Don’t complain, just trust the Browns’ picks
All you can do is rely on trust.
If you didn’t think that Browns general manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine have a secret plan for handling the Josh Gordon mess, you’d have to assume that they were acting irrationally in their approach to the NFL draft. The three trades that were consummated and the six players that were selected fit needs and look good on paper, but where are the receivers?
Unless Gordon’s alleged failed drug test that could cost him one calendar year is false, the Browns need help at receiver. Even before news broke of the failed test, the belief was that the Browns would draft at least one receiver to a group that added Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins in free agency. Now, factoring in the Gordon scenario, there would appear to be a need for at least two.
Farmer and Pettine knew about the possible suspension before the draft, yet, for reasons known only to them, nothing was done to strengthen the positions. The Browns added two cornerbacks, one offensive lineman, one quarterback, a linebacker and a running back.
Farmer knows there is panic among some in the fan base because no receivers were drafted.
“I would tell fans that are in a panic mode, patience really tells the tale,” Farmer said. “There are plenty of opportunities for us to add players and change the roster.”
Farmer then asked the assembled to name the drafted receivers on the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl championship roster last season. The only one was Golden Tate, who missed time with an injury.
“There’s definitely an opportunity to identify with and play players that can help your football team,” Farmer said.
The Browns acted quickly once the draft was complete to sign free-agent receivers Kenny Shaw of Florida State, Chandler Jones of San Jose State, Willie Snead of Ball State and Blake Jackson of Oklahoma State. Don’t rule out a trade for a veteran.
Something has to be in the works behind the scenes. If nothing else, why not see what Paul Warfield is up to these days?
Without Gordon’s elite skills, why would anyone want to quarterback the Browns? Not even first-round pick Johnny Manziel, who oozes self-confidence, would feel comfortable working with what currently ranks among the weakest receiving corps in the NFL.
Maybe the plan is to put it all on Manziel’s shoulders. He worked magic for Texas A&M against SEC competition, which is a notch in talent level below the NFL.
If you look at the selections without factoring in Gordon, it was a good three days of work for Farmer. Each of the picks fills a need. In a best-of-all-world scenarios, four of the six could start, with the other two contributing on special teams and as backups.
Cornerback Justin Gilbert, the first of two first-round choices, appears a cinch to start. Gilbert was considered the best cover corner available. Pettine brushed aside concerns about Gilbert’s tackling skills, pointing out that the defensive system relies almost exclusively on press, man coverage and little of cover 2 in which cornerbacks are run force defenders.
Manziel has to be considered in the mix to start, even with Pettine saying his mind hasn’t been changed regarding the role of rookie quarterbacks. He thinks they’re best suited on the sideline to watch and observe a veteran – in this case Brian Hoyer.
Somehow, however, you get the feeling that Manziel will be starting at some point next season. Can you imagine owner Jimmy Haslam being on board with a decision to delay Manziel’s on-field arrival? There’s a reason why the Browns sold about 2,500 season tickets since the start of the draft, and it wasn’t because Hoyer is on the roster.
My favorite pick was Nevada offensive lineman Joel Bitonio in the second round. Bitonio comes with a reputation of being nasty and versatile enough to play any of the positions. He’ll likely start immediately, perhaps moving Paul McQuistan to right tackle and Mitchell Schwartz to the bench.
Another intriguing pick was running back Terrance West of Towson University in the third round. West had ridiculous numbers last year at the FCS school, leading all college rushers with 2,519 yards and 41 touchdowns on 413 carries.
It’s believed that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome had his sights set on West. Newsome admitted that he likes the skills of the 5-foot-9, 225-pound West. “Now we’ll have to face him twice a year.”
Linebacker Christian Kirksey, the first of two third-round choices, seemed to be a bit of a reach. Kirksey played on a talented linebacking corps at Iowa but is slightly undersized.
Kirksey’s strong suit is pass protection, which is the main reason he was of value to the Browns. He could take time away from Craig Robertson, who, according to Pro Football Focus, was the worst coverage linebacker in the NFL last season.
The Browns went small school again with cornerback Pierre Desir in the fourth round. Poor academics kept Desir from attending a FBS school. He was dominant on the FCS level and will compete with Gilbert.
What you have to like about Desir, in addition to his size (6-1, 198), is his maturity. He is married and is the father of two daughters. He’ll turn 24 the day after the season opener in Pittsburgh.