When the Browns head into Pittsburgh for the season opener in September, Brian Hoyer will be starting and ready to prove that his flash of brilliance last year was more than just a fluke. Hoyer being day one starter is a no-brainer after going 3-0 last season before injury to his knee. No one else currently on the roster makes any sense and neither does a rookie for that matter. Taking a QB at #4 with a high profile like Jonny Manziel is just a disaster waiting to happen in 2014. This is because at the first instance Hoyer loses a game, everyone will be demanding for Mr. Football to start. That's not to say the guy will be a disaster in the league, but he isn't quite ready for the pressure of carrying an NFL franchise on his shoulders. It will be a few years before he will be, if ever. In this month's predictions, I have foregone answering Cleveland's glaring need for a QB at #4 and #26. Waiting patiently until the second round to find a low profile player who can quietly develop behind Hoyer before taking the reins when ready.
In answering the QB question in the draft, we must first take a look at who will likely be available at #35. It has been predicted that Manziel, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, and Teddy Bridgewater will be nabbed in the first round. Then the possibility of either Jimmy Garappolo or Zach Mettenberger going early in the second to the Houston Texans. Leaving Cleveland in perfect position to scoop up Alabama's A.J. McCarron.
A.J. McCarron was a three year starter at Alabama and led his team to two National Championships. In three years as a starter, he threw for 66 touchdowns and had only 9 interceptions in the toughest defensive conference in college football. Winning 36 games as a starter, the only 4 losses of McCarron's 40 games came from teams ranked in the top 15. A.J. may have been on a spectacular team, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he only managed 9 interceptions playing in the SEC. What's most impressive is his progression through the years. He saw an increase in both pass completion percentage as well as total yards in each successive year.
Unlike some of the first round prospects, McCarron has the size needed to take the punishment that will be delivered to him by NFL defenses. At the scouting combine, he measured 6'3'', 230 lbs as well as big 10'' hands great for the cold weather of the AFC North. Not the most athletic or fastest prospect, McCarron is more of a traditional drop back passer . At Alabama, he was experienced at running a pro-style offense and making NFL style reads. He throws well on the move and is comfortable under center or in the shotgun. At his pro day, he showed great footwork and consistent throwing mechanics with a quick wrist snap.
Some may criticize A.J. McCarron as being a "game manager" but that's the role of a QB. Managing a game is how you win games. Just look at Tom Brady. Brady doesn't win on pure natural ability. He relies on his brains, game management, good teammates, and coaching. This draft, the opportunity exists to put in place a solid roster of players who will work well as a team and not just one hopeful QB savior with all the pressure. Playing the draft game smart and picking up necessary pieces early in the first round is the direction the team needs to take. All the while, Browns can get a very good, pro ready QB in the second round to groom for the job in the future. As for the rest of the draft, RB and WR should be addressed with the next couple of picks. Then we use the rest of the selectionss on best defensive players available. It may not make a big splash in the post draft headlines, but playing smart is how you build a solid team with depth.