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The Schein Nine

NFL draft: Browns, Rams, Cowboys face high first-round stakes

Hey! Check the calendar. We are exactly one month away from the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. And I can't wait.

Many teams have a lot at stake in the draft, as is the case every year. The beauty of the modern NFL is its competitive balance -- the ability to immediately follow up a forgettable season with a memorable one by taking the right approach in the draft (and the offseason, in general).

Obviously, it's important to nail as many draft picks as possible, but let's be honest: A team's first-round selection attracts more scrutiny than the rest of the picks combined.

So, a month out, which teams have the most at stake in Round 1 of the draft? Let's take a look, Schein Nine style:

1) Cleveland Browns

First-round draft slot: No. 2

So, here we are again: The Browns have a high draft pick.

I thought the Robert Griffin III signing was very logical for all parties involved. RGIII was smart to hitch his wagon to Hue Jackson, a quarterback/offensive guru. If healthy, Griffin has a great opportunity to get back his name and game, even with the Browns' depleted roster (particularly on the offensive line and in the receiving corps).

Still, Cleveland needs a quarterback for the future. Griffin makes sense as an immediate possibility at the position, but there's obviously risk. RGIII didn't play a single down last season, and the two years prior were chock-full o' drama. At this point, his transcendent Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign feels like a lifetime ago.

Carson Wentz is a big-time NFL quarterback prospect. Even if the North Dakota State product is a year away, the Browns -- clearly building for 2017 and beyond -- have to be looking for a franchise QB of the future at No. 2. If they don't, the defensive player or offensive lineman they select better become a megastar. You don't pass on a viable QB when you have been searching for one forever.

One way or another, Cleveland needs to get something out of such a high pick. Over the last four drafts, the Browns have made seven first-round selections: Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden in 2012; Barkevious Mingo in '13; Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel in '14; and Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving last year. Not the most inspiring list there ...

Cleveland needs to rock this selection.

2) Los Angeles Rams

First-round draft slot: No. 15

Just writing "Los Angeles" in front of Rams -- still getting used to that -- ratchets up the pressure on Jeff Fisher and company. Fisher's four straight losing seasons with the organization don't help, either. Honestly, I'm still amazed he's the coach of this team.

L.A. desperately needs a quarterback. Case Keenum is not the guy, regardless of what Fisher and GM Les Snead keep telling you. So, what can Los Angeles do to fill the need? Trade up? Take a QB in Round 2?

The Rams have bungled this position for quite some time now, which cranks up the pressure. In 2014, they had a pair of first-round picks -- and thus, opportunities at Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr -- but they didn't come away with a signal caller. Granted, one of those two first-rounders was spent on Aaron Donald, something that has worked out quite well. But alas, the franchise still has a hole at the game's most important position.

The Rams are stuck in the middle of the first round. They'd be well-served getting creative and making something happen.

3) New York Giants

First-round draft slot: No. 10

How have the Giants, who won the Super Bowl five seasons ago, missed the playoffs entirely every year since? Well, it's simple: They haven't been any good. This franchise just hasn't had much talent.

Under fire, general manager Jerry Reese had a terrific free agency period, following owner John Mara's savvy advice to increase the woeful talent base, no matter the cost. Now, with the additions of DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison and CB Janoris Jenkins, the defense is much better. But Big Blue's hardly ready for prime time.

With the 10th overall pick, the Giants are in a sweet spot. They can add an impact player at offensive tackle, cornerback or defensive line. They need to eventually add something at receiver, too. And it would be nice if, one of these years, the Giants actually remembered to draft a linebacker.

It's not hyperbole to say Reese, whose prospect hauls in recent years have been weak on depth, is drafting for his job.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars

First-round draft slot: No. 5

The stakes are also high for the brass in Jacksonville. I am thrilled that owner Shad Khan is giving David Caldwell and Gus Bradley more time. But this could be it. It's go time.

Jacksonville's offense has plenty of promise for the future, with a bevy of youngsters (headlined by Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson) leading the way. Meanwhile, the other side of the ball ... Well, Bradley's a "defensive guru" with shaky defenses in Jacksonville. The Jags need a difference maker on D. Myles Jack, if the health checks out? That's certainly a popular pairing in our Mock Draft Central.

