Tag Archives: 2014 NFL Draft

A Cleveland Browns Thanksgiving

After years of mediocrity, it finally looks like (knock on wood) Cleveland Browns fans have a team they can be thankful for and proud of this year. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the team is currently 7-4 and right in the thick of the playoff hunt. All of this got some of the Browns writers here at More Than A Fan: Cleveland thinking, what should the Cleveland Browns be thankful for this year? Here is what we came up with.

Dave Jack

-For starters, the Browns as an organization should still be thankful for the Indianapolis Colts. While the current administration had nothing to do with executing the Trent Richardson deal, they certainly did benefit from it. It’s far too early to determine whether the trade ultimately worked out in their favor, but the added first round pick allowed the Browns flexibility to move around in that round and do what they wanted.

-To piggyback off of that, Ray Farmer and company should propose a Thanksgiving toast to Joe Banner. Banner wasn’t perfect, but he did have the foresight to stockpile draft picks for the 2014 NFL Draft (much to the detriment of the 2013 draft), one that he predicted (so far, correctly) would have much more talent. He also left the new regime in a very good position financially.

-We found out the hard way that everyone should be thankful for center Alex Mack. The offensive line as a whole took a noticeable step back in the couple games following his injury. This was no doubt partly due to chemistry, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that was it. Joe Thomas is probably the better lineman at a more integral position, but Mack was the general and possibly the best run blocker out of the bunch. Missing him shows that Mack is worth every penny of his $42 million contract.

Andy Metzger

First and foremost, the Browns should be thankful for the defensive secondary unit. If it hadn’t been for their stellar play all season, the Browns record would be much different. The secondary has collected 13 total interceptions this season, led by Tashaun Gipson with six of them. Joe Haden has played lights out this season and is earning that big contract. While he had early struggles, Justin Gilbert has shown tremendous progress the last few games and made a huge pass defense against the Falcons in a tight game. It is because of the secondary unit that Brian Hoyer has had extra opportunities per game.

Second, the Browns should be thankful for Johnny Manziel *ducks*. Now, hear me out on this. When the Browns selected Johnny Manziel in the first round in the draft, the Browns suddenly became a relevant team in the NFL in the eyes of the national media. With that, Brian Hoyer knew he needed to work his butt off to be the starting QB of the Cleveland Browns. This is just speculation, but I assume Hoyer also brought his game up on the intangibles that rookies have a hard time with. Namely, leadership. There’s no doubt that Brian Hoyer is the leader of the offense. He has command of the huddle and the respect of his peers. Sometimes it is that confidence that boosts your game to another level. The Browns should be thankful for Johnny Manziel, it lit a fire under Brian Hoyer. I just hope his inconsistent passes don’t lock us out of the playoffs *ducks*.

Last, but certainly not least, the Browns should be thankful for Ray Farmer. More specifically, Ray Farmer and his scout team. Where older regimes refused to bring in free agents because “they’re free agents for a reason,” Ray Farmer brought in Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Jim Dray, Ben Tate, Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins. As for the draft, they snagged Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Joel Bitonio, Christian Kirksey, Terrance West, Pierre Desir as well as gaining extra 2015 1st, 4th and a 6th round draft pics. For undrafted rookies, the Browns collected an impressive haul that are major contributors on both sides of the ball. Cleveland signed Ray Agnew, Isaiah Crowell, Taylor Gabriel and K’Waun Williams. Without the players Ray Farmer signed, this would be a very different looking team. So, not only the Browns, but I, too, am thankful for Ray Farmer and his scout team. They did a fantastic job in the first year and cannot wait to see what they can do in the years to come.

Nico Ericksen-Deriso

Local(ish) High Schools – With four players from the Youngstown and Cleveland areas, the Browns ought to be thankful for the local talent that has reached them. Brian Hoyer went to high school at local powerhouse St. Ignatius. After spending time working behind Tom Brady in New England, Hoyer has emerged in Cleveland to lead the team’s offense, racking up 2864 yards through the air on a 55.9% completion rate to go along with 11 touchdowns thus far this year. On defense, one of his counterparts is also a Cleveland native. Donte Whitner attended Glenville High School before heading to Ohio State. In his first year with the Browns, he has been instrumental so far, finding himself second on the team in tackles with 73. He also has an interception and a forced fumble to go along. Two Browns linemen hail from the Youngstown area: Ishmaa’ily Kitchen on defense, and John Greco on offense. Kitchen attended Cardinal Mooney High before pursuing a career in the NFL. After seeing little time on the field in September, Kitchen has stepped up to the tune of 23 tackles since Week 6 as injuries have slowly decimated the Browns’ defensive line. On the other hand, John Greco, who attended Boardman High in Youngstown, has started every game for the Browns this season, primarily at right guard.
A Kyle Shanahan Offense – Shanahan’s offense has created a functional unit for the Browns. Despite losing one of their best players in Alex Mack, Cleveland has still been able to produce at a greater rate than last year, often powered to victory on the backs of their duo of rookie running backs and Hoyer’s mistake-minimizing arm. However, I can’t say that this has been all good, as their have been a few games when the offense has just straight up failed. However, overall, Shanahan’s presence in Cleveland has been a blessing.
The Cincinnati Bengals – “Wait what?! The Bengals? That makes so much sense, being thankful for one of our rivals and the division leader. Except not!”…Well, if you really think about it, it does. The Browns have three big reasons to be thankful for the Bengals. First off, former Bengal Andrew Hawkins leads the team in receiving with 50 receptions for 694 yards and two touchdowns. Secondly, the Bengals were kind enough to drop a huge deuce on Thursday Night Football. And lastly, the Bengals were dumb enough to help make sure the Browns improved this year by signing Greg “Brickhand” Little, guaranteeing that Cleveland’s worst nightmare would never haunt the team again. As hard as it is to admit, the Browns owe the Bengals a polite nod at dinner this Thanksgiving.

