One week removed from the fun and buildup of the NFL Draft, and what do we know? Well, not much. We know the Browns are bringing Barkevious Mingo, Leon McFadden, Jamoris Slaughter, Garrett Gilkey, and Armonty Bryant, along with a bunch of undrafted free agents into the fold with a shot at making the team. We know the team has 9 picks next year, including 6 in the first four rounds. We know there are still holes on this team. Other than that, it’s a lot of guesswork, and listed below, is some of mine.
1. I think everyone now understands that giving instant grades to drafts is pretty silly. Sure, we did it here earlier in the week, but it was more our reaction to the strategy that the team chose to follow rather than an indictment on whether it was successful or not. Instead, I’d much rather look at the draft three years ago. Now, with three years to see these guys come along (and go, in some instances), THIS draft can be graded.
We have two established starters in Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, with Haden regarded as a Pro-Bowl caliber player. We have two players still (likely) on the roster this upcoming year in Shawn Lauvao and Montario Hardesty. Both have been affected significantly by injuries. Hardesty missed his entire rookie year when he tore his ACL again, while Lauvao was slowed by an injury in his rookie campaign, playing in 10 games and starting just 1. Colt McCoy is obviously the 49ers backup now following the offseason trade after starting 21 games with the Browns, going 6-15. Asante was cut before the season started in 2010, but he caught on with the Tampa Bay Bucs and is currently with the Indianapolis Colts. Carlton Mitchell was cut by the Browns after three catches in two seasons, and he’s currently with the Dallas Cowboys. Clifton Geathers played in 8 games last year for the Colts, recording five tackles, and he is now with the Eagles after an offseason trade.
Two, maybe three, starters from this draft in the upcoming season ((I’m not counting out that Pinkston and Greco end up starting at the guard positions.) One other contributor in a reserve role. With eight picks, all of them are still in the NFL, and four of them are still with the team. Given the caliber of Haden and Ward, I’m willing to give this draft a B or B+. McCoy was worth the third-round gamble given that if you hit on a QB there, you look like a genius. He’s probably going to have a long NFL career and showed his ability to come in to relieve an injured starter. Three years later, I still regret the Heckert front office taking a chance (and trading up!!) on Hardesty given his injury history in the second round. The three picks dealt turned into Morgan Burnett, a highly productive safety (244 tackles, 6 INT) for the Packers (71st overall), Ricky Sapp (134th overall) an end of the roster defensive end currently with the Jets, and Cam Thomas defensive tackle (141st overall) for the Chargers who has played 32 games the last two years, starting five of them.
2. As a little exercise to show how contributions come from all levels of the NFL Draft, here’s my best guess for the Browns’ 53-man roster as it stands right now along with what round they were selected.
1st round picks (8) – Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Trent Richardson, Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, Phil Taylor, Barkevious Mingo, Joe Haden
2nd rd. (9) – Montario Hardesty, Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Mitchell Schwartz, T.J. Ward, Jabaal Sheard, Paul Kruger, D’Qwell Jackson, Quentin Groves
3rd rd. (6) – Shawn Lauvao, John Greco, John Hughes, Leon McFadden, Chris Owens, Kevin Barnes
4th rd. (4) – Owen Marecic, Travis Benjamin, Jordan Cameron, James-Michael Johnson
5th rd. (5) – Dion Lewis, Kellen Davis, Gary Barnidge, Jason Pinkston, Buster Skrine
6th rd. (3) – Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn, Jamoris Slaughter
7th rd. (4) – Chris Ogbonnaya, Garrett Gilkey, Armonty Bryant, Eric Hagg
UDFA (14) – Thaddeus Lewis, Davone Bess, David Nelson, Jordan Norwood, Chris Faulk, Desmond Bryant, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, L.J. Fort, Craig Robertson, Johnson Bademosi, Tashaun Gipson, Shayne Graham, Spencer Lanning, Christian Yount
When you look at that, I can understand why fans are upset that the Browns took a pass on the second, fourth, and fifth rounds this year in the draft (the second round pass, of course, was predetermined with the Gordon pick). That concern doesn’t fall on deaf ears, but when you look at the age of the roster, you’ll see that this roster is already incredibly young (just four guys over the age of 28 in Weeden, Campbell, Graham, and D’Qwell Jackson). My guess is that Banner, Lombardi, and company saw plenty of players with three years experience or less in the league that needed evaluation by *their* guys before being shoved out the door. Given the option to improve those draft picks in a future draft (one that some people say is a better draft), they took it. I cannot fault them for that. Rome was not built in a day, and the Browns won’t be either.
3. Avoiding a QB in the draft was ABSOLUTELY the right thing to do. Whether it was EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, or Ryan Nassib that was the highest on your list, I think the Browns benefited most by filling other needs. Next year’s QB draft crop is much more talented and could include Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Texas A&M’s Johnny “Football” Manziel, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, David Fales of San Jose State, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech, and Aaron Murray of Georgia projected by Walter Football to go in the first two rounds. With the extra picks, you could possibly move up, depending on where the team finishes this season. Let Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell battle it out in training camp and the preseason, name one your starter, and stick with that guy unless he gets injured. Try to coach whichever guy up as much as you can with these added offensive weapons and improve, attacking defense and see what happens.
4. Speaking of those offensive weapons, I really do think the Browns have improved their situation on that side of the ball. I think the QBs will need some time to get coached up, but if it’s Campbell, he’s familiar with this type of system. We saw what a banged up Trent Richardson was able to do last season. We know that this offensive line at the tackles and in the middle is incredibly solid. What has me the most excited is this group of receivers they now have. You have to start with Josh Gordon, because I think he’s going to be absolutely huge this year. He was incredibly raw last season, and he still had 50 catches and 805 yards receiving. I asked a couple Dolphins fans that I know, and they told me that Browns fans would absolutely love Davone Bess. Couple that with less pressure on Greg Little and another slot option in David Nelson to go with burner Travis Benjamin, and this group should be fun to watch.
5. I still think a trade takes place among the front seven personnel. Whether it’s Ahtyba Rubin, Jabaal Sheard, or someone else, I feel like the Browns could be looking for a corner, safety, or an additional pick in next year’s draft. I personally love that depth, but let’s just call it a gut feeling that someone gets moved.
6. The first round pick is usually the face of the draft. If it’s a gigantic bust, you’ll never forget it. I think Barkevious Mingo is going to have a long and productive career in the NFL. If he does, then the real key to the draft being an overall success or the failure is if Leon McFadden or Jamoris Slaughter is going to be a long term answer in the secondary. If two impact starters on the defensive side of the ball can be added from this draft, I think it should deserve at least the B grade I gave the draft three years ago today. Time will tell.
(Photo: Jason DeCrow/AP)