The Jaguars attacked free agency and came away with a fine haul that includes Malik Jackson, Chris Ivory, Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara. Now they need to add an impact guy at No. 5.

5) Dallas Cowboys

First-round draft slot: No. 4

Many, many options for a franchise that doesn't normally pick in the top five ...

Instant-impact player? Position of need? Ezekiel Elliott, to run behind a strong Dallas offensive line? His Buckeye teammate, Joey Bosa? A different defensive stud? Or how about a QB of the future (maybe as early as 2017)?

If Wentz is there, I pick him. With Tony Romo and Dez Bryant ready for 2016, chances are you won't be picking at No. 4 again soon. If Wentz is gone, the fun begins. While some say 4 is too early to pick a running back, Elliott could shine in the Dallas spotlight.

6) Indianapolis Colts

First-round draft slot: No. 18

The Jaguars have more talent than Indy. That's what happens when GM Ryan Grigson trades a first-rounder for (now ex-Colt) Trent Richardson, selects (now ex-Colt) Bjoern Werner 24th overall and opts to pick a wide receiver in Round 1 of last year's draft, as opposed to an offensive lineman or defender.

Andrew Luck is going to get *PAID* soon enough. He's a star quarterback entering what should be his glory years. How about getting him some protection -- you know, someone who can help him stay upright and in the game? (Luck made just seven starts in 2015.) Or take some pressure off his shoulders by putting together a legit defense? Plenty of options available at No. 18.

7) San Francisco 49ers

First-round draft slot: No. 7

Today's topic is "teams with the most at stake." Well, in San Fran, everyone's reputation is at stake, from owner Jed York (after firing Jim Harbaugh for his personality despite his incredible knack for winning) to general manager Trent Baalke to new head coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers have completely fallen apart in alarmingly swift fashion. And they have many, many holes.

Is quarterback one?

Even if Colin Kaepernick is on the roster -- and I've written many times that the best thing for him and Kelly is for Kap to become fluent in everything Chip -- he carries health and performance concerns. So the Niners would be wise to consider investing legit draft stock into the position again. Could hometown boy Jared Goff be available?

Chip the GM got Chip the Coach fired in Philly. In San Francisco, Baalke has control of the roster. How will that fly? As someone who has always believed in Chip's ability to coach, this is a situation I can't wait to watch.

8) Tennessee Titans

First-round draft slot: No. 1

While I still can't believe the Titans retained Mike Mularkey, new general manager Jon Robinson has impressed with a solid offseason thus far. I loved the DeMarco Murray trade, and the free agency additions of receiver Rishard Matthews and safety Rashad Johnson were understated, quality moves.

Robinson said it would take a "king's ransom" for the Titans to trade the No. 1 overall pick. Honestly, a trade would be ideal, since Tennessee has a quarterback and many holes. They need a QB-needy team to fall in love with Goff or Wentz, and thus, feel the need to jump in front of Cleveland. I'd love to see Robinson create a faux bidding war and trade out.

If the Titans stay at No. 1, Robinson has to get it right, with needs on the offensive line and defense. Stud OT Laremy Tunsil would appear to be the obvious pick.

9) Denver Broncos

First-round draft slot: No. 31

There's this thing about John Elway -- he's rightly untouchable. He's a living legend in Denver, a top-five all-time quarterback. He won Super Bowls as a player -- and just added a Lombardi Trophy as a GM. He's currently a top-five NFL GM who brilliantly built winning teams through the draft and free agency, culminating in Denver's Super Bowl 50 triumph. Elway fired John Fox because he didn't think he could get the Broncos over the hump. It worked. Gary Kubiak won a title.

Having said all that, Elway rolled the dice with Brock Osweiler -- and lost. Now the Broncos don't have a quarterback. Yes, I'm well aware Denver traded for Mark Sanchez. I repeat: The Broncos don't have a quarterback.

You have to imagine Elway has a Plan B (or C or D) which includes drafting a quarterback. Paxton Lynch? Taking a signal caller in Round 2 or 3? Trading a pick for Mike Glennon?

Right now, you can't remotely believe Denver has a chance to repeat because the team doesn't have a starting quarterback. If the Broncos don't find someone, they easily could finish in third place in the AFC West. That's a lot at stake!

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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