Stephen Thomas

I’m thankful that Mike Smith knows less about clock management than Andy Reid.

I’m thankful for reactionary Browns fans on Twitter, who handle each third down failure and incomplete pass with the grace and tact of a sorority girl in a zombie apocalypse movie.

I’m thankful for Joel Bitonio and Joe Thomas, who could block their way out of Nakatomi Plaza.

I’m thankful for Steelers fans, because as Judge Smails said in Caddyshack “The world needs ditch diggers, too.”

Ryan Jones

Mike Pettine – I routinely make jokes about the corpses that have roamed the sidelines for the Cleveland Browns over the past two or so decades, but know that I make those jokes in the most masochistic way imaginable. It kills me every time that I do it, but I think we might just be able to move on from all of that. Granted, Mike Pettine has had a couple time management blunders during his rookie campaign, but I get the feeling that he is an actual NFL caliber head coach. It’s a relatively small sample size but I’m absolutely loving him at the helm of my team thus far.

Josh Gordon – Quite simply the most talented football player that I have ever seen play for the Browns during my lifetime. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Josh Gordon was the singular reason that I was able to watch and enjoy the second half of last season. He is that good. And the Browns were that bad. There were quite a few local media members who advocated for his release this offseason. You most likely won’t hear them address that, but you will hear me reaffirm my love of Josh Gordon and the fact that I wrote a series of articles championing the fact that releasing him would have been a disastrous mistake. Seeing number twelve out on the field in Brown and Orange might just be the best thing in my life right now. Please don’t tell my girlfriend.

Seven and four. Seven wins and four losses. Seven wins at Thanksgiving and a team that is squarely in the mix for a playoff spot. I’m sorry, but after the putrid and depressing football that I have been subjected to my entire life, that is definitely the thing that I am most thankful for. Again, please don’t let my girlfriend or loved ones read this. Or, actually, let them read this. They know I have an irrational love for this football team. They’ll understand. All of us understand. Or, at least, should. The Browns have a huge game against Buffalo on Sunday, and they are poised to enter the month of December fighting for the division and the playoffs. How can we not be thankful for that?


 

As you can see, the Browns organization has a lot to be thankful for. One consensus among all of the writers was that the Browns should be thankful for their fans. These are fans who have stuck it out through multiple two, three and four win seasons. Fans who have begged just to have a team with a .500 record. Fans who can boast that they are some of the best fans in the NFL, as well as the most numerous.

The staff at More Than A Fan: Cleveland would like to wish all of you, our readers, a very Happy Thanksgiving. Even if you’ve only read one post or disagree with everything we say on a regular basis, we are still thankful for taking the time to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving

Are LSU Tigers Ready For SEC Play?

Following the 2013 season, the LSU Tigers sustained heavy losses to their roster, including nine players who were selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. That gave the Tigers a rather youthful roster and a fair amount of questions heading into the 2014 season. After being a bit fortunate to beat Wisconsin the first week of the season, LSU is off to a 3-0 start this season, and has looked rather impressive doing so.
 
But now the second season is set to begin: the SEC season. The Tigers open conference play this week against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, a matchup of two teams from the SEC West, a division so strong that it has been dubbed the NFL’s ninth division. LSU is set to begin what could be a daunting conference schedule, and so the question must be asked: are the Tigers ready for SEC play?
 
Based on the three teams LSU has played this season, it’s difficult to ascertain where the Tigers stack up to the rest of the conference. They were relatively unimpressive in the season opener, but did enough to beat Wisconsin, a quality Big Ten team, although a team built differently from most the Tigers will see in the SEC. The Tigers then blew away an FCS opponent in Sam Houston and more recently defeated a solid but clearly overmatched Louisiana-Monroe team. Based on those three games, it’s difficult to know where the Tigers stand compared to the rest of the SEC.
 
