Browns draft review and sidebars.

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Farmer’s press conferences have been superb.

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.

Brian+Hoyer+Cincinnati+Bengals+v+Cleveland+KWFV4wRq-IEx

I still say: Sign Hoyer now.

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.

Andre-Johnson-5

Make this happen and it’s “Sammy who?”

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.

Johnny-Manziel-Partying-1

You can always trust national media when they come to town looking to do a positive piece.

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.

Manziel.

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.

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.

Nike-Johnny-Manziel-Cleat-Concept-Design-4-500x310

WE’RE MISSING 24X7 COVERAGE OF THIS!

Positional needs.

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.

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Turns out you need more than an aggressive pass rush.

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The right twitter photostream.

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

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The wrong twitter photostream.

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+.

ass-drag 2

Compared to last year’s draft, what a difference a year makes.

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.


 

  1. I also want to note that Lane Atkins has been absolutely crushing it pay behind theobr.com’s paywall. [back]
  2. See the Haden and Sherman contracts. [back]
  3. 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]
  4. Vikings got a fourth out of his and turned it into Jarius Wright. [back]
  5. Krause’s media feed. [back]

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  • mgbode

    late to the party here, but much applause. I agree with most (higher on JFF, lower on Hoyer — but not to crazy degrees on either). and, as noted, this is the most excited “post” draft that I have ever been. considering our past drafts, I am taking that as a good thing.

  • jpftribe

    Good work here Kanick and agree with most, ‘cept obviously the 22 pick. In the ‘youcanneverhaveenoughpassrushers’ spirit:

    http://nfldraftdiamonds.com/elhadji-ndiaye-the-2014-nfl-drafts-super-sleeper/

    This is the kinda guy you want to see make it. Even if he destroys wedges on special teams for a couple of years.

  • jpftribe

    Hat tip to mskogs on twitter for this:

    http://www.espn980.com/shows/the-drive-with-cooley-and-czabe.php#

    19:40 in, listen to an NFL player that has actually started games and played for Kyle Shanahan. If Johnny Football was a NASDAQ listed stock, smart money would be calling this irrational exuberance. To me, it is completely delusional to take a position that the guy has to play because of his college / draft status. If the guy is the best QB to run the offense fine, start him. The odds of him being able to do that in the first half of the season are astronomical. They improve to , oh let’s say, cosmic in the second half.

    I didn’t like the pick when it happened, and like it even less now. Haslam influenced the pick big time, and he doesn’t know shit about NFL quarterbacks. He certainly knows sleezy hype and the ability to monetize it though, built his career on it. Caplan had a nice twitter exchange with Skogs and stood his ground in saying Manziel was NOT the No 1 QB on the Browns board.

    Another reason I hate this pick so much, is because since (and including) the day they fired Banner and Lombardi, I love everything they have done. Like Bups post below, I don’t have to think about it and talk myself into it, I actually agree with it. But taking JFF is a massive gamble. And if it goes wrong it sets them back another three years.

    I have a feeling a year from now all of the DBN knuckledraggers that are anointing JFF as the next messiah, while wanting to cut Hoyer loose, are going to be wanting the Browns to trade 3 No 1’s for next years QB phenom as Hoyer signs a really nice FA deal with the Jets, KC or Texans for a Super Bowl run.

  • Sam Gold

    “Ass.” Just laugh projected my coffee all over my desk.

  • Tron

    Good stuff Kanick. You feeling good about it makes me feel good about it. Although, I am concerned about the Hoyer conundrum. If Hoyer starts and plays like he is capable of, as evidenced by last season, how do you sit him? I think we’re gonna field a solid squad next season and decent quaterback play could be enough to go .500. I want to be patient with Johnny but why put ourselves in a position where we’re constantly second guessing ourselves? Matt Wood is right in saying that since we’ve already drafted a QB in the first round we’ve already made our decision. So why complicate things?

    Sidenote: Bart Hubbuch is a douchebag

    That being said, I don’t know why but I’m really jacked about Kirksey. I too knew nothing of him but this guy looks like a playmaker. I think it was a great pick by Farmer and Pettine. Speaking of which those two big bald dudes go together like chocolate and vanilla. Love those guys.

    • bupalos

      >>> Matt Wood is right in saying that since we’ve already drafted a QB in the first round we’ve already made our decision>>>

      Where do people get this? It’s so antithetical to the spirit Pettine embodies and is bringing. Just what would that “decision” they supposedly made be? That all our hopes need to be bundled up and put on Manziel’s shoulders because fans are going nuts? They passed him over twice. They aren’t that sold, he was just a good if speculative value. They don’t know if he can even play NFL football. Like… at all. They obviously think there is a decent chance that he can, and hope he can play at a higher level than the mostly uninspiring unknown we have now. Why would it go beyond that? All the hype has fans somehow thinking that Manziel is more important to them and their plans than a good cornerback prospect. He isn’t. By definition. He isn’t the face of the franchise. He’s a guy about a dozen slots less promising to them than our 2nd cornerback.

