surrendering a third-round selection in the trade for Jamie Collins, the Patriots are projected to have an NFL-best 11 draft picks this spring, starting, of course, with No. 1 overall.
Boosting the play at quarterback is the obvious top priority in Cleveland. Complementing the addition of Collins with Alabama’s explosive Reuben Foster would give the Browns a quarterback on defense, as well, perhaps sparking a resurrection of the once-proud franchise.
With the NCAA and NFL seasons winding down, here is my look ahead to the first round of the 2017 NFL draft.
1. Cleveland Browns
Mitch Trubisky , QB, North Carolina Tar Heels : If any of the quarterbacks on Cleveland’s current roster had shown flashes of being a franchise savior this season, the Browns might consider taking Myles Garrett or Jonathan Allen , the best players in the draft. Barring the addition of a veteran in the offseason, the most likely scenario come spring has Cleveland giving Hue Jackson his pick of a shaky quarterback class. CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora has reported that the Browns are already honing in on Trubisky, an Ohio native and childhood Browns fan. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Trubisky has the tools and intangibles to excite but is a huge projection as an NFL franchise quarterback after only emerging UNC’s starter this season.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: Like the Browns at No. 1, the 49ers are so desperate for help at quarterback that rolling the dice might be the only choice. It is hard to fathom a potential Pro Bowl-caliber edge rusher like Garrett falling past defensive minded-GM Trent Baalke, however. Garrett plays defensive end for the Aggies but projects to a stand-up edge rusher in the 49ers’ scheme and would complement recent early first-round picks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner .
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Fournette , RB, LSU Tigers : With Jacksonville’s young quarterback Blake Bortles regressing and the offense stagnant, adding a difference-maker like Fournette to the backfield might be the only solution. With all due respect to Jacksonville’s current running backs, Fournette is a freakish talent, boasting the most exciting combination of size, speed and power since Adrian Peterson , but he could slip if medical tests at the combine confirm reports of a chronic ankle issue.
4. Chicago Bears
Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama: As long as the defensive-minded John Fox is calling the shots in Chicago, reinforcing this side of the ball will be a priority. The 6-3, 292-pound Allen offers unique position versatility to go along with the production and intangibles the current regime prioritized in draft picks last spring. Allen is stout against the run and a proven pass rusher with 19 sacks in his past 26 games.
5. New York Jets
Jabrill Peppers , SS/LB, Michigan Wolverines : Now as the Jets’ head coach and previously as the defensive coordinator in Arizona, Todd Bowles has prioritized versatility in his players. Linebacker, safety, cornerback, returner — put him wherever you would like — Peppers is a natural play-maker with the instincts and athleticism to carry over his success and versatility into the NFL.
6. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles)
Mike Williams , WR, Clemson Tigers : The three-headed monster of Marcus Mariota , DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry would be that much more effective with a true speed threat challenging the safeties cheating toward the line of scrimmage. The 6-3, 220-pound Williams offers a similar combination of agility, speed and aggression at the catch point as former Clemson stars Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins .
7. Carolina Panthers
Teez Tabor , CB, Florida Gators : Growing pains had to be expected with GM Dave Gettlemen opting to go with youth at cornerback over paying Josh Norman . The results haven’t always been pretty, though rookie James Bradberry has been a relative bright spot. Tabor talks a good game and backs it up, winning with great agility, speed and the hands to turn pass breakups into interceptions.
8. New Orleans Saints
Marlon Humphrey , CB, Alabama: As long as Drew Brees is leading the charge, the Saints can outscore opponents … just don’t ask them to stop anyone. Reinforcing the depth chart at cornerback would go a long way toward improving this unit. The Saints prioritize size and physicality in the defensive backfield and could get an immediate boost at both with the 6-1, 196-pound Humphrey, Alabama’s latest star in the secondary.
9. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)
Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama: Hue Jackson and his staff deserve credit for an improving offense. The defense remains a quagmire, despite several premium draft picks being spent on the unit in recent years. With the need for an edge rusher filled by the trade for former New England Patriots standout Jamie Collins , the Browns could double down at linebacker with the speedy and explosive Foster, arguably the most feared hitter in college football.
