There really isn’t anything like the NFL draft if you are an NFL fan. It’s the one day when all teams are truly on an even playing field, and it’s one of those rarified days that could seem like a bust by the end of the weekend, and turn into a goldmine if that fifth round pick pans out.
This year’s draft for Browns fans was something special.
The Johnny Manziel talk had been circulating for nearly a year, and for what seemed like eternity. Would the Browns take him with their #4 pick, as many speculated? We all know how important that franchise quarterback is, and Manziel had the moxie of one, but did he have the skill?
The Browns also had their “Major League” moment, when Kevin Costner’s ‘Draft Day’ came out a month ago, that had the Browns trading up, down and all around to get all the players that they wanted.
It all created buzz that hadn’t been around this team for years.
The Browns even stole the news-worthy stories when Josh Gordon‘s alleged pot outpouring was unearthed on Friday night, Day 2 of the NFL draft.
The Browns, who needed a receiver anyways, now perhaps needed two.
In the middle of this firestorm was Ray Farmer, a well-respected football mind who was running the draft for the first time.
How did he do?
Let’s take a first look.
First Round: #8 Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.: Before you can talk about the player, you have to talk about what the Cleveland Browns did to get the player. The Browns did what I initially thought they would do with the #4 pick, should Sammy Watkins slip to four, and that’s trade down. My assumption is that the Browns would move down three or four slots, with the intention on taking Mike Evans if he was available, or Johnny Manziel if he wasn’t. Cleveland Sports Insiders numbers guru, Michael Hattery, was all over this from the start.
The Browns swapped spots with the Bills at #9, and in doing so, they received the Buffalo Bills first round pick next year, as well as their fourth round pick. I immediately felt like they moved too far down for Evans, and just didn’t think that it was Manziel they were hoping to tag here.
Rumors had been circulating all day long that the Browns were intent to take Justin Gilbert at number four if they couldn’t find a trade suitor. Look, they already had another #1 in hand, so there wasn’t a whole lot they could do here wrong. They ultimately traded a fifth rounder this year so they could move up one spot to take Gilbert at #8.
Gilbert got slaughtered on Twitter, and while I always find it hard to grade corners, what Gilbert has is a whole bunch of athleticism. He’s got good size to go along with this athletic ability, and he will be learning from Joe Haden. On top of that, he’s the first defensive choice by new head coach, former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. You don’t think there is something there?
By the way, did you notice that Gilbert ran a sub-4.4 40?
Close your eyes really tight and picture Gilbert and Haden if Gilbert turns out to just be pretty good. If you have two corners that can go one-on-one, what do you suppose the other nine guys will be doing?
Grade: A+, because the Browns got Gilbert, a first rounder and a fourth rounder. Winner…winner…chicken dinner.
First Round: #22 Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Do you really want to know why people hated the Gilbert pick? It’s because he wasn’t Johnny Manziel. After the Browns failed to select him, the idiocy began. Cameras began focusing on the youngster has his “stock plummeted.” Would the Cowboys take him? Would the Cardinals take him?
All indications had the Browns scurrying, trying to move up in front of both teams to get him. Once the Cardinals traded down with New Orleans though, it seemed clear sailing that the Browns had a shot to draft him with the #26 pick.
While there wasn’t a surefire team in front of them that might take Manziel, there were several other teams that were pondering moving up to get him. The Browns called Philly and offered up their #26 pick, as well as one of their third round picks, #83 overall, to move up to 22.
It was then all over but the shouting.
The Browns selected Manziel, and immediately people began talking about his ‘money’ sign and how he brings a Tebow-like media frenzy.
I was more inclined to like his skill-set. He’s an accurate passer, and he does a lot of that on the move, and does even more of that down the field. This isn’t a dinker. He can heave it with accuracy. While he does tend to ignore coverages at times, which led to 12 picks, that’s something that should improve. He needs to stay in the pocket more, but if he can control his movement on his throws, he can develop into a Ben-Roethlisberger-type QB, who just roasts teams who break coverage.
While he looks skittish in the backfield, I’ve always thought that it was somewhat production. Yes, I think he likes to run, but there’s a mystique to his bouncing that often leaves defenders hesitating. He’s an effective runner, and that’s really all I am going to say about that.
He’s a tough player, doesn’t miss ballgames or practice, and while he should keep his mouth shut at times…well…maybe he shouldn’t in Cleveland.
My point here is that while everyone’s going Manziel-crazy, there’s a reason beyond the press for what he does off-the-field. He’s confident, and a future starting NFL quarterback.
Grade: Through the freakin’ roof. So much value at #22, and this guy isn’t Brady Quinn (no offense Brady). Remember, Manziel won the Heisman, and while that’s not an indicator of greatness, it does showcase a skillset that should be above and beyond the Quinn maneuvering.
2nd Round: #35 Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
This is the pick that makes me wonder. Now, I am okay with Ray Farmer’s stance that he was sticking to the grades they made prior to the draft, and sticking to the plan. I would rather a front office not make rash decisions, than blow everything up because of rumored news.
Of course, that rumored news is that Josh Gordon was busting smoking pot again. Say what you want about pot, and whether or not it should be legal, but…what? I don’t want to hear about culture. I don’t want to hear about making statements. I don’t care about any of that.
What I care about is whether or not Josh Gordon is on the field.
He’s an NFL wide receiver. That’s a gift. It’s special. It means a whole lot of people in this world pay a whole lot of attention to you…if you are special.
