Tom Hardesty: Draft-day pressures to be abundant for Browns GM Ray Farmer

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I don't envy new Browns general manager Ray Farmer.

With his team possessing the fourth pick in the upcoming NFL Draft on May 18, Farmer and his front-office mates in Cleveland will make a decision that might very well set the course of direction for the franchise for the next decade.

And if it does, that means Farmer made the right choice.

If it doesn't, Farmer and company will likely go the way of Carmen Policy, Dwight Clark, Phil Savage, Mike Holmgren, Joe Banner and all the rest of the expansion Browns' brass that blew drafts and were sent packing.

Quite simply, the Browns cannot miss on their top choice again. A franchise and fan base still stinging from a debacle of a 2012 draft -- where first-round picks Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden are no longer with the team -- absolutely has to hit a home run this time.

And this is why I don't envy Farmer: If the Browns select one of the projected top three quarterbacks in the draft -- Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel -- and that player is a bust, Farmer and the Browns' braintrust will be roasted by the fans and media.

But if they don't take a QB at all with their first pick and instead opt for, say, playmaking Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins -- and Watkins turns out to be a bust and the three QBs at the top of the draft become solid or better NFL quarterbacks -- Farmer and his group will not be forgiven.

The difference? Roasted they might recover from, unforgiven is a deal-breaker.

That said, I'm not sold on Bridgewater, Bortles or Manziel. They were all very good in college, but guessing how that will translate to the professional level is risky business. None of them appear to be sure things, while Watkins seems like he could really complement record-setting receiver Josh Gordon in the Browns' passing attack.

So the die may already be cast for Farmer and new Browns head coach Mike Pettine. They may have to take a quarterback at No. 4 whether they truly want to or not, because the price their careers will pay for not selecting one might simply be too steep.

If I had to pick one of those three quarterbacks, I would lean toward Bortles. He kind of flew under the radar playing at Central Florida, especially since his career paralleled -- and therefore was overshadowed by -- the mercurial Manziel's at A&M. Bortles has a very strong arm, can run, is athletic in the pocket and seems to be the most polished and NFL ready of the three. Most of all, Bortles seems to have his head on straight.

Bridgewater also is athletic with a strong arm, and we've all seen Manziel's act, which is good and bad.

Manziel is the most dangerous playmaker of the three, but his bad attitude and immaturity are red flags, and the last thing the Browns need right now is a hoped-for franchise quarterback who is a loose cannon on and off the field.

Which brings me to Brian Hoyer. I think the guy deserves a real chance to be this team's quarterback of the future. The former Cleveland St. Ignatius star was very effective directing the offense while going 3-0 as the starting QB early in the 2013 season, guiding the Browns to victories over the Vikings and Bengals in Weeks 3 and 4 before suffering a season-ending injury during a Week 5 win over the Bills.

In his three starts, Hoyer completed 57-of-96 passes (59.4 percent) for 615 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.

With numbers like those, Hoyer deserves a longer look behind center.

I know there is a lot of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing over the Kent State men's basketball team's 16-16 final record for the 2013-14 season, including 7-11 in the Mid-American Conference and first-round MAC tourney exit.

However, this was a young team that should be improved a year from now, especially with an infusion of new talent on the way. Whether that translates to a MAC title or not next season remains to be seen, but considering the incredible run of success the program has enjoyed since 1999, a .500 season shouldn't be cause for alarm.

Especially when that .500 record represents the worst season since before the millennium. Other college basketball programs should be so fortunate.

Email: thardesty@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9446

Twitter: @TomHardestyRC

Facebook: Tom Hardesty, Record-Courier

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