What we do know is that the LSU defense has looked the part of an SEC defense through the first three games of the season. The Tigers haven’t surrendered a point since the 3rd quarter of their season opener against Wisconsin; that’s nine straight scoreless quarters for LSU’s opponents. The level of competition LSU has faced can be questioned, but pitching back-to-back shutouts is not something that should be downplayed, no matter what teams they come against. Louisiana-Monroe put up over 500 yards of offense the week before they traveled to Baton Rouge, but they failed to crack the century mark against the Bayou Bengals on Saturday. There is some youth on the Tiger’s defense, but there is no shortage of talent on all three levels, as LSU has more than enough speed and athleticism to match up with SEC teams. The Tigers have a secondary with the potential to shut down opposing teams, which could allow the front-7 to pin its ears back and get after the quarterback, despite the absence of an elite pass rusher. More importantly, the Tigers have defensive coordinator John Chavis, who understands the SEC and what it takes to win in the conference, which should help to minimize concerns about LSU’s youth on the defensive side of the ball.
 
However, the LSU offense may not be quite as prepared for conference play as the defense. The Tigers remain a run-first team and despite sending several running backs to the NFL over the past few years, LSU retains a deep and powerful contingent of running backs. Of course, the three teams LSU has played have all been undersized upfront and easy to push around. Even Wisconsin was small and shorthanded along the defensive line after a couple of key injuries during the course of the game. But with an offensive line that features three seniors, the backfield contingent of Kenny Hilliard, Leonard Fournette, Darrel Williams, and Terrence Magee should be able to move the ball on the ground and give the Tigers a steady and reliable running game that will be effective in the SEC.
 
As for the LSU passing game, it remains a work in process heading into conference play. Anthony Jennings has done enough to hold off true freshman Brandon Harris, and he’s done well to manage the game and avoid turnovers, but he’s only completed 52% of his passes this season, which is too low, especially considering the fact that LSU has played two of its three games against teams nowhere near the level they’ll face in the SEC. Moreover, the Tigers have been too reliant on sophomore Travin Dural and haven’t used the first three games to establish their younger receivers. Dural has been great thus far; he’s made big plays, clearly has a great chemistry with Jennings, and he may be one of the top receivers in the conference this season, but LSU is going to need more than one receiver to survive in the SEC. John Diarse and Trey Quinn have shown flashes, and there are a few more young receivers the Tigers believe will be good, but they’ll need consistent production from more receivers than Dural throughout SEC play.
 
So, as a team, are the Tigers ready for the start of SEC play this week against Mississippi State? Defensively, there should be little doubt that LSU is ready for SEC play; in fact, they may have one of the best defenses in the conference. However, LSU lacks balance and experience on offense, creating questions that have yet to be answered. Defensively, the Tigers have little to worry about heading into the start of SEC play, but offensively, we’ll see.

The Browns not letting the national media into rookie minicamp is dumb, and here's why

The Cleveland Browns’ front office announced earlier this week that they would be restricting media access to this weekend’s rookie minicamp in Berea, only allowing local media access to the event. That means no ESPN, no bloviating talking heads emptying their vapid opinions on your TV set and no big, fancy cameras trained on Johnny Football 24/7 to count the number of “money fingers” thrown up per hour or to see what color shoelaces he’s wearing. This is dumb, for a variety of reasons.

 

shining

 

Did Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine forget who they were drafting when they traded up for Manziel at 22? This is Johnny Freakin’ Football baby, the biggest personality to come out of college football in years. This is the first time in YEARS, maybe ever, that people all over the country are interested in what the Browns are doing. They are a small market team in a league that thrives on superstars and marketing, and the Browns’ front office has chosen to spurn the first chance the world has at seeing Johnny Manziel run around the field in a Browns’ jersey. Zak Gilbert, Public Relations director for the Browns, was quoted as saying that “…they don’t want another Tebow situation.”

There’s a stink around Pettine and Farmer that they wanna make sure Johnny knows he’s at the bottom of the totem pole around Berea and he’s gonna have to earn respect around these parts, HARUMPH. There’s no doubt that Johnny has a lot of growing to do, both in maturity and as a QB, but what Pettine and company hope to accomplish by not letting the national media into rookie minicamp isn’t feasible. They’re trying to put the genie back into the bottle, the cork back into the champagne after it’s been popped, they’re throwing a few sandbags down in front of the incoming flood. HOW MANY MORE METAPHORS DO I NEED TO USE? Manziel is the shiny new toy for Haslam and the Browns. Why are they going to keep it hidden away and act like they don’t want the attention that he’s going to bring when you traded up to get him?

 

 

The kid has been a Cleveland Brown for a week and he’s already plotting the downfall of the NFL. How big of a deal should we make about this whole “draft me now” text-thing? Eh, not sure what we can do besides admire the size of JFF’s cajones. They seem to be growing bigger by the minute.

A lot of the Browns’ front office efforts to keep the media tidal wave from hitting Berea are in vain, as the Browns have no say in media access to the veteran minicamps happening in June. Then the cameras will be there, ESPN’s Johnny Football boner will be visible from space, and the world will have to choice but to gaze upon the eventual homewrecker of the NFL. We’re all strapped in for the Johnny Manziel ride here in Cleveland–it’s been a helluva first week.

