Browns draft review and sidebars.
Remember when I would pump Kolonich’s tires because I really like what he said and how he said it? Well Chris Pokorny is becoming the new Kolonich because his draft review (and most all of his pieces at DBN) hits on everything I wanted to say both in content and structure. In fact, I’ll give an all around atta-boy to Dawgs by Nature for their draft coverage, it’s been a good read.1
Quick sidebar: Even Matt Wood’s peculiar post entitled Browns Need To Lose Brian Hoyer Now was thought-provoking. Of course, it’s entirely incorrect; the correct path outlined here. But the quote that I’m struggling to respond to is this:
Some fans believe that Brian Hoyer is a viable starter for the Browns. You know who doesn’t? Ray Farmer and the Browns front office. If they did, I’m guessing our draft would have looked a bit different.
I don’t want this to be so, but my new all-time favorite GM just selected a QB in the first round and traded up to do so. That’s a signal of light confidence in Hoyer-the-starting-QB. Firsties of great GMs aren’t burned on non-starters. Wood’s other points centering on the downside of QB controversy I mainly agree with.
I’m still wrapping my head around the meaning of taking a QB in the first round and bracing myself for an outcome that doesn’t include Hoyer in a starring role. Don’t expect it to happen, but prepping for it just the say. Put it this way: you’re a starting QB and will be a UFA at the end of the year and your team just drafted a Heisman-winning QB in the first round. Do you rent or buy?
Back to the draft. I think I’ll just borrow the structure Pokorny used it his piece.
The pick mix.
- 1st Round (#8): CB Justin Gilbert
- 1st Round (#22): QB Johnny Manziel
- 2nd Round (#35): OG Joel Bitonio
- 3rd Round (#71): ILB Christian Kirksey
- 3rd Round (#94): RB Terrance West
- 4th Round (#127): CB Pierre Desir
Browns came with ten picks and used six; all at the top of the draft. This is simple and brilliant. While it’s possible that all ten draft picks would not make the team, there’s no doubt that half that will be significant contributors. Isn’t it better to use those resources to maximize the number ‘significant contributors’ you’re adding? In other words, here’s the players taken in the fifth round or later for the Browns recently:
- Slaughter, Bryant, Gilkey;
- Miller, Acho, Winn, Wade, Smelley;
- Skrine Pinkston, Hagg;
- Asante, Mitchell, Geathers;
- Carey, Francies, Davis;
- Rubin, Hubbard, Hall;
- McDonald, Purcell, Pittman, Steptoe;
- Harrison, Minter, Vickers, Oshinowo, Hamilton.
I count one impact player (Rubin). Even allowing for poor drafting by the Browns, it only makes sense that you have a better chance of landing an impact player higher in the draft.
The trade at #4 conundrum.
I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am shocked that there is not 100% support for the tremendous value in this trade. We give Buffalo Watkins — maybe a good/great WR, but as Andre Johnson will tell you, you can’t be a great WR by yourself — and we get Gilbert and Buffalo’s first and fourth. It’s mind-bending I tell you! See above re: impact players. It’s hard to see how we don’t wind up with two impact players for the price of one and that is how you build a team for the long run. Ogden-Lewis draft anyone?
About Watkins. I don’t even think he was the top WR on the Browns’ board. Believe this or don’t but I heard from two people with no connection to each other that they heard Evans was the top WR (one guy said the top player) on their board. So I’m sure they did math and calc’d there was a low probability Evans gets past the Bucs but if he had, he’d have probably dropped to nine. So a 25% chance, say, of landing your #1 AND getting a (probable) top ten pick next year and the worst case is…
About Gilbert. The worst case is you get the top CB in the draft perfectly suited for the defense Pettine wants to play. We’re living in a world where Mo Claiborne went at #6, Stephon Gilmore at #10, Dee Milliner at #9… and they range from meh to part-time player but they were the top CBs in a league that prizes top CBs.2 The three above were taken so high because of the value of CB but they weren’t top ten athletes. Justin Gilbert on the other hand is like a longer Patrick Peterson. Definitely top ten talent and in most drafts he’d be top five. I can’t say he’s not a consolation prize for missing Evans, but he’s a fantastic consolation prize at a highly-valued position of need. And did I mention we have the Bills’ #1 next year. There is nothing not to like.3 Feeling out the Vikings with that trade up from nine to eight. Rick Spielman got the better of Heckert/Holgren with that Trent Richardson trade-up a couple years ago.4 Farmer paid him back. Consider. Farmer calls Minny wanting to trade up one slot. Minny thinks they’re getting over on us with a faux-auction for Manziel. But when the Browns pass over Manziel, the Vikes now think the Browns aren’t in the QB market in the first round. This head fake probably made it easier to outbid the Vikes at #22 for Manziel.
Well that and the Browns could offer #26 this year and Vikes would’ve need to pony up a #1 next year. Point is: nice game theory execution by Farmer.