10. San Diego Chargers
Corey Davis , WR, Western Michigan Broncos : Though each has stepped up his play following another injury-plagued season from Keenan Allen , the Chargers’ trio of Tyrell Williams , Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman scares no one. Starring in the MAC rather than a Power Five conference, Davis does not earn the attention he deserves but he is a polished route-runner with an ideal combination of size (6-3, 213 pounds) with 4.4 speed.
11. Arizona Cardinals
DeShone Kizer , QB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish : Poor performances and injury concerns for Carson Palmer have rekindled questions about the Cardinals’ long-term plans at the position. As just a redshirt sophomore, Kizer is understandably raw but he possesses the size, arm strength and field vision to be an ideal developmental project for Bruce Arians.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
Cam Robinson , OT, Alabama: With starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler pending free agents, the Bengals could be looking for young blockers in next spring’s draft. After signing with the Tide as a five-star recruit Robinson has starred the past three years at left tackle for the Tide, though some feel he projects better inside at guard or at right tackle due to his size (6-6, 310) and power in the running game. This is not a particularly good year for offensive tackles but at least one blocker has been selected in the top 10 since 2005.
13. Indianapolis Colts
Dalvin Cook , RB, Florida State Seminoles : Adding some juice to the backfield in Indianapolis could be the perfect way to support Andrew Luck and few are better than Cook, who has rushed for more than 1,600 yards each of the past two seasons while gaining 2,046 yards from scrimmage in 2016 — more than 500 better than the great Warrick Dunn’s school record 20 years earlier.
14. Buffalo Bills
John Ross , WR, Washington: As long as defensive-minded head coach Rex Ryan is calling the shots, the Bills will have to find unique athletes at the skill positions to make up for a lack of creative play-calling. Pairing the speedy Ross, a DeSean Jackson clone, with Sammy Watkins would give the Bills a legitimate 1-2 punch on the perimeter, as well as boost the return game with Percy Harvin unlikely to return next season.
15. Tennessee Titans
Sidney Jones , CB, Washington Huskies : Some clubs seem to annually struggle at certain positions and with not a single cornerback from Tennessee in the modern era having earned multiple Pro Bowl nods, general manager Jon Robinson could be looking for an upgrade at the position. Jones is a silky smooth athlete with the poise and ball skills scouts covet at the position.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Tim Williams , OLB, Alabama: Terrell Suggs remains a marvel at 34, but his 32-year old counterpart, Elvis Dumervil , has missed most of the season with a mysterious foot ailment. Possessing a lightning-quick burst off the snap, Williams has starred as a rush specialist for Alabama (GM Ozzie Newsome’s alma mater) and could play an even greater role in the pass-happy NFL after learning from Suggs and Dumervil.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)
Jamal Adams , SS, LSU: While rookie quarterback Carson Wentz earned most of the hype, a big reason for Philadelphia’s early success this season was a vastly improved defense. Both, however, have struggled in the Eagles’ current four-game losing streak. Adams possesses the range, agility and play-making ability to warrant comparison to former LSU (and current Cardinals) star Tyrann Mathieu and is bigger at 6-feet and 211 pounds.
18. Green Bay Packers
Derek Barnett , DE/OLB, Tennessee: With edge rushers Julius Peppers , Nick Perry and Datone Jones all in the final year of their respective deals, the Packers will once again be looking for help at the position. The 6-3, 257-pound Barnett lacks the length and pure explosiveness scouts would prefer, but he is a well-rounded player who combines quickness, strength and technique to be effective against the pass and run.
19. Washington Redskins
Zach Cunningham , ILB, Vanderbilt Commodores : GM Scot McCloughan faces a big decision in the offseason with quarterback Kirk Cousins a looming a free agent, but there are other concerns with this club, including a leaky run defense. Cunningham, the SEC’s leading tackler, is the kind of rangy, athletic inside linebacker capable of making an impact on all three downs.
20. Miami Dolphins
Bucky Hodges , TE, Virginia Tech Hokies : With current tight ends Dion Sims , Jordan Cameron and MarQueis Gray each in the final year of their respective contracts, the Dolphins could be looking for an upgrade at the position. Hodges is more of a big receiver than a traditional in-line tight end but the 6-6, 245-pounder could be an intriguing weapon in Adam Gase’s offense.