 

***LATE ADDITION AND EDIT*** Dear sweet baby Jesus our prayers have been answered–GREG LITTLE HAS BEEN RELEASED BY THE BROWNS.  The King of Drops has been dethroned and replaced by the sure-handed pair of Miles Austin and Earl Bennett. Ray Farmer and company can’t stop winning–this offseason just keeps getting better and better.

 

Why the Browns Did The Right Thing at Wide Receiver

It feels like there always has to be something that the Browns fan base as a whole bands together to champion. Most of the time, that thing is an irrational complaint or reaction of some kind. It’s been going on for as long as I have been a Browns fan. It’s the thing that ran Tim Couch out of town in favor of one game wonder Kelly Holcomb. It’s the thing that trashes a declining Josh Cribbs after years of being the only exciting player amid an ocean of crap. It’s the thing that brings up Bill Cowher every single time there’s even the slightest hint of an opening at head coach. To be fair, there are times when this phenomenon is a good thing. Like when it helps run incompetent coaches and front office personnel out of town. Every other year.

I’m not saying that this is something that is limited to Browns fans. I’m sure it happens in every other NFL city. I remember Steelers fans wanting Mike Tomlin fired a couple years ago during a mediocre season. Which of course was something like 8-8. Just a couple years after winning a Superbowl. On a completely related note, I hate them. Basically, it happens everywhere. And I’m positive that it predates my short time on this Earth. But it tends to manifest itself in not the smartest of ways for fan bases that are struggling through hopelessly depressing stretches. Which is what we have been going through for the better part of twenty years.

Prior to the Draft, the overriding sentiment du jour around town seemed to be that the Browns should take Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick. That changed on a dime the second that news surfaced of Josh Gordon’s looming suspension for the upcoming season. The Browns world was turned on its head. And then the reports started trickling out that the Browns knew about the Josh Gordon situation prior to the Draft. It took everyone about one tenth of a second before they began losing their minds and starting in on Ray Farmer. How could he trade down? How could he pass on Sammy Watkins? Knowing that the team was going to lose their best wide receiver, how could he sit on his hands and do nothing?

The upheaval was beginning to grow. But all wasn’t lost. The Browns still had two picks on Friday night. Maybe they didn’t know about the Gordon suspension prior to the Draft. Surely they would come out and address what now appeared to be a glaring need. There was still time to salvage what had become a terrible situation. But then something strange happened. The Browns took a little known offensive lineman out Nevada with their second round pick. They followed that up by taking a linebacker from Iowa with their remaining third round pick and then trading up into the end of the round for a running back from Towson. Towson! They concluded by having the audacity to take another corner in the fourth, before trading out of the seventh round for a sixth rounder next year.

When the dust settled and we were all able to sift through the rubble, there was no wide receiver to be found. But there was plenty of outrage. Oh, was there outrage. People were incensed that the Browns didn’t take a receiver. On the surface I certainly understand it. It’s low hanging fruit. The Browns were hit with some of the worst news possible in the middle of the single biggest offseason event. And they appeared to sit on their hands and do nothing about it. Also not helping them was the fact that the media couldn’t stop talking about the team not drafting a wide out every step of the way. If there’s one thing I know about Browns fans, they tend to get more and more riled up each successive time something that displeases them is mentioned.

But I’m here to tell you that what the Browns did regarding the position of wide receiver during the Draft is not the end of the world. In fact, I think what they did was great. They had a plan. They had a board. And they stuck to both of them throughout the entire fire storm that was the most recent Josh Gordon situation. They did what every successful franchise in the NFL does. What we as a fan base have always longed for them to do. They didn’t reach for players just because of a need. They targeted talented prospects that fit within the scheme and culture that they want to implement, and they went and got those players.

Forcing a wide receiver just because Josh Gordon may be suspended would have been a gigantic mistake. At whichever pick you want to bring up. I know that a lot of people were in love with Sammy Watkins. Personally, I don’t see him as an elite wide receiver in the NFL. Very good? Sure. But not elite. And right off the bat, if you’re taking a non elite wide receiver in the top ten you’re shooting yourself in the foot. What the Browns got instead of that was the top rated corner who will have as much of an impact that Watkins would have had, if not more, and a first round pick that figures to at least be in the top half of next year’s Draft. That is the right decision. Both in the short and long term.

The Browns then followed that up by passing on all of the second tier wide receivers at pick thirty five. I feel like this was the pick that sent the wide receiver nuts off the cliff. There’s no doubt that there were some talented receivers on the board at that time. But the Browns obviously had Bitonio rated much higher. And let’s not forget that he will almost certainly make an impact starting day one at a position that drastically needed upgrading. It’s a cardinal sin in the NFL Draft to pass on a much better player just because you may have a need somewhere else. At least it is for the good teams. If Joel Bitonio turns out to be a long term quality starter on the offensive line, then the decision to take him will turn out to be fantastic.

Add to that the fact that no wide receiver that was available in the second round, or third or fourth for that matter, would even come close to replacing the production of Josh Gordon. In fact, most of them will turn out to be pedestrian at best. You know what happens when you force a pick just because you have a glaring hole at the position? Leon McFadden. That’s what. You remember, the guy who was taken in the third round last year who may not even make the team this year? Forcing a wide receiver just because would most likely turn out to be a mistake in the long run. Yet another Draft I would have to look back on years later that would cause me to slam my head against the desk.