      My read on this is that “mental toughness” includes not jumping decisions just to get it out of your head and get pressure off. I think they are fine living with the uncertainty, I think they welcome it. Harbaugh is the gold standard for me on football decision making. The way they handled Smith-Kaepernick is exactly what we need to do here. Manziel has the job when they think he can perform better than Hoyer and everyone else on the roster. If that never happens he never gets the job on anything more than trial.

      • Tron

        Johnny Manziel was the top rated Quarterback in this years draft and we took him. That means a lot. Kaepernick never had the #1 selling jersey. In this world that means even more.

        Evaluating Quarterbacks is not that simple. If it was then there wouldn’t be QB’s drafted in the top-10 busting every year. Game film, measurables and reps in practice are not enough to judge a QB. Look at last season. Chud and Turner, two guys who know a lot about the position, had the order inverted.

        If Hoyer plays the way he did last season and stays healthy I do think we have a problem. We didn’t draft AJ McCarron in the 5th or Aaron Murray in the 4th. I cannot see a scenario where we refuse to give Manziel a chance. No matter how well Hoyer plays.

        • bupalos

          >>>Johnny Manziel was the top rated Quarterback in this years draft and we
          took him. That means a lot. Kaepernick never had the #1 selling jersey.
          In this world that means even more.>>>

          Neither of those mean a thing from a football perspective. Top rated 1st rounder one year (and that was by no means even a consensus) could be 5th rated 2nd rounder another. And I guess what I’m saying is I hope and believe these guys think football first, second, and third and these kind of truly meaningless political considerations last. I think they will. I think that’s part of what mental toughness means to them, resisting this kind of meaningless pressure and making the correct call rather than the popular or easy one.

          Kaepernick and Manziel are quite similar prospects. Very similar, outside the hype. Smith and Hoyer might be considered somewhat similar too, though Hoyer has a ways to go to prove that. A big part of the reason the 49ers are as good as they are right now is because of how this was handled. They got great value out of Smith and obviously it worked great for Kap’s development. This is our best case. And it relies on Hoyer and the team playing well. I’m optimistic that’s what’s going to happen.

          • Tron

            I agree with what you say the problem is being “mentally tough” still requires making the right call and the two are not always related. I am not saying that Pettine and Farmer are incapable of it. I’m saying they’ve already tipped their hand.

            Taking the easy choice does not mean that it is the wrong choice. This is the classic chicken and egg scenario. Hoyer can play well and we win games but that does not mean that Manziel is not the better option.

            This is where QB controversies come from. Coaches are not dumb and neither are GM’s. Judging Quaterback talent is like playing baseball; the best go .300.

          • bupalos

            >>>I am not saying that Pettine and Farmer are incapable of it. I’m saying they’ve already tipped their hand.>>>

            They have tipped their hand. In fact, they’ve flopped their cards. They doubt Manziel can beat out Hoyer now. They said it before the draft and after, and I don’t think these guys are glib talkers as others seem to be inferring. I think anyone who has watched JF’s games and just thinks in football terms rather than in terms of hype and nicknames will believe it too. It’s very unlikely he’ll be ready soon, coming from the offense he was running and playing the way he did. Only if they decide to tailor the offense to him (which would be a mistake developmentally) is it really even on the table.

            Watch Kaepernick in the 2012 preseason, I think that’s a taste of where you can expect Manziel to be now. Pure disaster. Interception every 5th throw. You play a guy at that level of development on Sundays and you’ll have him shell-hocked and labelled a bust in 8 weeks.

          • Tron

            That sounds really nice on paper dude but it´s totally detached from reality. You´re telling me if we get 16 games out of Brian Hoyer playing the way he did last season that we go into the following season with an open competition? We´re Cleveland dude. We´re the most QB starved team in the league. And I don´t want to hear “well that´s a great problem to have so we trade JFF and get more picks” because IT´S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

            JFF=$. It´s what this country is all about.

            We are not going to trade Johnny Football until we see what he can do on the field. Not in practice. Not on highlight reels. On Sunday.

          • jpftribe

            Awesome, let’s play him. Hell have him start the preseason. Cut Hoyer loose now, at least then we won’t have to face the heartbreak of watching him sign with another team next year whilst we debate about yet another 22nd pick QB that is busted out……

            But hey, it sells tickets, jerseys and headlines!

          • Tron

            All I’m saying is that if Hoyer plays well (which he is more than capable of) we have a controversy. I don’t think these are ever good problems to have. Just my opinion. That is all.

          • nj0

            Those two were going through my head too. So if things work out well, we end up with two guys who can play, and then have to trade the journeyman vet for a 2nd round pick. Woe is us.

          • jpftribe

            Hoyer is a UFA after this season. If they don’t sign him now, he’s gone. To franchise him would cost $20M.

        • nj0

          For the life of me, I cannot see how having two good quarterbacks on your team would be a bad thing. As I’ve said a million times before, QB controversies are fine when you’re deciding between two guys who can play. When it’s Quinn/Anderson/Frye/Holcomb/Couch/et al, then you’re in trouble. Montana/Young, Favre/Rodgers, Hoyer/Manziel? Yes please.

