You may have heard something about this -- the Cleveland Browns drafted a lot of wide receivers last weekend. They took five of them in the first five rounds, one less than the entire NFC. They're moving one of those players (Princeton's Seth DeValve) to tight end, but four is still a lot for one draft.
Why did they draft so many players at one position? Well, to start with, these are the players they had at the wide receiver position entering the draft: Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Marlon Moore, Terrelle Pryor, Rannell Hall and Saalim Hakim. Not great.
Because of that deficiency, "I said when I got here that I was looking to improve that position," Browns coach Hue Jackson said, per the team's official website. "I wanted to get some bigger targets on our football team, but I'm also very happy with the group we had. I think you can never have too much talent or competition at that position because I think it helps improve your quarterback position. You have to have targets for him to throw at, and we have accomplished that in this draft."
Executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown stressed that while they wanted to add talent at the position, the plan going in was not necessarily to flood the zone with wide receiver picks. That's just how the board broke. "It just so happened that early and then late again, there were some wide receivers that were available to us that we liked and did add," Brown said.
VP of player personnel Andrew Berry, meanwhile, noted that first-rounder Corey Coleman and fourth-rounder Ricardo Louis were taken specifically because of their abilities as big-play threats. "It's hard to find players that can change the complexion of the game with a single touch. Those are the guys that scare defensive coordinators in the NFL," Berry said. "With Corey, we felt like he can absolutely do that at the NFL level."
Even if it wasn't necessarily Cleveland's plan to pick that many wide receivers, it actually makes a decent amount of sense to have done it given the paucity of talent they have at the position. Because the draft is such a crapshoot, giving yourself as many chances as possible to hit is the best way to ensure that you find talent. That logic played into the Browns' decision to trade down and accumulate more picks over the next few years; and even if it wasn't necessarily by design, it appears to have carried over into their decision to draft so many wide receivers this year as well.