That time is over though. The Browns didn’t buckle to pressure and the growing discontent within the fan base. They didn’t take a lesser rated player because they had an unexpected opening in their starting line up. Basically, they acted as if they were an actual NFL organization. There will be plenty of time in the four months until the season begins to make a trade or bring in a couple free agents. Or both. Or maybe one of the young developmental guys will emerge. Who knows. But I’m starting to feel like this regime has a plan and may just know what they’re doing. The way that they handled the wide receiver position during the Draft is only more evidence of that in my mind.

Receiver Possibilities For The Browns

The 2014 NFL Draft is over, but the fun is just beginning! Calling all receivers!

It’s obvious that GM Ray Farmer and the Browns had a plan going into the Draft, and executed it without much deviation. The Draft itself went particularly well for Cleveland, picking up some solid talent and setting up well for next year’s Draft as well.

But how about the hole in the receiving corps on the opposite side of Josh Gordon that we wanted to fill? Hell, what about the hole that might be where Josh Gordon was?

Post-Draft, Farmer stated that there were plenty of opportunities to improve the wide receiver situation. That started near immediately, as several undrafted free agency receiver signings came to the forefront through today:

Chandler Jones, San Jose State

Jonathan Krause, Vanderbilt

Kenny Shaw, Florida State

Willie Snead, Ball State

Now none of these guys is expected to come in to replace Gordon, nor are they being expected to line up as the #2 receiver on the depth chart. But they do provide some depth in the position in case others have to be moved into bigger roles (thinking Burleson and Hawkins here). Plus, there are some intriguing diamond-style skills in these rough players.

Chandler Jones, Wide Receiver, San Jose State University

A smaller receiver (5″9, 180), he is the son of former Saints / Vikings receiver Mike Jones,so he has NFL familiarity and pedigree. He was a standout receiver at San Jose State, and performed well in his time at the school. Durable for his size,  he can find his way near-instinctively in zone coverage, and is tough to catch in traffic. He’s confident and competitive, as shown by his team captaincy in college, but could do to get a little more creative after the catch. He also needs to see if he can find a little more top speed at the next level; he did run track in high school, so there should be some room to grow.

Willie Snead, Wide Receiver, Ball State University

Another receiver on the smaller side (5″11, 195), Snead didn’t start all the time early in his career. His best year did come in his last year, starting all 13 games and coming out of it with 106 catches, 1516 yards, and 15 TDs. Snead is a controlled and balanced runner, with good breaks and crisp routes. He has some subtleties to his routes that get him open, along with being able to track and adjust with a good deal of success. His hands allow him to be a natural catcher, and his concentration gives him an above average chance to get a contested catch. That’s a good fact, because the knocks on him include not being able to get the vertical separation that would cut down on contested catch attempts. He also doesn’t have as much of that ‘wiggle’ as you’d like from a top-flight receiver to leave a defender behind after the catch. If he can shift his mentality to say that getting away from the defender is part of the route-running, he might be able to fool himself into adding some juke and jive to get away from the defender after the catch.

Kenny Shaw, Wide Receiver, Florida State University

Yet another small receiver (5″11, 160), he played like a much bigger presence. He was straight fearless over the middle, able to absorb a ton of punishment and still hang on to the ball. He’s not so good as a blocking presence, but is willing to at least give things a shot and get down to fight. He has the body and balance to go after throws that are a little off the ‘bubble’, and has solid (if not big) hands. He also has a little bit of speed and break, able to garner some yards after the catch and make the first man miss. His biggest problem coming to the next level is going to be one of durability; unless he were to bulk up, he will eventually get destroyed by bigger backs and faster corners. He needs to either find some speed or agility to make people miss, or put some mass on himself to better absorb the punishment he will take in the NFL.

Jonathan Krause, Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt University

We finally see a receiver break the 6-foot barrier (not by much, at 6″1), and at 215 pounds as well, Krause seems to be closer to the build of a prototypical NFL wide-out. He really broke out as the secondary option to fellow wide receiver Jordan Matthews, so he knows how to thrive with a bigger talent on the field. Krause proved himself reliable in many facets of the Vandy gameplan, showing skills in kick returns, receiving, and even blocking and coming out of the backfield. He’s flashed significant speed, allowing him to get open and achieve that ‘second gear’ that could break him away in the secondary. The biggest issue is that the large majority of his success came from defenses keying in on a better guy; before Vandy’s 2013 campaign, he was third on the depth chart behind Matthews and Chris Boyd, before Boyd was dismissed from the program.

Take Aways

I believe the receivers to watch out for from this group are Krause and Snead. Snead has those unteachable aspects, and can be refined to play a more NFL-style. Krause can be a fit in several different aspects of a gameplan, has a little more size than the others, and has shown that he can be very successful when his name is called. Either one of those guys could make the depth charts, in my mind.

Other options?

