October 22, 2014

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Browns: Heisman-winning QB Cam Newton coming to town

The Browns appear to have their quarterback situation figured out. President Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur have expressed their confidence in Colt McCoy, and Seneca Wallace re-signed as his backup last week.

Newton

Newton

Yet the quarterback position in April’s NFL Draft will have a significant impact on the future of the Browns. That explains why Heckert and Shurmur attended Auburn’s pro day to watch Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton — along with defensive tackle Nick Fairley — and why the Browns have scheduled a private workout with Newton. NFL.com reported he will work out for at least Cleveland, Carolina, Buffalo, Minnesota, Washington, Tennessee, Miami and Cincinnati.

The Browns could very well follow the same steps with Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert. He and Newton are rated the top two quarterbacks in the draft by most experts and are expected to be top-10 picks.

Cleveland’s interest isn’t a knock on McCoy.

Holmgren started as a quarterbacks coach and likes to study them, and it’s good business practice to know as much as you can about all your options. If Newton or Gabbert falls to No. 6, the Browns must have determined if he’s that much better than McCoy and worth grabbing. Or what the interest through the league would be to trade into the Browns’ spot.

And the player will be a free agent someday, and a previous relationship and some inside information are always helpful.

The assumption — based on Holmgren’s comments at the scouting combine that he’ll likely draft a quarterback in the later rounds but not at No. 6 — is the Browns will take Georgia receiver A.J. Green or address defense in the first round. If Newton and Gabbert go in the top five — Carolina (No. 1), Buffalo (3) and Cincinnati (4) are in the market for a quarterback — only three others will be off the board when the Browns pick.

They’d do no worse than the fourth-highest player on their board. They should get someone they love.
The list of possibilities is starting to become as familiar to Browns fans as losing seasons.

Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers and North Carolina’s Robert Quinn are the pass-rushing defensive ends needed in Dick Jauron’s 4-3 scheme. Fairley and Alabama’s Marcell Dareus are the athletic defensive tackles. LSU’s Patrick Peterson is the shutdown cornerback who could be paired with Joe Haden, last year’s first pick.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Peterson rated as the best player in the draft, but his latest mock draft has the Browns passing. San Francisco grabs Peterson at No. 7.

Kiper predicts the Browns will take Green, a return to his first mock draft of the season. His second mock had the Browns going with Wisconsin defensive end A.J. Watt. Kiper reasons that Green fits Cleveland’s need for a playmaker to help McCoy, but he wasn’t convinced that’s what the Browns would do.

“You’ve got to have guys who can get open and catch the ball,” Kiper said Wednesday on a conference call. “Green is a special entity.

“But if Da’Quan Bowers is there, how can you pass him up?”

Kiper said Bowers would’ve been No. 1 on his board, but he’s been prevented from working out for teams by a small cartilage tear in his knee. Kiper believes Bowers, Newton, Gabbert, Peterson, Fairley, Dareus, Green and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller are worthy of being considered for the No. 1 overall pick.

As often happens, quarterbacks dominate the conversation. Eight of the last 10 No. 1 overall picks were quarterbacks, so the Panthers taking Newton wouldn’t be a stretch.

“He’s the one player in the draft who provides the biggest upside and the biggest risk,” Kiper said.
The Browns are trying to figure out which one it will be.

Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi blogged that he has a private workout with the Browns today and will be spending time with offensive line coach George Warhop. Each team can host 30 players before the draft.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.