- Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Senior NFL Writer
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CLEVELAND -- The selection of Florida State center Cam Erving at No. 19 overall, one of two interior linemen taken by the team Thursday night, reminds us that this is a Ray Farmer draft all the way.
No more questions about ownership involvement. No more clunky trades. The Marcus Mariota headlines dominated the day, but in the end, the Cleveland Browns general manager drafted a good football player who can play all five spots on the offensive line, but doesn’t care where he plays.
“I just want to play offensive line,” Erving said.
Farmer ignored the glaring need at receiver, didn’t cave to the Titans’ immense demands for the rights to No. 2 overall and stayed true to his instincts.
They didn’t overthink it. Farmer and his staff agreed that Erving was a high-impact player, one of the top offensive players on their board. Next year, the Browns could lose right tackle Mitchell Schwartz to free agency and center Alex Mack to a contract opt-out. Erving is insurance.
The Browns looked at several trade options during the day, but Farmer admits “we were pretty consistent with what was going to happen.”
“Us moving up wasn’t a major factor in where we go,” Farmer said.
Translation: The Browns were staying at 12 and 19 to get Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton and Erving, a combined 647 pounds to stuff in orange-and-brown spandex and nylon.
Farmer and coach Mike Pettine addressed reporters at a late Thursday news conference and looked satisfied, despite Pettine’s admittance that the picks weren’t sexy. Fans want skill players. Pettine joked the Browns landed “big skill.”
These are picks that football guys make. That’s a good thing. So what if Farmer played it safe? Safe is good for a team that gambles with the draft far too often.
After last season ended with a five-game losing streak, a troubled quarterback and looming turbulence in the offseason, the Browns easily could have overreacted in the draft. They could have given up too many picks for Mariota. They could have traded up for Alabama’s Amari Cooper. Maybe those wouldn’t have been bad plays. But of the 14 first-round quarterbacks involved in draft-day trades since 2000, only Joe Flacco has become a franchise quarterback. History was against Cleveland in the Mariota decision.
Farmer stayed true to his words the previous week that he was done with the quarterback “fairy tale.” Instead of banking on Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown or a future draft pick to magically win him games, he’s beefing up his front line, ready to run the ball 30-plus times a game and ask defenses to stop it. The Browns rushed 477 times last year, good enough for sixth in the league despite the lack of elite tailback play. Expect that number to rise. Erving can help.
The Browns might try to win games 6-3, but at least it’s a clear-cut plan.
This plan will flow perfectly if the team gets an impact receiver or tight end at No. 43 overall on Friday.
Erving symbolizes progress for a team that finally wants it to be all about football.