There have already been rumors about veterans coming in via free agency or trade. Mike Wallace of the Dolphins has been an already oft-mentioned name, with some others such as Santonio Holmes, Miles Austin, and Jordy Nelson being in the rumor mill as well. After the small glut of releases from the Browns today (Young, Tanney, Whittaker, Sanford, Hughes), a little of that trade talk might die down, as some of the pieces I thought might make for trade bait were included. But, “Trader Ray” has already made a name for himself over the Draft… Perhaps the trend will continue.

Thursday Nights Draft Madness turns to Weekend Sadness for Cleveland Browns Fans

Thursday night, the 2014 NFL Draft commenced at Radio City Music Hall in New York City as all 32 National Football League teams looked to add new blood to their rosters in hope of being the next team to win the Super Bowl. The night was a coming out party of sorts for new Cleveland Browns General Manager Ray Farmer, as he quickly announced himself to the NFL world by trading the #4 overall pick to the Buffalo Bills to move back 5 spots to #9 and, in the process, added Buffalo’s 2015 1st and 4th round picks. That trade turned heads everywhere from those wondering why the Browns passed on wide receiver Sammy Watkins (more on that later) to those that couldn’t believe Buffalo would give up so much to only move up 5 spots. Four slots later, Farmer was at it again, as he moved up one spot to #8 by trading the 9th pick along with a 5th round pick to the Minnesota Vikings in order to select Cornerback Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State University.

NFL Draft Football

While making two trades in the top 8 draft picks would seem like it was a huge splash, Farmer was just getting started, as the biggest news of the night would occur at pick #22. The Philadelphia Eagles were the owners of pick #22 when “Trader Ray” the nickname given to Ray Farmer by some other general managers reached out to the Eagles and offered the Browns pick at #26 along with their 3rd round selection at #83. The Eagles, who were on the verge of trading the pick to Minnesota, quickly took the Browns offer, which was much better than the package offered by the Vikings. With the 22nd pick the Browns chose Quarterback Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M University. “Johnny Football,” as Manziel is known worldwide, immediately became the story of the night.

Johnny Manziel chatting with Deion Sanders after being picked by the Browns at #22

Day 2 of the draft began with a huge buzz for the Browns and their fans everywhere, as there were reports of a huge surge in season ticket sales, along with #2 Manziel Browns Jersey’s flying off the presses straight onto the backs of adoring Browns fans. Early in the afternoon, the Browns had a press conference to introduce Justin Gilbert and Manziel to the media, though Gilbert was only asked a few questions, as everyone was busy hanging on every word out of Johnny Football’s mouth.

The buzz and promise would only last so long though, as about an hour before the start of round 2 of the draft, while Browns fans and sports-talkers alike continued to debate the merits of Manziel and whether or not he should start week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers, two reporters from ESPN’s Outside the Lines series reported that Browns star wide receiver Josh Gordon had failed a drug test and would be banned for the entire 2014 season. While this isn’t the first time that Gordon has allegedly run afoul of the league’s substance abuse policy, it still left fans and media feeling a range of emotions from shock and anger, to depression and disgust.

After the fog of the announcement began to dissipate, the first thing everyone wanted to know was if and when the Browns front office and coaching staff knew about this alleged infraction, and what they were going to do to address it. What made the announcement even more puzzling was the fact the Browns had the opportunity to draft the top two wide receivers available on Thursday night in Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins or Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. Since the team chose not to draft either of those two players and, as it turned out, didn’t pick any receivers the rest of the draft, Browns fans everywhere were left wondering if the report was even true. Browns fans would later get their “answer” when reporters peppered Farmer and coach Mike Pettine about the Gordon situation in their post draft press conference. Farmer and Pettine’s response was: “they weren’t allowed to answer questions about Gordon, because of the NFL’s policy.” In other words, they can’t officially say anything due to privacy rules until any appeals process is over and the league announces any suspensions. This type of non-denial/non-answer is essentially a confirmation the report is probably true.

Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine meet with reporters to discuss the draft

The Gordon situation is a maddening one for the Browns organization and its fans as, not even 24 hours after a huge public relations boon with the addition of Johnny Manziel, all of the air is immediately sucked out of the balloon. People like to say “only in Cleveland” does this type of stuff happen. While that may not be true, it does make you think: Who the hell did Cleveland piss off, and how can they fix it?

 

The Cleveland Browns Draft, In Review

Three Days. Seven Rounds. One Conclusion.

This Draft, especially in the early rounds, has been one of some degree of craziness for the Browns. The first day of elation was quickly tempered just before the second day started.

Thankfully, just like the NFL season, we can’t judge the whole on one small part. The Draft is a multi-faceted, and there’s a lot of different aspects to talk about.

Let’s go around the horn to recap:

DAY ONE REVIEW

This is obviously the big day of the Draft for everyone, and the Browns were no exception this year. The pundits and fan base had some “expectations” for the 4th and 26th picks.