Gordon is special…playing football.
He also likes pot…allegedly.
My point here is that if the rumors are true, the Browns WR core is about to take a massive hit. Nate Burleson broke his arm, meaning the Browns are left with…Greg Little? Seriously, the Browns needed a receiver before all this mess came about Friday night.
Of course, it may not be true, and there will be some free agents after cuts are made after June 1st, but it would seem to me that a front office would want to sit down and discuss potential Wide Receivers in this draft.
It does appear that Farmer and company knew about this alleged rumor prior to the draft, even if the coaching staff didn’t (what?!?), so I may be more into this than I should be…but I digress.
The Browns took Bitonio, and he should be a good depth pick for a line that is already pretty good. It’s like the Tackle will be able to play guard, and in a best case scenario, he’ll be challenging Paul McQuistan and John Greco for their jobs. We’ll see. This was a guy I am pretty sure they could have gotten had they moved down, and while I won’t say value, I won’t say dumb either.
Depth on the line is always good.
Third Round: #71 Christian Kirksey, ILB, Iowa
I really wanted a receiver here. One of my favorites on the board was Donte Moncrief. I don’t grade players, and goodness gracious, I’ll never pretend to, but this kid is big at 6’2″ and 221 pounds. He’s fast, rolling out a 4.4 40, and can jump over cars. He does drop balls though, which is my knock. His downside is Greg Little, which is enough to scare anyone off.
However, he has some crazy intangibles, and he has a really good head on his shoulders.
But, the Browns could use some help with regards to inside linebacker, and they certainly got it with Kirksey. Kirksey is a leader, and while I’m not sure he ever blew anyone away with his athleticism, but he had a nose for the football, is pretty quick for an inside linebacker. Of course, he’s undersized, always seemed to have to play up, but did it well, and was a nightmare for most Big Ten teams.
He’s a high intangible guy, but boy, what a reach here. If they are really going to use him inside, I’d have grabbed Chris Borland from Wisconsin, who was still available. Borland obviously has his knocks as well, but at the end of the day, I have to believe Kirksey is there later if they want him…in the fourth or fifth.
Grade: C, and only because they needed a backer, and I probably like Kirksey more than most (but not much more.
Third Round: #94 Terrance West, RB, Towson St.
The Browns traded a fourth rounder and a sixth rounder to the San Francisco 49ers, and a small part of me was hoping they would grab a guy like Martavis Bryant here. Yeah, I know, another receiver. I figured when they moved up, it was to go that route.
Now that I have that off of my chest, let’s talk West.
He was a back that I had my eyes on after he rolled out 2,500 yards last year. I know that the Browns signed Ben Tate this offseason, but he’s not always been the healthiest of rushers, and while we should see Dion Lewis back, multiple running backs are good to have.
Of course, you could say the same about receivers.
There’s a lot to like about West. He’s a tough, strong kid, who reminds me of Alfred Morris. I really think that this was a Kyle Shanahan move if ever I saw one. He’s going to log some carries, but there will be some development that has to happen.
We shall see what this kid has. I think he could be a sleeper, just not sure that it was a massive need, and I think the Browns could have moved up in the fourth and gotten a similar between the tackle runner in Andre Williams…but it is what it is.
Grade: B- I don’t hate the pick, but the third rounders didn’t make me all that happy.
Fourth Round: #127 Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
This was my favorite pick, by far, by anyone, in the 2014 draft. It was icing that the Browns made the pick. Desir is one hell of a player. He’s big, at 6’1 and 198 pounds. He’s racked with talent, although it is assuredly raw talent.
You know the story by now. He grew up in Haiti as a soccer player. He left Haiti when he was four years old and eventually played football, and was good at it. At 15, he got his girlfriend pregnant. We’ve heard that story before, but what’s not normal is that he was a phenomenal Dad. Several Division 1 schools wanted him to play, but he couldn’t get in so he headed to Washburn University, but he missed his family, and after his girlfriend had a second child, he left Washburn for Lindenwood to be closer to home.
Washburn made him sit out a year and pay a year’s tuition before he could play.
He returned to Lindenwood and showcased skills that had many thinking he could be a second rounder had he went to a major Division One school. He’s a father of two, who is married, mature, and has a lot of upside.
So can I be honest here?
Had the Browns not drafted Gilbert in the first, found a way to get Mike Evans or maybe even traded down again in the first and taken Manziel and Kelvin Benjamin, than taken Desir here, I would have been through the roof with this draft.
As it stands, the Browns have a whole bunch of potential cornerbacks with Gilbert and Desir, and boy oh boy, if they pan out, this defensive front seven could absolutely decimate teams.
Grade: A, and I’d give it a through the roof if it was a need…but wow…what a value.
Overall, I’d give the Browns a solid B right now, even though others may hammer this draft a bit more because of the Kirksey reach, the doubling up of corners, and the lack of a receiver.
Here’s what I know: The Browns likely got the best corner, and I’m not yet sure if it’s Gilbert or Desir. Gilbert will be better to start, but I have a feeling that Desir may ultimately be better. That’s not a knock on Gilbert. I also think the Browns got the best QB in this draft, and they moved up and down to get both of these guys. Loved what they did with “extra picks.”
The reality here is that Gilbert, Manziel, Bitonio, Kirksey and West could all start at some point this season. Desir could be a guy that bursts on the scene once he gets used to the speed at this level.
Now…if they could just find someone to throw the football too.