One glance at the Cleveland Browns’ roster and it looks like the team is set at the running back position. Along with second-year players Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, who handled the bulk of the Browns’ carries in 2014, they also have Shaun Draughn and the unproven but promising Glenn Winston currently under contract.
But that’s not preventing the team from kicking the tires on two of the draft’s top running back prospects. ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported on Tuesday that the Browns would be meeting with Georgia’s Todd Gurley, with his colleague Jeremy Fowler confirming that the team actually met with him on Monday. Meanwhile, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reports the Browns will host Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon on Friday.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 14, 2015
Gordon was the NCAA’s rushing yardage and touchdown leader in 2014, earning 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns on 343 carries. He also had 19 receptions for 153 yards and three more scores. Gurley could have given Gordon a run for his money, having rushed 123 times for 911 yards and nine scores in the first six games of the season. However, a season-ending ACL tear in November derailed that quest and potentially pushed his draft stock down. Gurley is scheduled to travel to Indianapolis to have an official NFL medical re-check on the knee, which he opted to not allow team doctors to examine during February’s scouting combine.
Given that the Browns possess two picks in Round 1 of the 2015 draft—Nos. 12 and 19 overall—as well as pick 11 in Round 2, it makes sense that they would take a closer look at any and all players who could be in their reach in the early rounds. But the question is whether this is simply the Browns doing their due diligence, much like other teams around the league, or if they are serious about adding one of the draft’s top running backs to their depth chart with an early-round pick.
Last year, Crowell and West combined for 1,280 yards and 12 touchdowns on 219 combined carries. Their production dwindled in the latter half of the season, after center Alex Mack suffered a season-ending leg fracture. The injury produced a ripple effect along the entire line that negatively affected the run game the most.
Perhaps that inability to create behind a sub-par offensive line has the Browns interested in explosive, powerful runners like Gordon or Gurley. It’s also possible that the Browns opt to select either back, whether with their second Round 1 pick or in Round 2, simply because either proves to be the best player available on their draft board.
The Browns definitely need to add all the offensive ammunition they can get this year, especially with the quarterback situation still in flux. Gordon or Gurley could give the Browns an additional weapon in both the running and passing games—weapons they may not be able to pass by in the draft if given the opportunity.
But, for now, these meetings seem more like the Browns’ choosing to examine all possible angles when it comes to their early-round picks. Rather than these meetings being indictments of West’s or Crowell’s rookie-year performances, it’s more about making sure they know everything they need to know about all players who can make the team better in the immediate future.
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