The Cleveland Browns had a 4-12 season in 2013. They are under new management, from the GM to the head coach. Every player at every position will be evaluated. Ray Farmer will attempt to upgrade every position group, including wide receiver.
In 2013, the Browns’ receiving corps stood head and shoulders above many of the other groups, and leading them was Pro-Bowl WR Josh Gordon. His was a breakout season, with 87 receptions, 1,646 yards and 14 touchdowns…all that coming in 14 games. The young man was voted to the Pro Bowl, and was second only to Calvin Johnson among wide receivers in All-Pro votes. On the other side, there’s Greg Little. His stats in 2013 weren’t breathtaking (41 receptions for 465 yards and 2 touchdowns), but he is a decent #2. I’m not even going to count Davone Bess – his poor productivity coupled with his off-season pot-smoking and cop-harassing will ensure that he is not on this team next year.
While we are talking about wide receivers, I’ll throw in Jordan Cameron…he is a tight end/wide receiver hybrid in the mold of Jimmy Graham. His receiving prowess last year earned him a Pro Bowl nod as well. So when it’s all said and done, the receiving corps for the Browns contains two pro-bowlers and arguably two of the top five players on the entire team. Doesn’t that mean they’re good enough at receiver and should focus on other positions?
Not in my opinion. The Browns need someone on the other side to compliment Josh Gordon. The way the Browns’ offense is currently set up, the opposing defense will simply put their best corner or double Josh Gordon, and not worry too much about the other receivers. What Cleveland needs is a receiver combo that will give defensive coordinators trouble deciding who to put on who. They need a receiver that will have a 100-yard game when he’s single-covered (should Gordon draw double coverage.) Little is a good backup, but they need an elite receiver, and I’m not sure he has what it takes.
Among the benefits of acquiring another dominant weapon would be the comfort level of whoever is under center. It will possibly be a rookie quarterback, in which case it would help to have multiple receivers (three, if we count Cameron) that can come down with the ball if the young quarterback throws it up for grabs. If both sides of the field have a great receiver and the middle has a great tight end, the confidence level and therefore performance of the quarterback will be much better.
The argument could be made that free agency is a better way to pick up a dominant receiver. But the Browns hold picks in each of the seven rounds, with an additional pick in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th rounds (from the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburg Steelers, and Colts again, respectively). The sheer number of picks should make them think strongly consider drafting a receiver.
The past season has shown that having great skill-position weapons is very important for a successful offense. It has also shown that solely having good skill players is not enough. The Browns need help at a lot more positions than receiver…but getting a complement to Josh Gordon just might make this offense click for the first time in a long time.
If you like this, check out Erik Kelly’s Top 10 WRs in the 2014 draft.