Friday, April 23, 2010

Same old, same old

The more the faces change in the front office of the Cleveland Browns, the more they remain the same.

Instead of Dwight Clark or Butch Davis or Phil Savage or Eric Mangini running the war room for the Browns during the NFL college draft as in years past, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert called the shots his year. And based on the first-round selection of cornerback Joe Haden, nothing has changed.

With the exception of Savage's selection of offensive tackle Joe Thomas in the first round of the 2007 lottery, the Browns' brain trust has whiffed on every opening-round selection. And you can include this year's pick in that group.

For a team that had an almost-deperate need for more help on offense, they chose to spend their tens of millions of first-round dollars on a relatively pint-sized cornerback.

The right side of the offensive line screamed for help. A game-busting running back would have been nice. And two of them were available.

C. J. Spiller, the slasher from Clemson, would have been a solid choice. And Bryan Bulaga, a ready-right-now offensive right tackle, was also there at No. 7. Probably the most technically sound offensive lineman in the draft, Bulaga would have been a solid fit and given the Browns young bookend tackles for the next 8-10 seasons.

Obviously, neither was not as highly rated on the Browns' board as Haden, whose selection only complicates the picture in the secondary. With incumbent Eric Wright and recent trade acquisition Sheldon Brown entrenched at the corners, where does Haden fit in? Who is he going to supplant?

"You can never have enough good cornerbacks," said Eric Mangini in an almost predictable rational explanation for the sudden position overload. "You can never have enough good (fill in the position)," goes the mantra. This year, it was cornerbacks. One gets the impression Mangini lobbied long and hard for the selection.

Top picks, especially those in the top 10, should be players who can have an impact on games. Make a difference. Haden, a nice player, but certainly not one over whom to get excited, is not that kind of player. He wasn't at the University of Florida and he won't be in the National Football League.

Such a player was available at No. 5 with Tennessee safety Eric Berry. But the Browns, according to reports, made no effort to move up to get him and the Kansas City Chiefs happily selected him. It'll be interesting to see how much of a difference Berry makes to the Chiefs' defense.

So once again, the first-round jinx strikes the Browns. It looks as though Murphy's Law has taken up permanent residence in Cleveland when it comes to first-round picks. Holmgren and Heckert acted much like Clark, Davis, Savage and Mangini in that regard. Very disappointing.

They've still got nine more picks to make up for it.

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