Thursday, January 26, 2017

Time for Browns to rule out trading No. 1 pick

It’s still way too early to discuss the Browns’ options with regard to the top pick in April’s college football draft.

That’s why it is difficult to take Browns coach Hue Jackson seriously when he told reporters Wednesday at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., that the possibility of trading that selection is not off the board.

“Everything for right now is going to be negotiable and talked about,” Jackson said. “Until we sit down and talk about where we are and what we’re trying to do, then we’ll know. We haven’t had those discussions. Right now, we’re just in the beginning phases of all of it. We’ve got a long way to go before we get to that decision.”

Reading between the lines, he did not rule out the possibility of trading out of the top spot in order to stockpile more picks for this year and beyond. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a problem. But the brief history of drafting by the current team in place in the war room indicates adding picks is not necessarily the way to go.

The braintrust twice traded down from the No. 2 overall pick they owned last season and wound up with wide receiver Corey Coleman, whose contribution to the offense ranked somewhere between absent (due to injury) and underwhelming (being charitable here).

And with the next 13 picks, they defied the odds and failed to select anyone who can honestly be considered a difference maker. Somewhere along the line, one would think, they would have gotten lucky and stumbled into such a player. Based on that performance, it is difficult to have faith in them.

The very thought they have not absolutely ruled out swapping out of the top spot this year is concerning. Based once again on last year’s disappointing draft choices, it seems as though the talent evaluation bar has been lowered at 76 Lou Groza Blvd.

That is why it is imperative that Sashi Brown & Co. sticks with picks one and 12 in the first round and five of the first 65. That is where the best talent resides. It makes no sense to trade down for the Browns, who displayed personnel ignorance in doing so last year.

If anything, they should think seriously about trading up as much as possible to corral that talent. This team’s roster needs a substantial upgrade in talent in order to make a genuine effort to improve.

Last season’s 1-15 record was a direct reflection of the front office’s inability to piece together a roster capable of playing anything that resembled competitive football. Wisdom in the war room is essential if that is to occur.

Based on their initial run last year, though, the likelihood of that happening is, at best, negligible. And Jackson’s pre-draft thinking, albeit way too early, could be construed as a portent of things to come.

The idea of adding picks through trades is intoxicating, for sure. But if you do not select with intelligence, which the current regime has done, then all those numbers mean nothing in the end.

It is nothing more than an exercise in futility, one that has become all too commonplace regardless of whoever is the architect.

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