It is so hard to trust this regime when it comes to drafting and player analysis, but Browns’s fans are stuck with what we have in the front office and coaching for now. As you will soon see, I happen to understand the Brown’s direction and methods in this 2013 draft. I think, if the approach is used wisely, this will turn out to be a good “draft” and direction for the future. If misused, we have made a lateral move and maybe a step back. Not what Brown’s fans want to hear right now.
Since I threw out the “hard to trust” statement right away, let me take a few lines to explain why it is hard to trust them. First, the head of the drafting and player personnel decisions is clearly Joe Banner. Now he might turn out to be the greatest “consolidator” of information in the history of the game. But the facts are that he has never been in a position as the head of on-field football operations as he clearly is here. No one trusts Lombardi, so that is an easy one. And Chud, as good as I think he will be as a coach, is also not known for his drafting. Plus, he is a first year head coach. Ray Farmer is widely considered as a good football mind, but he is way down the chain. So, I think I have every right to be skeptical of their ability to produce on a plan.
I will admit that it was the hardest draft to watch in my recent memory or entire memory. The Brown’s barely picked and it was hours between picks. My associates and I (CwinsBA and CwinsHarry) enjoyed each other’s company but little else. It was painful, slow, and frustrating.
In the end, after having a day to think about it, I think the Browns executed a plan and stuck to it. It seems that this regime had come to a few conclusions after studying the Browns and their own coaching philosophies. There are other ways to interpret this, but I will give the optimistic view.
1) The Browns are a very young team already, one of the youngest in the league, and to add young players just to add them was not a winning approach. I think it is safe to say that we have accumulated plenty of special teams players over the past several years.
2) The Browns new defensive philosophy would demand a more aggressive change of talent than would the change in offensive systems. We all knew this and it was one reason there was a subtle hope that the Browns would keep Dick Jauron instead of changing systems.
3) That it was a more structurally sound approach to see if Brandon Weeden could make this new offensive system work before playing all our cards to add a quarterback. Also, to “reach” for a quarterback this year would not advance the program even if Weeden does falter.
4) That the Browns needed to structure next year’s draft to be aggressive if the opportunity presented itself. (and it did)
I can’t really disagree with these conclusions and understand the rationale for them. However, if they do not execute, this “passive” draft will come back to haunt them.
So, finally, let’s take a look at the Brown’s 2013 draft. They came into the draft with 7 picks, ended up taking 5 players and three of them were in the last 2 rounds. Not much to inspire confidence there. But, as most Brown’s fans know, you can’t look at this draft that simply. You need to factor all trades and previous decisions. The Brown’s draft then looks like this:
Round 1: Barkevious Mingo, LB, LSU
Round 2: Josh Gordon, WR, Baylor
Round 3: Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State
Round 4: 3rd round pick of Steelers in 2014
Round 5: Davone Best, WR, formerly Miami Dolphins
Round 5: 4th round pick of Indianapolis in 2014
Round 6: Jamoris Slaughter, S, Notre Dame
Round 7: Armonty Bryant, DE, East Central Oklahoma
Round 7: Garrett Gilkey, OG, Chadron State
Not anything to get overly excited about but certainly not a complete disaster on paper.
Mingo, whether you agree with the emphasis on pass rush or not, should be a solid player based on his predraft scouting reports. He was a consensus top 10 pick on most boards. The Browns have clearly emphasized the pass rush off the edge with additions of Kruger, Groves, and Mingo to go along with Jabaal Sheard. This also is consistent with the need to restructure the personnel on defense to support Horton and Chud’s vision of an aggressive, quarterback disruptive, defense. Many have thought that this should mean trading Sheard is a given. I disagree. Given the amount of injuries most teams suffer in an average campaign, having 4 solid edge rushers on one team is not a luxury. Given that not having that capability is nearly death to Horton’s defensive system, I can see the reasoning to keep all four. Plus, our inside linebackers are not proven except for D’Quell Jackson and even he is not as effective in a 3-4 defense. Robertson and JMJ will be stretched to contribute heavily.
Josh Gordon has proven that he can be an effective receiver. Now is his chance to show that he can be a star receiver as getting picked in the second round would imply. Clearly Banner knows the jury is out on Gordon as he said that “We are rooting for Josh to prove to us” that he was worthy of his second round pick status. That clearly comes from Lombardi as well who panned the Browns for using a second round pick on Gordon. I personally feel that Gordon will prove them all wrong and he is EASILY worth a second round pick. In fact, I think he would have been a first round pick in this year’s draft.
Leon McFadden is a risky pick because of his size in the AFC North division. There are a ton of larger receivers who can leverage their size to get to balls that McFadden will not be able to reach. They obviously believe his downside is as a nickel corner and upside is as a starting outside corner. Time will tell on that one. There seemed to be better choices on the board. But, make no mistake, we really needed a corner and he was apparently on the top of the Brown’s board. His ability to play “on an island” seemed to influence the Brown’s decision. We will see.
I’ll list the acquisition of the third and fourth round picks next year for our picks in rounds 4 and 5 together. This goes along with the idea that we have a ton of young players and it is not worth it to pick a player just to pick him. Banner clearly said in his press conference that they entered the day feeling like they would use both picks. As the draft progressed, they felt this was the best value for those picks. I can’t totally disagree with that because next year’s draft may be much deeper and certainly will be better at the top end of the quarterback position. I feel that the Brown’s need to “load up” for next year’s draft if at all possible. This was a good start.
Davone Best should be a solid starter for this team. He is a veteran who has had solid success and is young enough to have a long career with the Browns. We have him for four years now that the extension was signed. Good pick-up here for sure.
The final three picks are simply “hopeful” “might be” “maybe we will get lucky” pics. They all have blemishes either by talent, character, injuries, or competition level in college. Apparently the Browns did their homework and felt that they could be value late in the draft. They were not picked for their “special team” ability or potential. The hope is that the blemishes will be minor once they get on the football field. If the Browns get extremely lucky, one of them might become a starter. If the Browns are not lucky, they will be bagging groceries soon. Only Slaughter might have the skill set to be a special teams player. The Browns, like some other teams, target guys like this late in the draft and hope a few come through. Most of us fans, myself included, would like them to draft off the board and pick some higher rated players that were overlooked earlier in the draft. They did not. At least Slaughter and Gilkey were in positions of serious need and Bryant is another one to add to the pass rusher group.
What did the Browns not effectively address in this draft? Tight End, Offensive Guard, Quarterback, Middle Linebacker, Cornerback, and Safety. Those are a ton of areas not to address effectively. The Tight End, Cornerback, and Safety weaknesses of the Browns are substantial and oozing wounds on our team. We did draft a corner, but he seems best suited to nickle corner as opposed to being an outside corner. Again, time will tell.
The ability to resist the temptation to “chase” a quarterback is refreshing and I am very pleased with that. No draft expert was overly impressed with this quarterback class and we would have needed to chase one down by overpaying. That may be the absolute best strategy next year, but not this year in my view. We need to give Weeden a chance in this vertical passing shotgun offense before we completely give up on him. Next year should be enough to determine that. A developmental quarterback would have been of little value in this draft.
So they stuck to their principles and made the picks and moves to support their conclusions. That is a good thing and is to be admired. However, if they do not execute with extreme precision from here, it will not turn out to be a good draft or a smart one. Given the way I started this post, you can tell I am skeptical of that and for solid reasons. Now Banner “prove to me” that you are worthy of running the football operations of an NFL franchise. Just like you will do with Gordon, I will be rooting for you to succeed even if I have my doubts.