Back from yet another furlough . . .
Let’s see . . . where were we . . . oh yeah, the National Football League draft. What the Browns did and how it impacts on the future.
Getting right to the point. I did not like what General Manager Tom Heckert Jr. did. Except for one pick, I think he could have done a whole lot better, considering the cache he received from Atlanta in the first-round trade that landed five picks.
A statement by Browns President Mike Holmgren following the draft caught my attention.
“As you can see, we placed a priority on filling the roster a little bit without reaching, which is the trick of the draft,” he said. “I think these guys (Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur) did a marvelous job.”
First of all, what else did you expect him to say? He’s not going to come out and say something like: “Actually, I thought they could have done a lot better job considering where we drafted. And I was disappointed we didn’t draft a quarterback.”
So take what Holmgren says with massive doses of salt grains, understand that’s what he had to say and then move on. Focus instead on one part of that statement. The part about reaching.
If drafting Phil Taylor, an overweight boom-or-bust selection, in the first round isn’t reaching, then let’s redefine the term. At best, Taylor is a second-rounder. How he got up that high on the Browns’ board will always remain a mystery.
Reportedly, Heckert was afraid Philadelphia targeted Taylor and moved up five notches to head off that move. He was so determined to beef up the defensive line, he failed to take notice of a weaker area.
Last season, the Cleveland defense played reasonably well. It was the offense that caused most of the late-season problems. Because of the popgun Cleveland attack, the defense found itself on the field far more than it should have been.
Time and again, the offense failed to sustain drives. The league finally figured out how to stop Peyton Hillis and the Browns’ offense crumbled. So, too, did the defense, which clearly ran out of gas.
Where the Browns needed the most help was on offense, most notably the line. There is a considerable weakness on the right side. Large question marks reside at right guard and right tackle. Drafting a water buffalo like Taylor does not solve that problem.
And there was a solution to the problem still on the board. Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi was there when Heckert chose the wrong side of the trenches to fortify. The Chicago Bears wisely took Carimi a few picks later.
All the good defensive linemen worthy of being picked in the first round were gone by the time the time the Browns were on the clock. Instead of drafting the best player available, Heckert drafted for need.
Taylor and Carimi will be plugged into the starting lineups as rookies, but Carimi is a much more polished and NFL-ready player. Hazarding a guess here. Carimi, much higher ranked at his position than Taylor was at his, will land in the Pro Bowl. Taylor is a big (literally and otherwise) maybe.
Moving on to the second round and more reaches. Heckert stayed with the defensive line and took Jabaal Sheard, then moved to fortify the weak wide receivers corps with Greg Little. Two more mistakes.
Why a defensive end? The Browns already have Matt Roth Robaire Smith, Jayme Mitchell and Marcus Benard at that position and Chris Gocong played the position in college. There were other viable DEs available in the later rounds.
If Heckert had picked Carimi, he could have addressed the defensive line with his first pick in the second round with Oregon State tackle Stephen Paea, a shorter and much more productive version of Taylor. The Bears got him, too.
And in Little, he selected someone who is relatively new to the position. Making matters worse is the North Carolina wideout had to sit out the entire 2010 season after being suspended for accepting gifts and free trips in violation of NCAA rules.
Combine inexperience with rust and you have a prescription for potential disaster. Especially when you consider two more productive receivers were available at the time – Randall Cobb (grabbed later by Green Bay) and Leonard Hankerson (Washington in the third round).
All Hankerson did at Miami last season was catch 13 touchdown passes and conjure up memories of former Hurricanes greats Andre Johnson, Eddie Brown and Michael Irvin.
Wonder what Heckert saw in Little. Perhaps it was his well-chiseled 6-3, 230-pound frame. Looks like a body builder. (Looks like Tarzan; plays like Jane?) Has the body type of Baltimore receiver Anquan Boldin. But Boldin was a finished product when he arrived in the NFL. Big difference.
It would be extremely surprising if Little is a productive member of the receiving corps this season.
In the end, I’d much rather see Carimi, Paea and Hankerson or Cobb in the Seal Brown and Orange than the troika Heckert selected.
All three players he did select also arrive with red flags, i.e. character issues, having gotten into trouble off the field. We all know Little’s was of the non-violent variety. Not so Sheard and Taylor.
Sheard tossed a guy through a plate glass door in an art gallery last July and had to be pepper sprayed. Taylor began his collegiate career at Penn State and was eventually kicked off the team by coach Joe Paterno, weight gain and participating in a brawl at an on-campus pool party playing major roles.
Now does that mean they’ll encounter problems in the NFL? Not necessarily, but it makes one wonder why Heckert would choose someone with a red flag. Apparently, he likes bad boys.
OK, enough of the negativism. On to the fourth round and some positivism.
Can understand the selection of Southern California tight end Jordan Cameron (not to be confused with California defensive lineman Cameron Jordan). Cameron is as raw as they come. Ground chuck or filet mignon? He’s a basketball player trying to become a football player. Maybe Heckert saw a little Antonio Gates in him.
Now comes Heckert’s best pick. Fullback Owen Marecic will pay more dividends in 2011 (assuming there’s a season) than any of the GM’s selections. You can say buh-bye to Lawrence Vickers.
Marecic is smart, hard-nosed, football-savvy player who plays the game the right way. He will be the perfect complement to Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Too bad it took four rounds before Heckert made a solid pick.
Rounding out the draft, cornerback Buster Skrine (love the name), guard Jason Pinkston and strong safety Eric Hagg are nothing more than roster fodder and possible candidates for special teams.
Other experts have graded this draft anywhere from a solid A to no worse than a B-. Sorry, I don’t see it that way. This one rates a C+ leaning toward a straight C.