BEREA - In the rush to put a grade on the Cleveland Browns' 2013 draft class, a common mistake would be to use a letter from 'A' to 'F.'
Too many strange happenings took place during the three-day process to give a normal grade. That's why this draft group needs an 'I' for incomplete.
Mike Lombardi's first draft as general manager proved to be one of the most unique in years. The Browns traded out of the fourth and fifth rounds with no return this year. Instead, they'll get a third-round pick (for the fourth-rounder) next year and a fourth-round choice (for the fifth-rounder) next year.
The deal for the fourth-round pick was with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, who used the choice on Syracuse hard-hitting safety Shamarko Thomas. If Thomas sacks quarterback Brandon Weeden at all next season, you can expect to hear groans from a fan base that is undoubtedly scratching its head today.
Wait, there's more. Each of the Browns' three day-three choices has issues. Safety Jamoris Slaughter of Notre Dame (sixth round) is recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon. Hybrid defensive end and seventh-round pick Armonty Bryant of East Central (Okla.) was arrested for twice trying to sell marijuana to an undercover cop on school grounds. Chadron State offensive tackle Garrett Gilkey, another seventh-round choice, had minor heart surgery prior to his freshman year of high school and missed time early in the 2011 college season recovering from a ruptured appendix.
Obviously there's a plan involved, but as of today it looks as shaky as owner James Haslam's marketing tactics. CEO Joe Banner views the plan in the wide scope of the future.
"We viewed (receiver Davone) Bess as part of the draft and it gave us the opportunity to trade back a few spots and acquire him and keep the same number of picks and then trade them for future picks," Banner said.
Bess was acquired in a day two deal with the Miami Dolphins. The teams swapped fourth-and fifth-round choices, with the Browns moving down several spots in both rounds.
Bess adds veteran depth at an area of need. He has 321 career receptions for 3,447 yards and 12 touchdowns since joining the NFL in 2008.
The trade with the Steelers opened eyes for obvious reasons. Most teams take the philosophy of rarely trading with a team within its division. Banner follows an opposite approach, pointing out that the Philadelphia Eagles traded aging quarterback Donovan McNabb to the division rival Washington Redskins when he worked in Philadelphia.
"I prefer to trade within the division because you don't make a trade you don't think you're winning," Banner said. "Sometimes that can burn you. We try to make the best deal. It doesn't matter who it's with."
Banner revealed that the Browns had multiple offers for their fourth-round pick that were similar to the deal they made with the Steelers.
The Browns ended the draft adding six players. They had six choices prior to the draft (relinquishing a second-round choice for receiver Josh Gordon in a supplemental draft last June), but they gained fifth and seventh-round picks in the trade that sent quarterback Colt McCoy to the San Francisco 49ers.
Making trades for future picks won't sit well with the fan base. While admitting all the holes on the roster can't be filled this offseason, Banner said that the Browns haven't written off the 2013 season.
"We're not asking for any free passes for this year," Banner said. "We expect to improve and we expect it to be conspicuous. When we look at the players and coaches we've brought in, we're not saying we don't expect to be better. We're not going to reach all our goals this year."
The only drafted player that has a solid shot at starting is LSU outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick. Cornerback Leon McFadden of San Diego State has a legitimate chance to start in what will be a battle with Buster Skrine and free-agent addition Chris Owens.
Coach Rob Chudzinski agrees with Banner that no one is writing off wins next season.
"Our goal is to win and always will be," Chudzinski said. "We'll approach it from that standpoint. I want us to progress on a daily basis. That's always your focus as a coach."
Grading this draft in April of 2013 probably isn't the wisest of choices.