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The meat market
February 24, 2014 - Mike McLain
The NFL combine, better known as the meat market for NFL prospects because of the emphasis on size and other measurables by the Mel Kipers of the world, is finishing this week, which means draft talk will spin out of control the next two-plus months.
As always, the Browns are in the middle of the mix. They have the fourth overall choice and the 26th acquired from the Colts in the trade that sent running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis.
The main topic of conversation last week was Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who's expected to be among the early picks. Manziel says he wants be selected first overall (what prospect doesn't?), but added he'd have no problem going to Cleveland if he's its choice at four.
It's not known how the previous management group of Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi felt about Manziel and if they would have been willing to trade up to first overall with the Houston Texans to land the flashy quarterback. New general manager Ray Farmer says he knows which of the quarterback prospects he would prefer to draft (the other top candidates being Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville and Blake Bortles of Central Florida).
The Browns have to be careful in what is another in a long line of crucial drafts. They have seven picks in the first four rounds (two firsts, two thirds and two fourths along with one second). Not getting it right again will set back the franchise further than it already has been set back by so many bad drafts.
Farmer and his scouts have to be absolutely certain that the quarterback they might select will be a franchise maker. If there are any doubts, it's best to make the safe pick to strengthen the team in areas such as receiver, running back, offensive line, linebacker and the secondary.
Manziel, Bridgewater and Bortles all had impressive college careers, but so do many other quarterbacks that would never be considered NFL players. The college game has become a video game on grass or artificial turf. Spread offenses have turned college football into a score-fest that's enabled by the inability of defensive backs to deal with all that's thrown at them.
It's not that way in the NFL. As the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks proved, defenses are big, strong and fast. The Seahawks play a triangle (cover 3) style defense that allows the cornerbacks to press at the line of scrimmage and stay with their mans while the underneath cover players read zone. Having a talented deep safety in Earl Thomas allows the corners to play aggressively.
Does anyone think Manziel, Bridgewater and Bortles can deal with the confusing defenses and tremendous talent they're going to face in the NFL? The only quarterback I've seen in recent years that you can say with certainty can handle those types of demands was Andrew Luck.
I'm not sure I'd take a gamble on any of this year's quarterback prospects.
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