The Cleveland Browns are going to be free of Johnny Manziel, and Hue Jackson could get a chance to pick whichever quarterback he wants in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Browns will release their troubled 2014 first-round pick, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, and the club's new head coach has the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft behind a Tennessee Titans club already heavily invested in Marcus Mariota.
But whether Jackson will attach his Browns tenure to a rookie quarterback with a draft pick that high shouldn't be considered a certainty. NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein sees draft value potentially matching Jackson's preferred quarterback traits beyond just first-round options.
"(Jackson) gave up a first- and second-rounder to trade for Carson Palmer (with the Oakland Raiders in 2011). That should tell you something. With the Bengals, he attacked down the field. He likes a quarterback with an arm that can attack down the field vertically," Zierlein said. "Andy Dalton is a guy he's had who takes shots down the field. That's kind of how he's called his plays and that's what he sought out in Oakland. (Christian) Hackenberg's got a big arm and some touch down the field with it. If you want to take a (later) chance with it, it could be Hackenberg or Cardale Jones. I think the guys in the second part of the draft have as big an arm (as the top QB prospects)."
Hackenberg, of Penn State, appeals to scouts more for his physical tools than for his production. After losing the starting job at Ohio State in midseason, Jones can safely be filed in the same category.
Jackson, for his part, has made it clear a quarterback at No. 2 overall could well become the club's plan.
"If it's early (in the draft), (Cal's Jared) Goff could be that guy," Zierlein said. "And there might be a time they want to trade out of that pick, too, and go get multiple picks."
Zierlein also mentioned North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett, who impressed scouts at the Reese's Senior Bowl last week, as a potential Browns option later in the draft. NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock has identified the Browns as one of three clubs picking near the top of the first round that should consider taking a quarterback.
Jackson coached the Raiders in 2011, his only season as a head coach, but has offensive coordinator experience with Oakland and Cincinnati. If the Browns were to take a quarterback with the No. 2 pick, it would mark the third time in the last five drafts the club has drafted a first-round quarterback, following Manziel and Brandon Weeden (2012). With Manziel soon to be out of the picture and QBs Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Pat Devlin remaining on the club's roster, Cleveland's hunt for a long-term answer at the position continues.