Thursday, April 28, 2016

What was that?


Not sure exactly what the Browns wanted to accomplish as the opening round of the National Football League’s college draft unfolded Thursday night, but it sure went over the heads of a large majority of their fans.

One thing is certain, based solely on the puzzling passive manner the club’s new top brass displayed throughout the long, boring, sleep-inducing evening: Nobody in Berea knows what the hell they are doing.

There seems to be no direction as the front office continued to trade down and compile future draft picks while doing very little to improve the team.

The Browns several days ago owned the second overall pick and traded that to Philadelphia in exchange for the eighth pick and several future picks. Then when the eighth selection arrived, they punted again, allowing the Tennessee Titans to move up from No. 15 for more future draft picks.

It was almost as though they did not want to draft at all Thursday. But a bright future sure loomed as the stockpiling of future choices kicked into second gear.

And when the Browns finally decided to end the suspense and actually made a selection at No. 15, one could understand why the reticence. They probably couldn’t find a trade partner. So with all the holes on both sides of the ball, they proceeded to choose a player at a position that ranked lower in importance than most others.

By passing at No. 8, they declined to improve the offensive line, defensive line and secondary in favor of a wide receiver. Yes, there are two more days, six more rounds and 12 more picks, but a wide receiver with the first pick?

Not just any wide receiver, but a smallish one in 5-11, 185-pound Corey Coleman of Baylor. Hard to believe he was the best player on the Cleveland board when the Browns were placed on the clock

If so, that’s an indictment on the club’s player evaluation talents. Wide receiver is not one of the strongest positions in this deep draft. To wit: Coleman was the first receiver off the board.

It’s bad enough that a wide receiver received a higher priority by the Browns than other more pressing areas. And a couple of 6-2, 200-pound wideouts – Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson – were available. What is it about short wide receivers that is so appealing to the Browns?

Top dog Sashi Brown said a couple of days before the draft that the Browns were locked in on one player. As it turned out, he and his lieutenants basically traded themselves right out of one of the top prospects by dropping down to No. 8.

When San Diego at No. 3 surprised by taking Ohio State’s Joey Bosa and Dallas followed by choosing fellow Buckeye Ezekiel Elliott, the rhythm of the top 10 picks was altered enough that by the time the Browns were up, their man was gone. Thus the tradedown.

Why the panic? With only seven players off the board, there certainly were impact-type players available. The Titans must have thought so when they selected Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin with the pick they got from Cleveland. He would have been a perfect plug-in for the departed Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle.

Retooling an offensive line that lost 40% of its starters in free agency has to be rated higher in importance than improving the wide receivers corps. Forget the third-rounder they picked up this year and the second-rounder they’ll get next year from Tennessee.

So let’s recap here. The Titans traded the No. 1 overall pick to Los Angeles and moved to No. 15, the Browns swapped the second overall selection to Philadelphia and moved to No. 8, then turned around and shipped the eighth pick to Tennessee and moved back to No. 15.

In trading down twice, contend the more optimistic, sycophantic fans looking for anything to cling to, the Browns gained an extra three picks this year and three more next year with a pair of tradedowns just so they could take that little wide receiver.

It sure looks as though the new front office busted out the stupid pills in the opening round.

Maybe it was Coleman’s production the last two seasons at Baylor that influenced the pick. He caught 138 passes for 2,482 yards and 31 touchdowns the last two seasons, including 74-1,363-20 last season.

The biggest knocks against the Biletnikoff Award winner were his below-average route running – apparently they run simple routes in the high-powered Baylor offense – and his predilection of allowing the ball to get into his chest.

The speedy Coleman also runs most of his routes outside the numbers, rarely showing up in the middle of the field. He most likely will take over as the club’s field-stretching threat replacing Travis Benjamin.

Speed, according to Brown, was an important factor in the selection of Coleman, who compares his style to Steve Smith of Baltimore and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. “We wanted to add speeed to our offense to make sure people respect our passing game,” he said.

It looks as though Brown is more a skill player advovcate rather than concentrating on trench warfare, where most games are won and lost. He still has the next two days and six rounds to correct that problem.

So now it’s on to day two and the Browns have the first pick of the two-round session. Speculation runs rampant they will dip into the quarterback ranks with that choice with Connor Cook of Walsh Jesuit High School and Michigan State the likely selection.

Then again, Brown might trade down again. 

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