- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's hard to predict whether the Cleveland Browns will take a quarterback in the draft. If you agree that they will draft a quarterback, it's difficult to agree on which one they will select.
Even ESPN's draft experts have differing opinions on the Browns' quarterback issue. Todd McShay has the Browns picking West Virginia's Geno Smith with the No. 6 overall pick, and Mel Kiper Jr. has them taking Florida State's EJ Manuel in the third round.
I believe it's a long shot that the Browns would take Smith that high, even though they have worked him out. McShay also acknowledges this isn't likely to happen.
"I don’t think Cleveland necessarily wants to take him at No. 6," McShay said. "I had to unload him somewhere. I do think there is a small chance that they could take him. I know [general manager Mike] Lombardi doesn’t like [Brandon] Weeden very much, but that doesn’t mean the coaching staff doesn’t like him."
So, where does McShay expect Smith to land?
"I can honestly tell you that I’ve never been this close to a draft and had no clue with a top quarterback like this," he said. "I know how I evaluate him. I know what I believe are his strengths and weaknesses. I feel like I’ve got him down as well as any quarterback I’ve ever evaluated but I don’t know where he’s going."
Taking Manuel in the third round is a more realistic scenario. I could see the Browns picking him in the second round if they can acquire another pick by trading down in the first round. The Browns have a private workout scheduled with Manuel for Saturday, a league source told The Plain Dealer.
Some have compared Manuel to Cam Newton, who ran Browns coach Rob Chudzinski's offense in Carolina. Manuel has a strong arm and can be a bullish runner at 6-foot-4, 237 pounds.
"I don't think he's anywhere near to a finished product, but I do think he has a big upside," ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said. "He has a tremendous skillset that allows him to do a lot of different things. If you're with a creative offensive coach, look out."
The Browns aren't in a position where they need to draft a quarterback this year. They can be patient and see if Weeden makes strides in his second NFL season after the team invested a first-round pick in him a year ago. Cleveland also has a veteran backup in Jason Campbell.
Chudzinski refused to tip the team's draft plan. Asked about the workout with Smith, Chudzinski told reporters Tuesday, "We've had the chance to work out a number of guys and all have gone well. I'm not going to get too much into detail on those. I know that we're going to talk later on this week about some of the draft things."
5hEric D. Williams