Wheeling And Dealing: The Cleveland Browns First Round

I would love to see the transcript for ESPN’s coverage of the 2014 NFL Draft. I’ll set the over/under at about 150 for the number of times that Johnny Manziel, Johnny Football or some derivation of the two, was mentioned during the telecast by Jon Gruden alone.1 Well the first round’s most interesting team just happened to be the team that took Johnny Football … I could die of not being surprised.

There were some early reports that came out just hours before the draft that had the Cleveland Browns very interested in Teddy Bridgewater. The biggest example of the “lying season” being in full swing.

Prior to the Browns going on the clock, three players had been drafted, two expected and one; not so much. Jadeveon Clowney and Greg Robinson were the expected, but Blake Bortles to Jacksonville was a bit of a curveball. This precipitated the Browns trading down. Which raises the question; why? There were supposedly four elite players in the draft,2 so why forsake your pick of one of those elite players to trade down?

Why Trade Down?

The first, and most likely, explanation is that the trade offer was too enticing for the Browns. Cleveland ultimately traded the #4 overall pick to the Buffalo Bills for #9, a 2015 first-rounder and a 2015 fourth-rounder.3 You can take a look at the success of Bill Belichick’s history of trading down here, but we won’t be able to judge the value of this trade until we know the number of those two draft picks. They should be decent picks as not many people will see the Bills getting far in that division, but stranger things have happened.

Second, the Browns may not have been keen on drafting either Sammy Watkins or Khalil Mack. Both of those players are at positions that are filled fairly well in Cleveland.4 If you want to get players without creating a log jam, the Browns may have seen trading down as the best choice based on their options. I’m not sure I agree with this, as drafting for need doesn’t often work, but an extra first-round pick is a nice get.

Finally, the most intriguing possibility to me, did Cleveland also like Bortles and think he would easily be available at #4? Teams don’t go into the war room with no backup plan, but the Browns may have seen it as an inevitability that Bortles would fall to them at #4. Once Bortles was taken by the Jags, it may have made trading down the next best option based on their needs and evaluations.

The #9 … NO, #8 Overall Pick

Whatever reason was behind it, the Browns ultimately chose to trade down to #9 overall. However, upon the clock starting to tick lower and lower for the Minnesota Vikings, the Browns made an eerily reminiscent move from 2012.5 Cleveland traded up one spot to get the player they wanted instead of hoping he would get past Minnesota, or a different team trading up. The Vikings either assumed they knew who the Browns wanted or they really did know6 and they came calling. Regardless of whether it was true, Minnesota GM Rick Spielmann likely phoned Browns GM Ray Farmer and told him that CB Justin Gilbert was about to be drafted. Just like in 2012, the Browns decided it was worth it to trade up one spot to secure their man. It may have been because the Vikings were going to take him, or Minnesota had plans to trade the pick to someone that would take Gilbert, but they got Cleveland to bite again.

To move up one spot, the Browns gave the Vikings their 2014 fourth-round draft pick.7 Netting the Vikings an extra pick and allowing them to take the same player they wanted at #9 overall.

Trading Up Again

These teams have an immense amount of information on what other teams want and plan to take every year. With that information in hand, the Browns decided they needed to trade from #26 to #22; one spot ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs.8 Were the Chiefs going to make the big splash and take Johnny Football? We’ll never know, but the information available certainly makes it appear like a possibility.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. Ray Farmer traded their third-round pick (#83 overall)9 and #26, of course, for #22 overall and the right to become the most interesting team to the media in the 2014-15 NFL season. As you know, they picked the mercurial QB, Johnny Manziel.

I will keep my commentary on the intelligence of this pick to a minimum as every person in that war room knows more about football than I can dream to, but I will say that I’m not a fan of it.

All in all, Cleveland traded away two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for a lower first-round pick (#9), a higher first-round pick (#22), a 2015 first-round pick and a 2015 fourth-round pick. If you got guys you’re confident in with those picks, then I’m all for getting an extra first-rounder for a third and a fourth.

Other Notes From Round One

  • This first round saw me googling the size of quarterbacks’ hands and wondering if 5/8” is actually a lot and trying to imagine my hands 5/8” bigger. It seems to be. This is a lot of hand size talk. My boy, Teddy Bridgewater, is tied for the second smallest hands of the “top-7” QBs at 9 1/4” while Manziel has “very big hands” and the biggest of the top-7 at 9 7/8”. Interestingly, the skyrocketing Derek Carr (9 1/8”) and Jimmy Garrapolo (9 1/4”) have smaller hands than Bridgewater. Five of the lower rated QBs have enormous hands … including Logan Thomas with a freakish 10 7/8”.10
  • I exhibited some strange Manziel schadenfreude, despite not feeling particularly strongly about Manziel either way.
  • My favorite moment was probably the Jacksonville Jaguars bringing in the 2.0 version of Blaine Gabbert in UCF’s Blake Bortles.
  • I still liked Teddy Bridgewater heading into Thursday’s first round … unfortunately, he was drafted by a division opponent to my favorite team. I have to closet cheer for Bridgewater now.

  1. Update – That was quick, Deadspin has me covered, I was a bit high – here 

  2. Clowney, Robinson, Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins 

  3. Per ProSportsTransactions – here 

  4. Per Pro-Football-Reference – here 

  5. In order to draft RB Trent Richardson, the former Cleveland regime traded a fourth, fifth and seventh-rounder to Minnesota for the right to swap draft picks, moving up from #4 to #3 – here. The Vikings likely told Cleveland that the pick would be traded to a different RB needy team if they didn’t match. 

  6. In which case they should really see who is still on the PR or Football Ops staff from the 2012 team and find out if they know someone with the Vikings. 

  7. Per ProSportsTransactions – here 

  8. They are currently embroiled in contentious contract talks with QB Alex Smith, making a low priced QB a nice prize for them this year. 

  9. The Eagles got a better consolation prize in their trade than the Vikings did. However, Philly also moved down four spots and could have lost out on a CB they liked because of it. 

  10. Per NFL.com – here 

About the author /


Colby is the Editor-in-Chief, Founder and Lead Contributor to Other League. Also a law student focusing on Labor & Employment law and intersections with law and sports. You can find him on Twitter via @Colby_OL.