Friday, April 28, 2017

Disappointing second day


First things first.

After the Browns’ very good first night at the National Football League’s annual college draft Thursday night, I neglected to grade their performance. I wavered between an A- and B+ and decided on B+ only because they whiffed on Ohio State safety Malik Hooker with the 12th pick.

Unfortunately, they also partially whiffed on their two selections Friday night, selecting Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second round and North Carolina Charlotte defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi at the top of the third round.

The decision to select Kizer was met enthusiastically by Browns fans, no doubt believing the club had finally landed its franchise quarterback after all these years of futility. Uh no, that’s not the case.

What they drafted was a quarterback who is, at best, a project and definitely not nearly ready to play in the NFL. Even his college coach suggested Kizer stay one more season before going pro. He will languish on the Cleveland bench in learning mode for at least one season. Maybe more.

What the Browns drafted was a young man with an extremely strong arm and not much else. When you reach the NFL, you must play with your head as much as you play with your arm if you are a quarterback.

In fact, it might take as long as two seasons to teach Kizer, who right now might be a better runner than he is passer, the nuances and sophistication of opposing defenses. Right now, he is nothing more than a sexy pick.

The flaws in his game, which include locking too long on targets, running instead of allowing plays to develop and inconsistent timing with his receivers, cannot be overcome with a strong arm.

When Jim Brown announced Kizer’s selection, the first thing that came to mind was, of all things, a baseball movie made in 1988 called Bull Durham. The film, about life in the minor leagues, produced one of the great lines in film history.

It was uttered by Kevin Costner, who played Crash Davis, an aging minor league catcher yearning for one more crack in the major leagues. One of his pitchers was a wild-throwing young kid named Nuke LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins.

LaLoosh, according to Davis, “had a million dollar arm, but a 10-cent head.” That is Kizer, who might have the strongest arm of this year’s quarterback crop, but might be the among the farthest away from becoming a starter in the NFL, where the game is played as much from the neck up as it is from the neck down.

It is a wasted pick for a team that needs a lot of help elsewhere on the roster. Several good cornerbacks (a position that needs immediate attention) were still on the board. So were a couple of good linebackers, another problem area.

Defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie and Obi Melinfowu, as well as linebackers Zach Cunningham and Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan were there for the taking. The Browns opted for the quarterback.

All of which makes one wonder why the Browns, so disciplined on opening night with regard to the quarterback situation, were so anxious to jump all over Kizer?

By doing so, it sent a signal to the fans that this is the young man on whom they are pinning their hopes for the future. The reality is he is just another Brandon Weeden, only younger. Big arm with not much else to support it.

Forget next year when a much more abundantly talented crop of quarterbacks enters the NFL. By then, the Browns hope, Kizer will be far enough advanced in his NFL education that all the club’s energy will be devoted to writing him in as the starter.

This is not a bad pick. Just an unnecessary one in the scheme of things. Kizer’s selection merely slows down the healing process with regard to improving the rest of the roster.

If he somehow manages to on the field this season, the Browns are in deep trouble. He clearly will not be ready to handle the job. If the coaching staff chooses to expose him in his rookie season, it could very well damage any chances he has for possible future success.

Ogunjobi, on the other hand, was another puzzling choice at the top of round three. In an attempt to take someone to help with the club’s awful run defense, they opted for the young defensive tackle from Charlotte over Michigan’s Chris Wormley, who projected as a second-round pick.

The Baltimore Ravens thought enough of Wormley to take him nine picks later, then grabbed solid Alabama linebacker Tim Williams four picks after that. Either would have looked good in the Cleveland lineup.

Friday night’s grade: C+ mainly because Kizer most likely won’t play this season.

Now it’s on to day three for the final four rounds, two of which (four and seven) the Browns own no picks. They entered the draft with 11 selections and, barring any further movement, will wind up with 10.

They own picks 145, 175 and 181 in round five and 185 and 188 in the sixth round. It’s in these later rounds that teams with good scouting staffs pan for the hidden gems that somehow escape scrutiny on the first two days. It’s where the Browns unfortunately have had precious little success over the years.

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