By Nate Ulrich
Akron Beacon Journal
Distributed by MCT
Editor’s note: Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich analyzes the team's needs at quarterback heading into the draft, which runs Thursday-Saturday.
On the roster: Jason Campbell, 31, Brandon Weeden, 29, and Thaddeus Lewis, 25.
Outlook: The Browns have Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year's draft, penciled in as their starter, and they signed Campbell last month to push Weeden.
Both have the big arm sought by coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who are installing a vertical, downfield passing attack this offseason.
Like Colt McCoy, Lewis is mobile but doesn't have ideal arm strength for the team’s new offense.
The Browns traded McCoy to the San Francisco 49ers on April 1 for late-round draft picks, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Lewis isn't part of their plans for the future, either.
In February at the NFL Scouting Combine, CEO Joe Banner said he doesn’t expect the Browns to take a quarterback in the first or second round (they have the sixth overall pick but lack a second-round selection).
On the other hand, the Browns have thoroughly studied several quarterbacks during the pre-draft process, and until they secure someone who proves he's a true franchise quarterback, nothing can be entirely ruled out at the position.
But unless Banner’s vow that the Browns will give Weeden every chance to succeed and prove himself is a smokescreen, it's more likely the organization will target a developmental quarterback in the middle or late rounds than West Virginia's Geno Smith, who is projected to be taken early in the first round.
Weeden took all the reps with the first-team offense this past week during the Browns' three-day voluntary minicamp.
As minicamp wrapped up, Chudzinski said of Weeden, “I’ve seen improvement from him in these short couple days here. It’s good. As long as our focus and effort remain where it has been, I feel good about the direction that we are going.”
Prospects to watch: Smith is the top-rated quarterback in this year’s draft, and he might not even be available when the Browns are put on the clock in the first round.
Maybe Banner has repeatedly insisted that he doesn’t expect the Browns to pick a quarterback early because he doesn't expect Smith to be there at No. 6.
Either way, the Browns have done their due diligence by conducting a private workout with Smith.
The same can be said about Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, who NFLDraftScout.com projects as a first- or second-round pick, and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, a projected second-round selection.
The Browns also have hosted Southern California’s Matt Barkley, another projected first- or second-round pick, Arizona's Matt Scott, a projected third-round pick and Manuel during pre-draft visits. North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson are other prospects to consider in a trade-down scenario or if they fall beyond the second round.
Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Miami’s (Ohio) Zac Dysert and Duke’s Sean Renfree are projected to be taken in the middle to late rounds.
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