CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson is high on the Browns' list at No. 4, but owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager Ray Farmer also love Johnny Manziel, league sources have told cleveland.com.
Sources close to the team said the Browns are leaning toward Robinson with their No. 4 pick, but that there's also plenty of love at the top of the building for Johnny Football. One NFL personnel man told cleveland.com that Robinson is a can't-miss prospect and that he compares to Hall of Famer Walter Jones of the Seahawks.
"A player like Greg Robinson doesn't come around very often,'' said the source. "If he's there, it would be very difficult for them to pass on him.''
The sources said Haslam and Farmer are high on Manziel, but that there might not be a consensus in the organization. However, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan praised Manziel during minicamp last week, which means he might be in the same camp as his two bosses. Coach Mike Pettine said Shanahan's evaluation of the quarterbacks would carry more weight than his own.
"Everybody’s got their own opinion,'' said Shanahan. "There’s a lot of people in this building, so I don’t think there’s a consensus on anything. They asked me my opinion, I always give it and we see what happens.''
Shanahan suggested he'd be happy to work with the dynamic playmaker.
"It’s obvious how good of a player he is, how fun he is to watch,'' Shanahan said Thursday on the final day of minicamp. "I think (his style) does translate to the NFL. If you can make those plays in college, you can do it in the NFL. The one thing about the NFL, there’s a lot of tape out there. You’ve got to be able to do everything.
"Whatever you do very good, they’re going to eventually be able to shut that down and you’re going to have to do something else. He’s going to be able to make plays in this league. Eventually when they try to contain him, he’s going to have to do everything he didn’t always have to do in college.
Shanahan isn't concerned about Manziel's 5-11 3/4 height and 207-pound frame.
"The guy can play football,'' said Shanahan. "I don’t care if you’re a big guy or a smaller guy, if you take too many hits in the league, I don’t care who you are, it’s tough to stay healthy. He’s got to take care of himself, especially with the way he plays, but I think he definitely has the size to succeed in the league.''
Manziel's Texas A&M offensive coordinator, Jake Spavital, told cleveland.com that Manziel will flourish in the right system, and will be able to run Shanahan's brand of West Coast offense.
Pettine also noted that Shanahan is flexible enough to work with any style of quarterback, as evidenced by Robert Griffin III's outstanding rookie season in Washington in 2012. Utilizing Griffin's running ability, Shanahan coached him to NFL Rookie of the Year honors and a Pro Bowl season. He threw 20 touchdowns against only five interceptions and earned a 102.4 rating.
But the Browns might decide to go the safer route and draft Robinson, who could eventually take over for Joe Thomas as left tackle. For now, Robinson would play right tackle or guard for the Browns.
The problem is, the Rams might grab at Robinson at No. 2, possibly leaving the Browns with the big decision on Manziel. The Rams are also believed to be interested in Manziel, but one insider said that all the talk about them taking him at No. 2 might be designed to get the Browns to trade up to get him.
Publicly, the Browns have stated that they wouldn't hesitate to draft Robinson, or Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews. One scout said that while Robinson is like Jones, Matthews compares to Thomas, the seven-time Pro Bowler.
"(Robinson is an) outstanding tackle,'' said Pettine at the NFL Annual Meeting last month. "He's a player that has all the measurables. The nice thing that you like about him is the toughness. He's a finisher. He's going to knock you down and he's not going to help you up. I know he's played (guard). If you look at Jonathan Ogden, he was a guard his first year in the NFL and then he ended up transitioning out to tackle. A lot of people don't realize that. But when you're looking for the best player available and that name pops up, whether you have that player on your roster or you have Joe Thomas on the roster at left tackle, you don't want to say 'we're not going to take him because we have one.'''
Farmer echoed those sentiments, including Matthews in the evaluation. Matthews is also a strong candidate for the Rams at No. 2.
"They’re really good players,'' Farmer said at his pre-draft press conference last week. "We were sitting in the suite at the combine when Greg Robinson ran, and Jimmy (Haslam) turned and was like, ‘how big was he?’ so you go back and you start reviewing the numbers and the size and the movement and then his play, and he's a very, very interesting prospect as to what he can possibly bring to a franchise. Same thing with Jake Matthews. His history and pedigree speak for themselves. I want to drive competition on the roster. So Joe Thomas is a very good football player. He’s been to numerous Pro Bowls, he’s been a successful player for a reason. But having players on this roster that Joe looks over and says, ‘oh, boy, that’s a real guy right there,’ that’s something good for our franchise and good for our football team. I think there’s no way I would tell you that those guys aren’t interesting players for us as well.''
If the Browns decide to trade down out of the No. 4 pick, they might target Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, who led the Big 12 with seven interceptions in 2013 and returned two for touchdowns. But if the Browns covet Gilbert, one of the top two cornerbacks in the draft along with Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, they can't move too far back to get him. The Lions reportedly have their eye on him at No. 10.
-Mary Kay Cabot-