We are now a few days away from the 2014 NFL draft, and the crescendo is now at its peak: Who should the Cleveland Browns pick at Number Four?
Sammy Watkins? Johnny Manziel? Khalil Mack? Greg Robinson?
Many fans are hoping for Sammy Watkins, while ready to jump off a cliff should the Browns draft Johnny Football – but why?
I am not going to be harsh on Watkins, nor am I implying he isn’t a gifted football player…but, in a draft that is Wide Receiver deep – perhaps even into the mid-third round, is Watkins an absolute must-have?
Watkins can be shut-down, and has shown some flaws in his route-running. Once the NFL defenses pick up on his flaws – and they will, can he truly be an A.J. Green, or a Calvin Johnson? It’s not like he played against some of the nation’s best defenses. Maybe Watkins improves his skills in the NFL, and I will give that benefit of doubt, however, struggling to be a play-maker when being pressed isn’t something that can be a fixed, that is a limitation. Getting open in the NFL is much more difficult in the NFL, and certainly more challenging then the weak opposition Watkins faced in college.
“I’ve become a pretty good route runner, but there are areas I can still improve in with getting out of my routes,” he said. “What I’m really focused on is my curl routes and my comebacks. I’ve got to get my transitions, and know when to run full speed or not, and sync my hips and get out of my routes.” – these are the words of Watkins after being asked about some of his poor route running.
Cris Hill and Nick Waisome (to name a couple) shut Watkins down by playing him “close”. Watkins jumps out at me as an “open field” wide receiver – meaning he needs open space to operate. Not that he can’t be successful, because he has…but I also think he stands out having played on a talented offense against weak competition. Again, I’m not taking anything away from Watkins, who is a talented football player – just don’t pretend his gaudy stats came while playing the defenses of the Alabama’s, LSU’s, and Michigan State’s of the world..while being shut down by some names no one has even heard of.
While fans fly high on Watkins, they are equally as passionate in their criticism of Manziel. Manziel was a player teams had to game plan against, because he made a difference, because he was the difference. Manziel beat the nation’s top defense in Alabama in 2012, and when Alabama faced them again in 2013, Nick Saban (the nation’s top defense again.) was determined to force Manziel to stay in the pocket and beat him – and he did..but, the Texas A & M defense couldn’t secure the game and give up the big play to Alabama’s offense. Manziel won the game, but the defense lost it.
When Manziel had to face another one of the nation’s top defense in LSU, Manziel again found himself the subject of attention. LSU’s question was the same as Alabama’s; how do you stop Manziel? While Alabama’s approach was to force Manziel to stay in the pocket and beat them, LSU’s approach was a little more scientific: Keep Manziel off the field, and when he is on the field, take away his weapons.
And they did. LSU pounded the ball against a weak Texas A&M defense, keeping the ball for more than forty minutes and limiting Mike Evans to only four catches on the day. While LSU wasn’t able to entirely shut-down Manziel, the Texas defense was powerless to stop LSU – and that was the difference. They attacked Manziel indirectly, by attacking the weak Texas A&M defense.
I am baffled why Browns fans are so adamant in their distaste for someone who has done nothing but win, and when he lost, it was because of defense, not anything Manziel did or didn’t do himself. His career stats are awesome and the praise he earned by his foes is nothing short of impressive. When some of the nation’s top defenses stay awake at night figuring out how to stop you – that should go a long way with fans, but it doesn’t – for they’d rather hang their hat on a guy who’s college numbers and level of play was so bad he was ignored in the draft by all 32 NFL teams. A guy by the name of Brian Hoyer, who has only won a couple of NFL games in five seasons of play.
Some believe because Hoyer sat behind Tom Brady that somehow “magic” happened, and some of Brady’s magic dust made Hoyer better than he is. Training with an Olympic Gold athlete doesn’t make you one, and sitting behind Brady won’t make Hoyer a quality starting quarterback.
Which brings me to the player who I personally would draft at No. Four – Khalil Mack.
He is a difference maker, regardless what team he plays against – weak, strong, average – it doesn’t matter to Mack, he will dominate you every time. The Browns haven’t had a widow-maker linebacker since Chip Banks. As defenses stayed up at night game-planning against Manziel, offenses stayed up at night game-planning for Mack. Mack is one who consistently improved every year…whether in playing ability, or the mental aspect of the game. And for the Ohio State fans, I’m certain you remember Mack!
Some question Clowney..some question Anthony Barr…maybe even Watkins, but none question Mack.
In my non-professional opinion, Khalil Mack and Greg Robinson are the two choices at the No. four spot. For as risky as Manziel is, so is Sammy Watkins. If average talent can shut down Watkins simply by playing him tight – how much better the NFL talent Watkins will face?
If there is a quarterback in this draft that can take the job away from Brian Hoyer, that guy is Aaron Murray. He is rarely mentioned in any conversation – be it social or sports media. He doesn’t bend nor break, and the bigger the moment, the better he is. I would draft Murray at a moments notice, and without hesitation.
Until Thursday arrives, and Roger Goodell takes to the podium to say: The Cleveland Browns are now on the clock…we can still only speculate…and hope.
My mock here.