But the Browns had their own path to carve…

The first maneuver was for the Browns to trade out of the 4th pick, dropping down to the Buffalo Bills’ number 9. The Browns also got the Bills’ first- AND fourth-rounders in the 2015 Draft. Despite the fact that the Bills picked Sammy Watkins with that #4, it’s widely believed that the first-round pick the Browns nabbed from them will be at worst a top-15, and quite possibly another top-10 pick.

Next, the Browns took that 9th pick, and a fifth-rounder (number 145), and nudged into the Minnesota Vikings’ #8 spot. Obviously the Browns wanted to make sure that the Vikes didn’t grab their guy, and that guy was…

Cornerback Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State?

Yes, I was about as surprised as anyone that the pick wasn’t a wide-out or a QB (seeing Bortles and Watkins go back-to-back made me fidgety). However, looking into the pick a little more, Gilbert is that shut-down cover corner that Cleveland’s wanted to pair with Joe Haden for a bit now.

You know, the one that Buster Skrine-Door isn’t.

So this pick gives the team a truly formidable corner duo, while allowing Skrine to come back inside, where he has a better track record. A surprising pick, certainly, but one that cements the Cleveland defense as one to really watch out for.

Meanwhile, while everyone was both head-scratching and lauding the Gilbert pick, Cleveland continued to make moves. The 26th pick in the Draft rather suddenly turned into the 22nd pick, as the Browns and Philadelphia Eagles pulled off some pick-swapping… The Eagles got the 26th pick, plus the second of the Browns’ third-round picks (number 83). The Browns got the 22nd pick, and turned it into…

Quarterback Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M.

The Browns managed to address one of the glaring needs at quite a bargain after Manziel (and Bridgewater, and Carr) seemed to inexplicably tumble down the Draft board.

Now… I will say this… My opinion of Johnny Football (now Johnny Cleveland) is widely known, and was briefly (but hotly) debated on the Jake And Joe Show on Thursday. However, I got a chance to talk to the same man I debated with the next morning, after sleep and cooler heads prevailed.

Dale Armbruster is the producer of the Jake And Joe Show, a fellow sports head, and a good friend. When I saw him that Friday morning, we talked a little bit, and he pointed a few things out to me. Moves that the Browns made pre-Draft were all lining up to have Manziel come in to Cleveland. However, those same moves had the secondary side effect of setting up to address the big attitude and personality concerns I had with Johnny.

After all, who better to give Manziel all the insight on the Cleveland way of life and mentality than a kid that graduated from Saint Ignatius, and is lauded as a bit of a hometown hero? Who better to let Manziel know how humbling the NFL can really be than a guy that was a similar style of dual-threat quarterback before he got set in his place by he ‘big show’?

Looking at things from that kind of perspective has been helpful, as was listening to his pressers. I’m still not fully on the Johnny Football bandwagon, but I can look more at his talent and intangibles than the ‘Hollywood’ that accompanies him. If things line up to keep him out of trouble and the limelight (off the field, at least), this is going to be a very exciting time to be a Cleveland Browns fan.

DAY TWO REVIEW

As much elation as there was after Day One, it was tempered quite quickly before the start of Day Two as news broke of a possible season-long ban for Browns stand-out WR Josh Gordon. While there’s debate on when the front office knew about this possibility (some say that day, some say two weeks), there was no debate on the effect it had on the front office’s Draft strategy. Case in point, the Browns had the third pick of the second day, and drafted…

Offensive tackle Joel Bitonio from Nevada.

Hm. Well then.

The pick was definitely a good one. Shoring up the offensive line was a definitive priority, and Bitonio is one of those guys that has the potential to play even bigger than he showed in his college career.  He’ll be a strong presence on an already-improving offensive line.

However, the glaring hole at wide receiver was growing. It temporarily popped open a little more as news came out that Nate Burleson broke his arm in OTAs. Later news reports stated that it was a minor surgery on the plate in the arm he broke last season, and that he would be back in time for training camp. So we had on minor crisis averted, but the Gordon news still loomed over the rest of the Draft. So… What did the Browns do? After trading with the San Francisco 49ers to get back to having 2 third-round picks, they upended the Draft board, and nabbed these two players…

Linebacker Christian Kirksey from Iowa.

Running back Terrance West from Townson.

Alrighty then!

It was becoming obvious (taking myself out of Fan Mode) that the Browns had a plan going in, and they weren’t deviating from it. Despite the clamor from the fans, the confusion of the media, the off-field fiascoes surrounding them, Ray Farmer stuck with their guns and kept with the players they were looking for.

Kirksey is a tough, Big Ten talent that could be moved to the inside of the line to shore things up, and is a nice addition to the likes of a Karlos Dansby. West is a more intriguing pick-up, as the backfield becomes more of a competition than we anticipated. West is an interesting pick-up out of the FCS ranks, who showed amazingly in a snowy FCS semifinals. He has some ability as an out-of-the-backfield pass-catcher, and was compared favorably to a Carlos Hyde.

So yes, there were still questions on the wide receiver front, and no real sign of answering them. The plan seemed like it was one of a ground-and-pound, with a dual-threat quarterback and lockdown lines on both sides of the ball. Maybe Day Three would net us a wide-out out of some of the talent left?

