Cleveland Draft A Mixed Bag
By Steven King
From the moment they arrived, the members of this new Cleveland Browns’ regime said the team will attack and be real aggressive on both sides of the ball.
That aggressiveness showed as free agency began when the Browns wasted no time in signing the No. 1 player on their shopping list in OLB Paul Kruger, then added DL Desmond Bryant and OLB Quentin Groves quickly thereafter.
But the NFL Draft over the weekend was a mixed bag. In some respects, the Browns’ battle cry continued to be, “Charge!” At other times, though, the team appeared to be screeching, “Retreat!”
It started out well enough Thursday night. Bucking the disappointing trend of previous regimes that had a penchant for trading down in the first round, the Browns put on their big-boy pants instead. They stood their ground, stayed at No. 6 overall and took LSU DE Barkevious Mingo, who they plan to convert to outside linebacker.
Having forfeited their second-round pick when they chose WR Josh Gordon in the second round of the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft, they aggressively tried to trade back up into the second round. But they were unsuccessful, so they had to wait 62 picks to grab San Diego State CB Leon McFadden.
Then over the next two rounds, the Browns seemed to revert to the ways of the past and pulled what could be called “a Mike Holmgren.” The procrastinating former Browns president had no sense of urgency, no immediacy.
So, with Holmgren smiling somewhere as he probably took a sip of a drink from “a glass with one of those little umbrellas in it,” as he said so often when he was here, the Browns traded their fourth-round pick to Pittsburgh – the arch-rival Steelers – for their third-rounder in 2014. It was the first time that the two teams had consummated a trade in 45 years, since 1968 – the year before ex-Browns messenger G Chuck Noll took over as coach of the Steelers – when Cleveland acquired QB Bill Nelsen.
The fact the Browns and Steelers could play nice with each other long enough to work out a trade means there is indeed hope for world peace. Then the Browns swapped their fifth-rounder to Indianapolis for the Colts’ fourth-rounder in 2014. So the Browns went through the entire fourth and fifth rounds without a pick, meaning that in the first five rounds, they drafted exactly two players. When they finally chose again in the sixth round, taking Notre Dame S Jamoris Slaughter at No. 175, they had gone 107 picks without a selection.
The Browns believe next year’s draft class will be stronger overall than this year’s, thus meaning that the 2014 third- and fourth-rounders they picked up from the Steelers and Colts will be worth more.
That’s all well and good, but where’s the immediacy in that? Fans have been waiting since the team’s return in 1999 for the Browns to build a winner, but the trades smack of the club saying that fans will have to wait a little longer -- until at least 2014 -- for that winner to materialize.
Then there’s the fact Slaughter is no sure thing for next season as he missed virtually all of 2012 after tearing his Achilles’ tendon in the third game. He said that he is 90 percent recovered and will be ready for the start of training camp, but is that contention based on facts, or simply the kind of hope and enthusiasm that always emanates during the draft?
We shall see.
The clock was turned to the future in the seventh round as well when the Browns used their last two picks of the draft to take small-school players in East Central (Okla.) DE/OLB Armonty Bryant at No. 217 and Chadron State (Neb.) OT Garrett Gilkey at No. 227. Seventh-round choices are always projects, but even more so when they are from Division II schools.
So while the Browns have made it clear that they want to be aggressive and force the action this year, it also seems clear that they have forced much of that action into 2014 with the way they drafted.