Monday, April 21, 2014

Just wondering

Meandering thoughts as we await the National Football League college draft, which might seem anticlimactic by the time it is conducted.

~ Why is it necessary to consider the 40-yard times of quarterbacks an important statistic?

Isn’t what they do with their arm and head much more important than how long it takes them to cover 40 yards? Last time I looked, they don’t throw with their feet.

Timing of the 40-yard dash began in the Paul Brown era. The Hall of Fame coach, one of the great innovators of the game as we know it today, used the 40-yard dash as a yardstick to determine how fast a player could get downfield under a punt.

So unless the Browns, or any other team for that matter, plan on using quarterbacks on punt-coverage units, what difference does it make how fast they can travel 40 yards?

~ How often do general managers change their boards before settling on one for the first day of the draft?

At the very best, probably daily. At the very worst, on the hour.

The final board minutes from when Commissioner Roger Goodell commences the draft will look absolutely nothing like it did perhaps as recently as a week before the lottery.

That board is fluid. Names fly up and down as discussions among the scouts, coaching staff and general manager ramp up as draft day approaches.

Scouts probably have a stronger say and more influence in those discussions with the coaching staff basically chipping in with their thoughts with regard to the kind of players they like.

~ How many times does the board change during the course of the draft?

It is in a continual state of flux as names fall of the board. But it still remains loyal to what the scouts, coaching staff and GM agree on philosophically.

That aspect hopefully will not change. One thing that will wreck a draft quickly is the inability to come to a consensus agreement on a particular player.

~ At what point do GMs opt to fill a need as opposed to selecting the best player on the board?

Depends on the GM. Some prefer to plug talent gaps at certain need positions with players who might be ranked lower than other players. The Browns have been doing that for years.

We’ll find out soon enough about Browns GM Ray Farmer, making his college draft debut. Hopefully, he will attempt to select the best player available, regardless of position.

There is nothing wrong with strengthening a strong position. No matter how tempting it might be to draft for need, Farmer must resist and stick with grabbing the best player on the board.

~ And at what point does coin flipping enter a decision?

When it’s the Browns’ turn to select and two or more players are rated equally, all coins must be put away. That’s the time Farmer should caucus quickly with those he respects and trusts the most and make his decision based on what he hears.

Then he must act decisively with no second-guessing. Do not waffle. Believe in the scouting reports when breaking ties. It makes for a stronger war room.

~ How involved will Jimmy Haslam III be?

Hopefully, he’ll be just a spectator. An important spectator obviously because it is his money involved. Nothing wrong with asking questions and being informed as to exactly what is happening.

But sometimes, owners get in the way. When he promoted Farmer to general manager, Haslam said he would step back and let his guy run the club. Now is the time to put that kind of thinking to work.

When the club faces the media after each pick, the only voices we should hear are Farmer’s and coach Mike Pettine’s. Frankly, I don’t care what Haslam thinks when it comes to events like this.

~ What areas of concern do the Browns have to address in the first three rounds?

In no particular order, they must get at least one offensive lineman (preferably a guard), a linebacker (inside or outside), a wide receiver, a cornerback and a quarterback with their five picks.

They have got to hit home runs (nothing less than a starter) with their first three choices. If they have any hopes of rising from the ashes of the AFC North, it is mandatory they do not miss with any of those picks.

~ What are the odds the Browns will draft a defensive lineman before Saturday’s final four rounds?

I know, I know. The Browns don’t need any help on the defensive line. But you can never have too much strength at any position. If a defensive lineman is rated ahead of, for example, a cornerback or a quarterback, you take him.

Why? Because he’ll help make your team better than taking someone of lesser value who might or might not fill a need.

~ And what are the odds the Browns will draft two quarterbacks?

Probably a lot higher than taking a defensive lineman. They don’t need two more quarterbacks.

They’ll probably wind up with veteran Rex Grossman, who can mentor Brian Hoyer as he tries to learn Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The only snaps Grossman will take during the regular season will be at practice.

The new quarterback, meanwhile, will become a sponge so he can be ready if Hoyer (a) fails to grasp the Shanahan system or (b) gets hurt again.

~ Whom would I select with the fourth pick of the lottery?

No hesitation. If he’s there, Khalil Mack. Don’t even think about it. He’s the best pure football player in this draft.

It would be so easy to pigeonhole the University of Buffalo as an outside linebacker. He’s a lot more than an outside guy. His wonderful instincts and bellicose approach to the game make him the perfect choice for Pettine’s defense.

You can play him inside or outside. Makes no difference. He’s a playmaker wherever he lines up. Make the opposition play a game called “Where’s Khalil”.

If he’s not there, then the best offensive lineman on the board. You win and lose games in the trenches.

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