Friday, May 1, 2015

Wronging a right

Well, that didn’t take long. The euphoric feeling following the Browns’ selections in the first round of the National Football League college draft Thursday night gave way Friday night to puzzlement.

After Friday night’s journey through the second and third rounds, it’s time to admit I have no idea what label to pin on Ray Farmer’s philosophy with regard to the annual lottery.

He was all over the place Friday night. Just when you expected him to zig, he zagged. When you thought he would certainly select what appeared to be an obvious choice, he went in a completely different direction.

There had to be several huh!, what-in-the-world-is-he-doing moments among the faithful.

The Cleveland general manager mystifyingly sidesteps every opportunity to draft a wide receiver. In doing so, one can only assume he is satisfied with his current corps of receivers. He shouldn’t be.

He had a chance to draft big Jaelen Strong of Arizona State or Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams in the second round and, after trading down eight spots, selected Utah defensive end Nate Orchard, who projects as an edge rusher. Strong went to Houston early in the third round and Williams to Baltimore in the second.

In the third round, Farmer turned his nose up at big Auburn wideout Sammie Coates, later taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and added Miami of Florida running back Duke Johnson to the roster. A late third-round trade with New England netted Washington State defensive end Xavier Cooper.

Farmer and his minions have no clue that the key components to the offense, the quarterbacks and receivers, are substandard. They obviously haven’t received the memo that the NFL has turned into a passing league.

It’s almost as though they believe Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel have been provided with the necessary tools to function in a winning manner. No they haven’t.

There are absolutely no threats at tight end. And there is no one of size on the flanks who can stretch a defense and open up the running game. They do not exist on the roster.

Johnson’s arrival will help the running game to a certain extent, particularly the passing aspect, which was a dismal failure last season. But he is not an every-down back. He’s a change-of-pace guy. He’ll do nothing more than complement Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. Third-round picks should be more than part-timers.

Farmer, who seems to be concentrating on bolstering the front seven of his defense, needs to step back and take a very long and very realistic look at what is clearly the worst offense in the AFC North. It won’t scare anyone.

Orchard, who compiled an astounding 18½ of his 25 career sacks last year, most likely will slide into the spot vacated by Jabaal Sheard, who bolted for New England in free agency. Sometimes, football people can be blinded by statistics that don’t tell the whole story.

Did Orchard all of a sudden become a pass-rushing demon? Where was he the first few years of his tenure at Utah? Maybe he’s one of those football players who seem   to get better as he matures. We’ll find out later this year.

Cooper’s selection merely adds depth to an area of the team that, if it can stay healthy, might be the strongest on the team. But enough already. Time to address the weakest skill position on the team that isn’t quarterback.

This year’s crop of wide receivers in the draft is stronger than last season’s excellent field, but time is running out. Still left are Florida State’s Rashad Greene, Tre McBride of William & Mary, Justin Hardy of East Carolina, Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and Tony Lippett of Michigan State.

Surely, one will be available when the Browns have consecutive picks midway through round four Saturday. If Farmer makes a move in that direction, a small celebration is in order. Don’t hold your breath.

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