Driving in to work this morning, I heard Colin Cowherd start off his show talking about Manziel's slide. His very basic analysis was that Cleveland not taking him with the 4th or 8th pick indicates that they weren't very high on him to begin with. When you look at the whole sequence of events last night, nothing could be further from the truth.
When Cleveland's pick at #4 came up, the Jaguars had just pulled the first QB of the draft, Blake Bortles. That could have made them worry and make a snap decision to pull a quarterback right then and there, but instead they analyzed the teams behind them. With an offer to trade draft positions with Buffalo at the #9 spot, the teams drafting before Cleveland would be: Oakland Raiders (5), Atlanta Falcons (6), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7), and the Minnesota Vikings (8).
Oakland could have been considered a threat to take a QB, but a lot of smoke came out before the draft indicating that they had no desire to draft a QB that high. After two 4-12 seasons with the team under Coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKinley, it's no surprise that they find themselves in a win or get out season this year. It's even less surprising that the owner of the team would advise his staff to not mortgage the team to a top 5 QB pick on a year that may be their last. In the end, it was pretty safe to assume that there was no way in hell Oakland would take a QB here.
The Falcons - there was never a chance they would take a QB.
Tampa Bay may have been considered a threat to pull a quarterback, but it wouldn't have made any sense given the climate there. Lovie Smith just brought Josh McCown out of Chicago to start for Tampa Bay, and that's after coaching him for a few years while the chief of the Bears. Mike Glennon showed some promise in his starts last year, and he will now have time to mature behind McCown while serving as a very good backup. Bringing in a new QB with a top 10 pick would completely undermine all of the moves they've made so far at that position. It didn't make any sense, and I'm sure Cleveland knew that.
Next came the one team that was in the hunt for a QB, the Minnesota Vikings at eight. When they traded out of the 4 spot, you have to assume that they had high enough draft grades on at least one other QB besides Manziel- Bridgewater or Carr - that they were willing to roll the dice with the Vikings here. I think the Vikings were also thinking the same thing, and It was here that the Browns made their defining move of the night.
(Edit: Looks like that was indeed the case)
From what Rick Spielman is saying, it sounds like the #Vikings had Manziel and Bridgewater very close together on their board.— Phil Mackey (@PhilMackey) May 9, 2014
Before the Vikings could make their pick, the Browns offered them a 5th round pick to swap 8th and 9th positions. If the Vikings were indeed ok with taking any one of the QB's remaining, this swap made sense. By the Browns taking CB Justin Gilbert in that spot, the Browns gave the Vikings an excuse to not take a QB yet, as they were likely confident that they could trade up later.
The Browns, instead of letting the pressure of selecting a QB get to the Vikings, made the decision for them by not drafting any QB at all. They effectively ensured that the top remaining QB's in the draft would remain in place for another handful of picks, and they could pick up one of the guys they wanted at a discount.
Their only fear at that point was a team like the Texans or possibly even the Chiefs making a trade up to pull a QB before them. They took a stab early in the draft to get their guy, but it eventually fell through:
Cleveland made a strong effort to trade up again to No. 11 just now. But ultimately, Browns just bailed. Titans picking.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 9, 2014
As the draft moved on, and after the awkward 10 minutes where everyone in America wondered if Jerry Jones would out Jerrah himself once again with Manziel at 16, the Browns made their move for Manziel by trading to the #22 spot with the Philadelphia Eagles. It was later reported that they beat out the Vikings for the same trade:
To summarize the first round for the Browns, they traded back, took the pressure off of their primary position competitor by picking before them, and when it finally came time to trade up to the #22 spot with the Eagles, they outbid everyone else to get the guy they wanted. Their haul included another corner to pair up with Joe Haden, and a discount on a kid that they've been following for 9 months who they believe to be the future of their franchise.
At the end of the day, it was draft maneuvering at it's very best, and should give a lot of Browns fans some hope for success under this new regime.