With six picks in the top 65 spots, the Cleveland Browns have the opportunity (again) to change the fortunes of their franchise after going 1-31 over the past two seasons. Thanks to past drafts and trades, the Browns’ front seven is built for success and their offensive line isn’t far behind, but the team needs to find skill players to take their offense to the next level and some young talent for a veteran cornerback room.
Round 1, pick 1: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen is the best quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, one of the most polished prospects at the game’s most important position in quite some time. His arm strength and velocity returned as the season went on, and his ball placement, accuracy and mechanics are the best in the class. Rosen is a franchise-changing talent, and the character concerns seem overblown to me at this time.
Round 1, pick 4: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Minkah Fitzpatrick was off the board in this simulation, and there is nowhere for Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson to play on this roster. With trading down not an option despite the fact I 100 percent believe that is what Cleveland will do at No. 4, I grabbed Ward, currently the top corner on my board and a lockdown cover man. Ward is a strong tackler with legitimate ball skills, and although he might not be the biggest corner, he plays with the mentality of one. Running back can be addressed later in a loaded class at the position.
Round 2, pick 33: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Michel has fumbling problems, but he is an incredibly talented prospect with the vision, power and decisiveness to run inside at a high level and the burst and speed to gain the corner. His route-running and receiving experience are more refined than advertised because he was rarely targeted, and Michel has open-field abilities NFL teams will covet. He’s also a high-quality leader and a diligent worker.
Round 2, pick 35: Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
I’m still easing my way into this wide receiver class, but Cain is a talented pass catcher with the speed to get vertical and the agility to be a threat after the catch. His hands are impressive and his athletic testing should go smoothly, which could put Cain on track to be an earlier Day 2 pick than many anticipated. If Corey Coleman is on his way out, the Browns will need to prioritize another playmaker in a weak receiver corps.
Round 2, pick 64: Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
The Browns will need a left tackle to take over if Joe Thomas becomes a free agent after next season, and Jones has very solid tape against quality competition in pass protection. The senior could also push Shon Coleman to start on the right side, after the second-year tackle was below average last season.
Round 3, pick 65: Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest
This might be a surprising pick, but I have liked what I’ve seen from Bates, who looks like he could compete to start at free safety as a rookie. His range and athleticism would give the Browns the opportunity to start Jabrill Peppers closer to the line of scrimmage, where he was much more effective in college.
Round 4, pick 103: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
Ragnow isn’t the most athletic center we have seen over the years, but he is more mobile than given credit for, a craft technician with a workman-like mentality in the trenches. He’ll push J.C. Tretter to start if the Browns’ center plays like he did last season.
Round 4, pick 125: Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Jackson might get over-drafted after a strong combine performance where he will be among the fastest participants in the 2018 class. His tape shows a very raw corner with problems staying in phase vertically while finding the football, but Cleveland can afford to sit and develop him for a year while Jason McCourty and Jamar Taylor play out their contracts.
Round 5, pick 140: Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
Injuries and a lack of production will hurt Scarbrough’s stock, but in the fifth round he is a good prospect to take a chance on. With Isaiah Crowell about to hit free agency and Duke Johnson primed to join him next season, Scarbrough could help Michel form a new and much more effective backfield in Cleveland, as well as give new offensive coordinator Todd Haley the big back he craves.
Round 5, pick 161: Kentavius Street, EDGE, North Carolina State
The Browns’ front seven is loaded, but another pass rusher can never hurt. Street is a bit raw and doesn’t really have a go-to move, but there is some untapped athleticism in his first step and freakish frame that Cleveland could try to develop.
Round 6, pick 178: Byron Pringle, WR, Kansas State
Pringle is slender, but a terrific route runner with good attention to detail and quickness in and out of his breaks. He impressed at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. If he is still on the board, he would be the perfect complement to Josh Gordon and Deon Cain in the slot.
Round 7, pick 219: Justin Jones, DT, North Carolina State
Jones is a stout defensive tackle with a quick first step and a strong motor, but his lack of pass rush variety, length and ability to hold up against double-teams could limit his NFL impact.