          • bupalos

            Montana/Young, Favre/Rodgers, Hoyer/Manziel….

            Outstanding. You deserve to wear the smiley face today!

      • jpftribe

        I went to the Niners – Giants game at Candlestick in 2012. Smith was having a bad day, threw three pics. They would bring in this guy I never heard of to run the pistol for a series in the middle of a drive. Killed every drive. Just sucked the momentum out of everything, then Smith returns for a series and throws incomplete or INT. Punts and turnovers. I literally was turning to Niners fans asking who the hell this QB is they keep putting in to kill drives.

        Giants killed the Niners that game, 26-3. I left thinking Harbaugh had completely lost his mind.

  • bupalos

    >>>then why draft the guy?>>>

    Uh, dunno Mr. Tabloid Man, maybe to throw the football? Just guessing here.

    I’m way high on the Gilbert pick and at least a little teensy surprised you are kannick. I mean, I know you like the guy, but he wasn’t your highest at the position even, and doesn’t this draft start to verge into the “can’t have enough pass defenders” territory for you? They’ve now got 2 high number 1’s and verging on a hundred million bucks invested back there…The majority of our draft and the majority of our FA dollars this year. Meanwhile they are surrendering the season by not even having a valid #3 WR, let alone #1 or #2.

    This isn’t me talking, this is me alternate-universe sockpuppeting you, off your ballistics on “can’t have too many pass rushers.”

    This draft really is damn near perfect. There is no question the Vikes were baited on the trade and their jaws had to be on the floor with the Gilbert pick. I even love the Manziel pick, as I now see it as giving life to Pettine’s adage that we WILL be mentally tough. The Browns were not afraid to pick him and aren’t afraid of the pressure and distraction and won’t be afraid to sit him unless-and-until they think he gives them the best chance to win the game in front of them. I think this is partly the meaning of that pick.

    So very good signs here even apart from the players we got.

    Holy crap, I keep forgetting we also get an extra #1, just as an oh-by-the-way, toss-in kind of thing. It’s nuts. This doesn’t happen here. No wonder the Gordon thing had to come down.

    • i never thought we’d have a chance at gilbert at 26 so i kinda/definitely fixated on fuller. but gilbert is the better athlete and the area where fuller seemed to hold a clear edge over gilbert football-wise — run stop, blitz — pettine said specifically were not traits he sought at CB. BFT wants to leave haden/gilbert on islands and play 9-on-9. hey, works for me.

      you raise an interesting point about resources distro. but instead looking at position, look at groups. ie, haden is pricey, whitner too, but less so. but if you average the cap hit over haden-gilbert-whitner-gipson i bet it hovers around the league norm,, but with three impact players. same on the o-line. mack and thomas are expensive; but mack-thomas-greco-schwartz-bitonio,, not so much.

      re surrendering seasons: last year is the model for that. this year seems like every pick filled a hole, as did every FA signing. reality is you cant fill them all.

      re WRs: looks we signed austin and we still dont know what’s up with gordon. i’d have a liked WR sure but those guy liked bitonio that much better than matthews/robinson i dont feel in a position to argue. in the first round, if it’s a choice between evans+fuller vs gilbert+manziel+bills#1 i choose B.

      • bupalos

        Good thoughts on the distribution.

        It’s weird to actually agree with everything they are doing and saying. Like actually agree, rather than talking myself into it.

        • AlvaroEspinoza10

          Same sentiment here. For the first time ever, it seems like the people in charge are not bumbling idiots

    • “I think we better cut Hawkins now so there is no fan pressure to play him on the outside. That would destroy Mile’s Ausin’s confidence.”

      i rec’d that for you over on dbn. just wanted you to know.

  • What’s with all the red next to Buster Skrine’s name? We’ve been told that he is a great player, never mind what those pesky “statistics” say.

    The Manziel pick still makes me nervous, but he’s on the team so I am all in. And could not care any less about what the national media thinks the Browns should do. It’s time to get to work, not only for Manziel but for all the rookies. Having a bunch of out-of-town yahoos running around the facility does nothing to help Gilbert, Bitonio, Desir and the rest get ready for the season.

    Letting the media create a circus is a Jerry Jones-type move, so good job by the Browns shutting that down.

    • among the silly things hubbuch had to say, the silliest is invoking the “why this franchise is the NFL’s longest-running joke” meme.

      like what to farmer-pettine-haslam have to do with lerner-palmer-policy? that’s just a lazy cheap shot. and frankly, creating a manziel circus sounds straight out past regime’s playbooks.

      • As to the non-Manziel picks, really like Gilbert and Desir. If Gilbert really does have the ability to be a No. 1 CB and the Browns have him on No. 2 WRs opposite Haden, that should be a win each week right there.

        • we had plenty of hurries as a team last year but middle of pack on sacks and not that many turnovers. gilbert (+whitner +kirksey-maybe) should make a qb take a tenth of the second longer which means sack and picks.

      • jpftribe

        Surely he is comparing us to the Jets, cuz they have it so together there.