Forget Manziel, Browns better with Watkins

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
1:10
PM ET
 

What is the main thought that comes to mind now that Johnny Manziel has made himself eligible for the NFL draft?

The Cleveland Browns should take Sammy Watkins, the receiver from Clemson.

That won’t stop the offseason Manziel chatter, though. In fact, the chatter and the debate will rage through the offseason. Manziel declaring for the draft might be the best thing that could have happened for Browns CEO Joe Banner and team owner Jimmy Haslam. Because it takes the attention away from yet another rebuild and generates excitement about another guy with potential.

Potential, poschmential.

As they used to say before the draft became an offseason obsession, potential gets coaches fired.

Talent wins. The Browns should use logic for a change instead of reams of analysis and overthinking. Watkins is a good player. Pairing him with Josh Gordon and adding Jordan Cameron makes any offense strong.

Take a quarterback later. Nick Foles was not a top pick. Colin Kaepernick went in the second round. Russell Wilson was a third-round choice. Guy named Brady was drafted later.

Yes, Andrew Luck was the first overall pick, but he’s a rare, Manningesque player. David Carr was the first overall pick, too. For every Matthew Stafford there’s a JaMarcus Russell.

Look at what has happened to Robert Griffin III, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder ... who also were first-round picks. Griffin, like Manziel, is an undersized guy who likes to run. How has that gone for the Redskins? ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. compared Manziel to Fran Tarkenton. A comparison to Ben Roethlisberger might make him more appealing.

The Browns face what Haslam called their “crucial offseason.”

Once this monster of a coaching search is put in the cage, they can focus on personnel -- and all those draft picks.

They need to find a quarterback, but they have Brian Hoyer progressing well in his rehab from a torn knee ligament. He can enter the offseason as the starter. If the Browns want, they can keep Jason Campbell and make him the backup.

Draft a guy, bring him along and win with talent around him.

But don’t pass up a potentially great player. Watkins catches the ball and runs with it like Gordon, which is to say quickness and speed. He has explosiveness the Browns lack, and need.

Manziel has talent. Clearly. He threw 63 touchdowns and 22 interceptions at Texas A&M. He completed 68.9 percent of his passes.

But those pass-rushers he could elude in college are bigger, stronger and faster in the pros. He’s also a diva, willing to taunt fans for taking money for an autograph signing and be photographed leaving every party known to humankind at major events.

This is a college kid who has perfected the art of celebrity.

Please.

Imagine if the Browns could add a legitimate running back via free agency or at some point in the draft, buttress the offensive line a bit, add Watkins to go with Gordon and Cameron and have an efficient quarterback.

Imagine being the defensive coordinator trying to stop that group.

When they draft -- and let’s not forget the draft ISN’T UNTIL MAY -- the Browns will have their choice of quarterbacks. Blake Bortles, Manziel, Derek Carr, maybe Teddy Bridgewater. Who knows.

But good quarterbacks are everywhere in the draft (AJ McCarron). It’s the job of the team to find them. But it’s not the team’s job to take him simply because he’s a quarterback.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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