21. Houston Texans
Malik McDowell , DT, Michigan State Spartans : The Texans have quietly assembled one of the better young rosters in the NFL. Due in part to the injury to three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt , one area that could use improvement is along the defensive line. At 6-5, 282 pounds, McDowell has the size and athleticism to play virtually anywhere along the defensive line. Talented but inconsistent and injury-prone, he could blossom under Watt’s wing.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Desmond King , CB, Iowa Hawkeyes : The Bucs’ safety duo of Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald is one of the league’s least athletic. King has starred at cornerback over his career but some scouts feel that his best fit in the NFL will be inside. While perhaps lacking in straight-line speed, King’s instincts, physicality and ball skills are top notch.
23. Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk , OT, Wisconsin Badgers : The Broncos gave veteran left tackle Russell Okung a one-year “show me” type of deal but his play in Denver has thus far been just as inconsistent as it was in Seattle. Ramczyk has been one of this year’s most pleasant surprises, starring at left tackle for the Badgers after transferring from D-III UW-Stevens Point. The 6-6, 314-pounder is long and surprisingly agile, making him a potentially perfect fit in Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme.
24. Atlanta Falcons
O.J. Howard , TE, Alabama: Howard lacks the flashy statistics most often associated with first-round prospects, but at 6-6 and 242 pounds he is a freakish athlete who may very well wind up being more productive in the NFL than he has been for the Crimson Tide. Pairing him with former Alabama star Julio Jones would give Matt Ryan a dominant 1-2 punch of pass-catchers while also complementing the Falcons’ improved running game as a blocker and seam threat.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
Carl Lawson , DE, Auburn Tigers : Lawson has struggled a bit with injuries over his career, but he is a power-packed edge rusher who could step right in for the Steelers with former first-round pick Jarvis Jones and the great James Harrison in the final year of their respective deals.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Takkarist McKinley , OLB, UCLA Bruins : The Seahawks already have a good pass rush, but Pete Carroll and John Schneider are known to gamble early on freakish athletes. McKinley, the Pac-12’s current sack leader, is certainly that, running a 10.58 100 meters in his first year of track in high school. McKinley may lack ideal length at 6-2 and 258 pounds but he’s explosive, tenacious and potentially capable of helping Seattle’s pass rush and at strongside linebacker.
27. New York Giants
JuJu Smith-Schuster , WR, Southern California Trojans : Rookie Sterling Shepard has diversified the Giants’ offense, but the team remains too reliant on Odell Beckham Jr. and is in need of more weapons. Smith-Schuster has the size, strength and aggressive nature the Giants are currently lacking on the outside.
28. Detroit Lions
Taco Charlton , DE, Michigan: Stellar play from quarterback Matthew Stafford has diverted attention away from a pass rush in Detroit which has struggled with star Ziggy Ansah limited with an ankle injury. The Lions need not look far for help. Only emerging as a full-time starter for Michigan this season, Charlton has developed into the country’s better edge rushing prospects, boasting exciting initial quickness and bend given his 6-5, 272 pound frame.
29. Oakland Raiders
Christian McCaffrey , RB, Stanford Cardinal : In large part due to the development of young stars Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper , the Raiders have emerged as a legitimate Super Bowl candidate. Adding a playmaker like McCaffrey would make an already explosive Oakland offense that much more difficult to defend, and running back is a concern with Latavius Murray in the final year of his deal.
30. Kansas City Chiefs
Dan Feeney , G, Indiana Hoosiers : Former offensive line coach Andy Reid prioritizes athleticism and smarts among his blockers, one of the reasons why his clubs consistently rank among the best at running draws and screens. This is precisely where Feeney excels, projecting as an upgrade over Kansas City’s current starting guards Parker Ehinger and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif .
31. New England Patriots
DeMarcus Walker , DE, Florida State: With Jamie Collins traded to Cleveland and Don’t’a Hightower, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long each in the final year of their respective deals, the Patriots will likely be focusing on pass rushers in the 2017 draft. The 6-foot-2, 273 pound Walker tied (with Boston College’s Harold Landry) for the national lead with 15 sacks over the regular season, showing more refined pass rush technique than the similarly sized Dominique Easley, the Patriots’ first round in 2014.
32. Dallas Cowboys
Charles Harris , DE, Missouri Tigers : The Cowboys’ success this season is all the more surprising given their lack of a consistent pass rush. After investing in troubled edge rushers in recent years, Dallas might be intrigued by the motor, versatility and work ethic of the 6-3, 255 pound Harris.