Monday, November 27, 2006

Stop the Bleeding. Draft Some Linemen.

Jeff Schudel wrote a great article in the News Herald last Saturday that should be read by every Browns fan. It is about as complete an indictment of the Browns' inability to find quality offensive linemen as you'll ever see. While Schudel points out that neglecting the offensive line has been a tradition with the Browns for more than a generation, you really get a sense for the futility of the team's efforts to build a line when you look at the past eight drafts.

Take a look. Here are the offensive linemen selected by the Browns since 1999:

1999 -- No offensive linemen drafted (Sorry, Tim)
2000 -- 6th round, Brad Bedell, OL Colorado [206th overall]
2000 -- 7th round, Manuia Savea, OL Arizona [207th overall]
2001 -- 7th round, Paul Zukauskas, OL Boston College [203rd overall]
2002 -- 3rd round, Melvin Fowler, OL Maryland [76th overall]
2002 -- 7th round, Joaquin Gonzalez, OL Miami (Fla) [227th overall]
2003 -- 1st round, Jeff Faine C Notre Dame [21st overall]
2004 -- 6th round, Kirk Chambers OL Stanford [176th overall]
2005 -- 7th round, Jonathan Dunn OL Virginia Tech [217th overall]
2006 -- 4th round, Isaac Sowells OL Indiana [112th overall]

The Browns have selected nine offensive linemen since 1999, but have chosen a lineman on the first day of the draft only twice. By way of comparison, the New England Patriots have drafted 12 offensive linemen since 1999. Six of those guys were first day selections (including Damien Woody and Matt Light), and only three were drafted later than the 4th round. The Browns' two first day O-line picks serve only to illustrate the utter chaos and incompetence that has plagued the team's efforts to build an offensive line. That's because only a year after picking center Melvin Fowler in the 3rd round, the Davis regime decided to pull the plug on him and spend the team's 1st round pick on Jeff Faine.

Seriously Butch, WTF?

What have the Browns drafted instead of linemen? C'mon, let's all say it together now--WIDE RECEIVERS! The wide receiver position is the Cleveland Browns' version of "more cowbell." They just can't get enough of them. In every year except 2003, the Cleveland Browns have spent a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round pick on a wide receiver (I count Winslow as a wide receiver). In 2000, the team had two 2nd round picks, and spent them both on wide receivers (Dennis Northcutt and JaJuan Dawson). In 2004 and 2005, they used their 1st round picks to add still more receivers. This year, of course, they picked Travis Wilson in the 3rd round. Now, we can quibble with some of the team's decisions, but I think we can all agree that Wilson has provided much needed depth to the Browns' inactive list this season.

If they could just convince the NFL to adopt a "five Mississippi" pass rush rule, the Browns' decision to select wide outs instead of offensive linemen year-in and year-out would probably look brilliant. Unfortunately, that isn't how it works, so the Browns look like the NFL's village idiots.

You know, you've got to laugh at this, but it's tragic, really. Look at the amount of money they invested in Tim Couch. Look at the amount of credibility they've invested in the decision to go with Charlie Frye. We'll never know what Couch might have been, and we'll probably never know what Frye's potential really is, because after eight years of allegedly trying, the Cleveland Browns still haven't been able to figure out how to build a decent offensive line.

Let's face it, right now, all the Browns have to show for eight years of trying to build a line with "diamonds in the rough" draft picks and free agent signings is an increasingly alienated fan base and a 70,000 seat stadium that's become a quarterback graveyard on the shores of Lake Erie.

Guys, you've tried just about everything else to get this franchise turned around. Why not try something that just might work? Stop the bleeding. Draft some linemen.


Hornless Rhino said...

Schudel's article notes that the Browns drafted offensive tackle Marcus Spriggs in 1999, but the guy they drafted isn't the guy he's thinking about. The Marcus Spriggs the Browns drafted in 1999 is a defensive tackle who now plays for Houston.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself.

The disheartening thing is that Savage is continuing the tradition.

With the number of Tackles projected into this year's first round, I'm officially going to become a Lions fan if we don't take any lineman on the first day.

Anonymous said...

There was never an offseason or draft where I thought to myself, "hmm... you know what? The O-line is pretty much set. I know what the Browns need, more receivers"

I mean, this has been an issue for quite sometime. They're on their 3rd GM and 4th coach and this still hasn't even been addressed.

It's not like they drafted a tackle and he was a bust. They never tried.

Erik said...

That's because the Browns keep trying to solve their OL problems through free agency, which is like buying a travelling salesman's used car.

Honestly, who wants an O-line populated with late-20-somethings who have already been in the league for 5-to-7 years? Their knees, backs and shoulders are already shot.

When their arms and legs don't betray them, they get sidelined with "mystery illnesses."

O-linemen don't have long shelf lives. Most have been through some kind of major surgery in college, and it only gets worse in the pros.

The only way to ensure that you can keep a line together for a few years is to start drafting linemen on the first day.

Which I guess is a long-winded way of saying I agree with the post.