Browns Draft Class Not All Green
By Steven King
To be fair, the worth of the Cleveland Browns’ 2013 NFL Draft class should not be evaluated solely by the five players who were selected over the weekend.
It must also include two players, second-year WR Josh Gordon and ex-Miami Dolphin WR Davone Bess. And when those players are factored into the equation, bringing to seven the number in the class, the draft looks a whole lot better.
Gordon is, in essence, the second-round pick the Browns did not have this year. That pick was forfeited when the Browns used a same choice in the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft to take him. Gordon came to the Browns as green as green can be, not having played football since 2010 – his second season at Baylor. He was at Utah in 2011 but did not play.
As such, Gordon was out of football shape, he was out of shape physically and he didn’t know anything at all about the Browns’ offense, the coaches he’d be playing for or his new teammates. After a completely understandable sluggish start, Gordon came on like gangbusters. He was third on the team with 50 receptions – just two behind leader and fellow wideout Greg Little – while he led the team with 805 receiving yards and five touchdown catches. His 71-yarder – for a touchdown – was the club’s longest reception of the year. And for those with 20 or more receptions, Gordon’s 16.1 yards-per-catch average was tops on the Browns.
Did we also mention at 6-3 and 225 pounds and, with speed, that Gordon is a matchup nightmare? Now, if Cleveland had taken Gordon in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft and he put up those numbers, fans would be thrilled. It would mean the team had selected a great player. So instead of bemoaning the fact the Browns didn’t have a second-round pick this year, fans ought to be happy the club has Gordon, who is only 22 years of age as of two weeks ago.
Cleveland went through a similar ordeal in 1985 and 1986 when they traded the top part of its draft to the Buffalo Bills both years for the opportunity to take Bernie Kosar No. 1 overall in the 1985 Supplemental Draft. The Browns couldn’t have both – the top picks and Kosar – so they took the franchise quarterback. And we all know how that turned out.
Thus, in the 1985 draft, when the Browns got very little other than a wide receiver in the seventh round (Reggie Langhorne), they also, in essence, got Kosar in what was part of that small but significant draft class. This is not in any way trying to compare Kosar’s worth to the Browns all those years ago to that of Gordon now. As we know, at this stage of Gordon’s career, it’s apples and oranges.
But at the same time, if Cleveland can get its quarterback situation squared away and find someone – be it Brandon Weeden or another signal-caller not already on the roster – to consistently get him the ball, then Gordon will be a valuable piece for a team that could become very good over the next several years.
In Bess – acquired during the weekend from the Dolphins in an exchange of draft picks – the Browns got that accomplished veteran wide receiver they’ve needed for so long. Over the last four seasons, he has caught 267 passes – the 14th-highest total in the NFL during that span. In addition, Bess is exceptionally good on third down, something Cleveland have lacked since 2007 when Joe Jurevicius was in town.
Bess is, in reality, also part of the 2013 draft class. The Browns didn’t lose any draft picks in the trade to get him, giving up two choices (in the fourth and fifth rounds) and acquiring two in return (fourth- and seventh-rounders). If Bess is as good as advertised – and there’s no reason to believe otherwise – then he’s going to really upgrade the team’s receiving corps.
A team can be built in a lot of different ways. The fact Bess and Gordon weren’t selected in the college draft shouldn’t take away from their worth to the Browns, nor should it exclude them from being part of the 2013 draft class since the way they were acquired is tied directly to this year’s draft picks.
In fact, if Bess and Gordon become real contributors, then no one in Cleveland will care how they got here – just as no one cared how Kosar (or 1984 Supplemental Draft picks such as RB Kevin Mack, LB Mike Johnson and WR/KR/PR Gerald “The Ice Cube” McNeil) got to town on the way to playing key roles in the Browns’ great run through the last half of the 1980s.