You all know I’m all-in for Hoyer, ok? True believer in “When you have two QBs, you have none.” Hate the naming-a-starter drama. Circuses don’t yield good teams. Etc. But I’m prepared to be deferential to sources I respect. So when the draftbrowns.com guys want him like crazy,,, well those are the same guys who were with me on Evans, Fuller, and Bucannon so it makes me think they’re onto something with Manziel. But mainly, I’m prepared to defer to Ray Farmer. He hasn’t made a move yet that I don’t really like. He managed to salvage Alex Mack. I like the Dansby and Whitner signing. Obviously I think he crushed it with the Gilbert/Bills deal. And we haven’t even gotten to Bitonio, Kirksey, West, and Desir,,, but I like/love all those picks. So when Farmer decides Manziel is worth going after and price is a mid-third rounder (Louis Nix), I’m going to grant much leeway.
Sidebar #2: Geez Bart Hubbuch. Relax.
If the Browns didn’t want the Johnny Manziel circus, THEN WHY DRAFT THE GUY? — Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) May 13, 2014
I can help with this one Bart. We drafted Johnny Manziel to contribute to winning more football games in the fall. Increased national publicity through bringing in a high-profile celebrity is an unfortunate consequence, not the goal.
Here’s where Hubbuch either doesn’t get it or is simply lying:
Never mind that The Post, like every other media outlet, was going to Cleveland with the expectation of writing a positive story — something that doesn’t happen too often for a sad-sack franchise with just two winning seasons since its return to the city in 1999.
Meh. I doubt it. Trainwrecks get pageviews. The national types where hoping to see the same fluttery out-routes Teddy Bridgewater threw at his pro-day. And if Manziel should actually perform decently at camp, the fall-back is staking out every bar in Cuyahoga county with bounties paid for Vines of JFF Drinking Alcohol. Nope, sorry. We’re willing to wait and we’ll be sure to keep an eye out for positive Johnny Manziel stories out of the New York Post in December.
Farmer talked about having pods of players grouped and that when their picks came in, they weren’t looking at A player, they were looking at a set of players they wanted all of whom were on the coaches DO WANT list.
Bitonio. Thus when pick #36 came up, apparently, Joel Bitonio was the most wanted player in his pod. Works for me. OG/OT is a need and a major one. Repeat: a major need. Yeah, sure so was WR2 (and perhaps WR1). But they got the best player who fills a need and I will not argue with that. Moreover, when you get a good guard you also improve the tackle and center he helps out. Guard is like a three-fer. And we haven’t even gotten into the innate goodness of owning the offensive line of scrimmage and the correlation between same and dynastic football.
Kirksey. Who’s this guy? Was not on my radar. Nothing flashy at the combine. I mean check out his combine bottom line: “Small-framed, athletic, finesse, run-around Will linebacker who will have to stand out on special teams to earn a reserve spot.” Err, ok. No buzz at the post-season all-star games. Just a name. Then I came across this post. And then I watched this highlight reel.
When we talk about needs, it’s not just positional but also categorical. Here’s last year’s Browns sorted by their pass defense grades.
Seeing a trend? Yeah, Pettine/Farmer are going right after that hole. Because — and take note Joe Banner — while pass rush makes your pass defenders betters, pass defenders also make your pass rush better. YOU NEED BOTH. (Scott from Austin Powers voice: Ass.)
West. Farmer says he’s build like MJD but bigger and with Jerome Bettis type nifty feet. He’s got great stats, lots of touchdowns, built like a tank. But you know how Pettine is always talking about wanting guys who are passionate about football? Here’s West’s twitter photostream. I think he’s going to fit right in. For a comparison and lesson on how not to impressed Coach Pettine, check UDFA WR Jonathan Krause.5
Desir. Just another long athletic d-back. See this isn’t so hard. Big WRs need big CBs. Note to Leon McFadden: bang out some instagrams of you at the gym, stat.
The grade is A.
The only way this could’ve been better would have been if the Browns hadn’t backed out of a deal to get Taylor Lewan from the Titans at #11. We’ll probably never know what happened there, but for me, I’d rather have Lewan than Manziel… but then there probably would’ve been a whole Bridgewater or Carr thing going on at the top of the second and the back-end result would not have yielded Kirksey-West-Desir with whom I am quite delighted. So I’ll move the grade back up to A+.
Perhaps it is the recent memory of last year’s “Commitment to non-excellence” draft but can’t remember being as jacked about a draft ever. The terrific news is that Farmer recognized that the Browns are in the “need impact players, not scrappy special teamers” phase of their team building and executed his plan accordingly.
- I also want to note that Lane Atkins has been absolutely crushing it pay behind theobr.com’s paywall. [back]
- See the Haden and Sherman contracts. [back]
- Even the fifth we used with the Vikes to move up turned into nothing – David Yankey – and we’ve established that Farmer had determined that those late round picks at chits. [back]
- Vikings got a fourth out of his and turned it into Jarius Wright. [back]
- Krause’s media feed. [back]