Sunday, April 26, 2009

First Day Grade: Gentlemen's C

Well, "Super Bowl" Saturday came and went, and much like if the Browns ever made it to the real big game, the good people of Cleveland were left with sick feelings in their stomachs.

For years, those in the know have pleaded with the Browns to trade down and load up on guys to play in the trenches. Sitting pretty at # 5 and watching Mark Sanchez's momentum build, it looked like the Browns were finally going to be the ones fleecing someone on draft day. Then the news came---pick # 5 to the Jets for pick # 17, pick #52 (second round) and three guys, Kenyon Coleman (DE), Abram Elam (S) and Brett Ratliff (QB). In terms of picks, Coleman is probably worth a 4th or 5th. As the back-up safety, Elam's probably worth a late 5th or 6th. Ratliff is just a guy.

When pick #17 rolled around, the Browns traded again. This time #17 went to Tampa Bay in exchange for pick # 19 and pick # 161 (sixth round). Here's where I started getting nervous. I suspected that the Browns were considering linebacker and bad man, Rey Maualuga, and I just wanted them to make the pick. In my mind, the additional 6th wasn't that big of a deal because most of the time, a 6th round pick turns out to be a cut or special teams player.

Well, pick # 19 came with Maualuga still on the board, and the Browns traded down again. They sent pick #19 to Philly for picks #21 and #195 (sixth round again). Maualuga survived to 21.

This time the Browns picked...Alex Mack, center from California. Judging by talk radio commentary, most people hated this pick. I didn't. In fact, at Thursday afternoon's Tribe game, I told the Hornless Rhino that I'd love for the Browns to grab Mack or another center, Max Unger, in the 2nd. Let's face it. The O line regressed last year, and part of the blame fell on Fraley for failing to seal the middle. Mack should be able to do that. He's a big, strong guy. He's 6'4" and weighs 311 pounds. In college, he just pounded the middle of the defensive line and punished defenders. He won't dominate tackles like that in the pros, but he immediately upgrades the line. He could be the kind of center the Browns thought they were getting when they signed LeCharles Bentley. He's that good. I'm very happy that the Browns grabbed him. I just think they took him too high. I think there was a strong possibility that he'd be there at 36, and even if he hadn't been, Unger was. The Browns passed on some good defensive talent to get Mack. But, this was a solid need pick, and I think Mack will be around for years manning the pivot. Great ballplayer. Good not great value at pick # 21.

When pick #36 rolled around, there were still stud defenders on the board. In addition to Maualuga, cornerbacks, Alphonso Smith, Darius Butler and Jairus Bird, and outside linebackers, Everette Brown, Clint Sintim and Connor Barwin, were available. Most of those guys were given first round grades by various analysts. More importantly, the Browns sucked at stopping other teams' offenses. This is when the draft went very wrong for me. The Browns picked 6'3", 209 pound, wide receiver from Ohio State, Brian Robiskie. I was utterly stunned. Sure, the Browns need a receiver, even if Braylon Edwards is still on the roster, but I didn't want to use this pick on one, and certainly not on a guy who'll more likely be viewed as a possession receiver rather than a # 1 guy. He doesn't have big-time speed and won't be the guy to "stretch defenses." He will, however, catch the ball when it's thrown his way.

Pick #50. This was the one received for Kellen Winslow. Most of the elite defensive talent was gone, but there was one guy who I liked---Paul Kruger, DE of Utah. He's a big boy who has a knack....
Nevermind. The Browns didn't get him. They took another friggin' receiver, Mohamed Massaquoi of Georgia. He's 6'2" and 198 pounds, is pretty good at hauling in passes, and will be a good target for the QB. Like Robiskie, he lacks the kind of speed to pressure a secondary. He'll be good at working seams and catching slants.

The Browns received pick #52 in their trade with the Jets, and with it, they finally took a defensive player, David Veikune. He's a 6'2", 257 pound defensive end from Hawaii, who the Browns will ask to switch to outside linebacker. He had 16.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks last year. Unlike Kamerion Wimbley, this kid is strong. Real strong. I don't think he'll get shoved around when he's rushing the passer. I just don't know how good he'll be making the switch to outside linebacker. There's part of me that likes this pick very much, but I'm terribly disappointed that the Browns passed on more reliable outside linebackers. Veikune is a project in the same sense that Wimbley was. He'll play in his first year. We'll just have to see how he adapts.

After the first day, here are my thoughts. I'm thrilled with Alex Mack, but wish they had drafted him later. I'm scratching my head about Robiskie and Massaquoi. They're both nice receivers, but neither is a game-breaker. And I'm pretty damn sure neither is going to tackle anyone. I like Veikune a lot but would have really preferred a few other guys who were taken earlier. I think the Browns didn't get enough for the # 5 pick. If you look at the pick value chart, the Browns should have gotten # 17 and next year's first from the Jets. They received a late second and a few players. Mangini must love getting Kenyon Coleman to play defensive end. I guess he thinks Coleman will be a difference maker on the defensive line. He'd better be considering the defensive talent that they let pass.

I think this is clear. Mangini will want to run the ball a lot. Jamal Lewis will run left behind Thomas, Steinbach and now Mack. He'll play a possession game with steady but unspectacular receivers, who will catch the ball in traffic and hang on to it. That means that Brady Quinn is probably the QB. Drafting two receivers really has me puzzled. After all Braylon Edwards is still a Brown, and two rounds of picks are gone. That means if he's going to be traded, it's going to be for next year's picks or a significant player. I'd been hoping that that player was going to be defensive end, Mathias Kiwanuka . He was allegedly the Braylon Edwards deal breaker from the Giants perspective. Anyway, that's probably not the case now that Mangini has his boy, Kenyon Coleman. Maybe Braylon's not going anywhere. That's why Mangini picked two complementary receivers rather than a deep threat. Maybe Mangini believes the Browns can win this year.

Stay tuned for day two of the draft. The Browns don't have a third, fifth or seventh, but they've got a fourth (104) and three sixths (177, 191 and 195). Maybe they'll grab a receiver.

1 comment:

Hornless Rhino said...

I like the fact that they traded down and resisted the urge to draft Jamarcus Sanchez or Braylon Crabtree.

Mack was the lineman they wanted. They thought the quality centers might go sooner than projected and based on subsequent picks, they were right. They deserve some credit for that.

I hate the Robiskie pick. Not that Brian Robiskie is a bad prospect, but as others have noted, there were much better ones available at #36. Frankly, this pick looks like it was made by the marketing department after taking a look at season ticket renewals.

Biggest beef overall -- once again, the Browns devoted too many high picks to the offensive side of the ball. I mean, c'mon, with all of the gaping holes on defense, how can they spend two second round picks on WRs?

The Browns appear to be incapable of learning from the Lost Decade's parade of day one WR picks: Kevin Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, JaJuan Dawson, Quincy Morgan, Andre Davis, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards and Travis Wilson.

All of these guys were first day picks, and yet none of them prospered with the Browns, due either to their own incompetence, the team's baffling inability to figure out how to use them, or, in the case of Kellen Winslow, the incredible immaturity of both the player and the front office.

Overall, a typically depressing performance for the AFC's most consistently depressing franchise.