For a town that's as die-hard about football as Cleveland is, it's been painful to watch eight straight seasons without a Browns playoff birth. Meanwhile, both of the Browns' hated rivals - the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens - have experienced quite a bit of success over the same time span. In any case, something has to give since the Cleveland Browns are tired of playing to stay out of the cellar every year.
There was some hope from Week 7-13 as the Browns went 4-2 over this stretch, and played both Jacksonville and the Jets tough during the two losses. Obviously this doesn't constitute a successful overall season - especially when you lose 4 games to close out the year! But with help in the draft, maybe the Browns can stay competitive over the course of the entire season and challenge for a playoff spot.
That being said, the Browns are next up on our list of 32 NFL teams' Draft needs.
Defensive End: While some might suggest that quarterback is a pressing need for the Browns, it's likely that Colt McCoy will get a chance to prove himself over an entire season in 2011. Instead, the Browns should concentrate on improving their pass rush because they finished tied for 25th last season with just 29 sacks. North Carolina's Robert Quinn has a lot of upside at defensive end due to his explosiveness, but he lacks the strength and intangibles of a sure first round pick (he missed the entire 2010 season for accepting gifts). Assuming the Browns decide to go with a safer pick at DE, they could also choose Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, who is more of a complete defensive end at this stage. He's was also a fiery motivator and leader on the Iowa defense over the past few seasons.
Defensive Tackle: While the Browns played okay as a defensive unit last year, all rumors point to some major upgrades on the D-line, which means they'll probably go for a defensive tackle in either the second or third round. If the Browns go for a run stopper here, 6'4", 337-pound Phil Taylor would be a great pick. He's surprisingly quick for being 337, and was consistently in the opponent's backfield when he played at Baylor. Assuming the Browns are looking for more pass rush help, Illinois' Corey Liuget is a strong pass rusher from the DT position.
Outside Linebacker: Starting outside linebacker Matt Roth is serviceable, but the Browns wouldn't mind an upgrade here, or at least some extra help. Nevada's Dontay Moch isn't the world's best linebacker when it comes to run support; however, he would be a great addition to the Browns linebacking corp as a pass rusher with his excellent 4.4 speed. Texas' Sam Acho is another potential pick for Cleveland at OLB due to his solid tackling ability and hard work ethic.
Wide Receiver: The Browns have a decent corp of a receivers with no outstanding playmaker. And while the Browns may not consider this a serious need going into next season, they could reach as high as the third round to take a good receiver. Assuming they do so, Abilene Christian WR Edmund Gates is worth a look here with his amazing straight-line speed (4.37 forty). However, he is a bit raw, and didn't face a lot of press coverage in college. A more tested option at WR is Nebraska's Niles Paul, who is a big, strong receiver that's capable of filling a number 1 role. But with two alcohol-related charges, Paul is definitely going to be questioned by anybody who drafts him.
Right Tackle - Many believe that the Browns are a right tackle away from being an extremely good line. If the Browns see it this way too, they could take the mammoth Orlando Franklin in the third round. The 6'7", 315-pound Franklin may not be the quickest player in the draft, but his size and long arms help make up for the lack of speed.
Overall, Cleveland isn't in a desperate situation where they're sorely lacking in certain areas. However, if they can get the right upgrades through the draft, expect Cleveland to improve to a .500 team next season.