DAY THREE REVIEW

Unless things changed, the Browns would be picking pretty early, then pretty late, in the day. The trades in the first two days had left the Rounds 5 and 6 cupboards bare, but had been worthwhile so far. So would the Browns address the wide receiver need? Did the front office even see a wide receiver need being addressed through the Draft? Let’s tune into the fourth-round pick and see…

Cornerback Pierre Desir from Lindenwood.

Nope.

There’s no denying Desir’s talent coming out of a small school; he was apparently a slightly-faster 40 out of the second round. An above-average zone cover player, he definitely could serve in a backup / special teams role quickly. He will need some time to really come into his own, but he could be a steal.

So no wide receiver… And there was to be none on this last Draft day, as the Browns traded their last pick to the Ravens for a sixth-rounder next year.

However, Farmer did address the position after the dust settled, saying that there were plenty of other ways to get the talent into town. Indeed, there’s already rumors flying, and several wide-outs are rumored to be coming in as undrafted free agents.

I’ll start going over those tomorrow.

Cleveland Browns 2014 Draft Recap

It’s safe to say that General Manager Ray Farmer’s first draft with the Cleveland Browns was a success. Farmer had many guessing as the draft got closer and closer, and he navigated the three days like a seasoned professional. Coming into the 2014 draft with ten picks, Farmer wheeled and dealed his way up and down, ultimately selecting six players. All six of the players selected by the Browns came within the top 130 picks (the final selection was at pick 126 in the fourth round) and all six have one thing in common, they’re physical with a great work ethic. Clearly Farmer had a blueprint he stuck to, not deviating even with the news that Josh Gordon (reportedly) failed yet another drug test and could possibly suspended indefinitely (with the possibility of reinstatement after 12 months). While it may have been nice to draft a receiver, the odds of a day two or day three receiving prospect coming in and filling the void left by Gordon are slim to none. This was a deep receiver class, but the class was also made up of a lot of project prospects that have high ceilings. Often times these high ceiling projects never fully materialize on the field (Carlton Mitchell). With that said, here’s a recap of the Cleveland Browns 2014 draft picks and how they figure to fit in with the team.

Round 4, Pick 126 – Pierre Desir, CB Lindenwood

Nicknamed the French Assassin, Pierre Desir is a small school standout with big time upside. He has good size for the position (6’1″ 198 pounds) and is very athletic. In his senior season he won the Cliff Harris award, which is given annually to the nation’s top small college cornerback. He has 25 interceptions in his four year collage career and attacks the ball in the air. So how does Desir fit in with the Browns defensive backfield made up already of Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and first round pick Justin Gilbert? More than likely, Desir will be used as a depth player initially and a special teams player. It’s unlikely he won’t see the field however, but it will probably be in nickel and dime packages. Ultimately, Desir has the talent to be a team’s second corner in the NFL, however he is likely a few years away from realizing that potential.

Round 3, Pick 94 – Terrance West, RB Towson

The Browns traded up with the San Francisco 49ers (the teams swapped fourth round selections and Cleveland gave up a sixth round pick) to select Terrance West. West is a physical runner who also has the ability to make would be tacklers miss. In his 2013 junior season, West ran for 2,509 yards and 41 touchdowns (both FCS records) and for his career has over 4,800 yards rushing along with 84 touchdowns. His workload was heavy (802 carries including 413 his junior year) but look for West to be the Browns backup running back behind free agent Ben Tate. In West and Tate the Browns have a strong one-two punch at running back who can wear down defenses over the course of a game. West also showed some ability to catch the ball his junior season, catching 26 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown.

Round 3, Pick 71 – Christian Kirksey, OLB Iowa

The Browns addressed a major need in a cover linebacker in Christian Kirksey. Kirksey was asked to cover tight ends as well as slot receivers in college, and did so very well. He is fast enough to stay with NFL tight ends and athletic enough to not just tackle his assignment but make a play on the ball, notching four interceptions in his career at Iowa. Kirksey isn’t the biggest linebacker (6’2″ 233 pounds) but he can hold his own in the run game, taking on blockers and using his quickness to his advantage. He will need to do a better job of consistently reading the run, but he wasn’t drafted to be a run stopper. Kirksey initially may be a special teamer but could see some time in third down or other passing situations because of his ability to cover.

Round 2, Pick 35 – Joel Bitonio, OL Nevada

Cleveland has been looking for a physical, mauler type of lineman and may have just found their man in the form of 6’4″ 302 pound Joel Bitonio. Bitonio spent the majority of his college career at offensive tackle, but played the guard position during the Senior Bowl and looked comfortable doing so. Bitonio, who also took some snaps at the Senior Bowl at center, has the ability to play anywhere on the offensive line and will challenge for a starting spot at offensive guard. His combination of strength, intelligence and quickness makes his a perfect fit for Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. Bitonio is also reliable in pass protection and will not let up on his man, even if he’s already been taken out of the play. He has a relentless motor and brings a touch of nasty to the Browns offensive line.

Round 1, Pick 22 – Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M

The Browns traded up from pick 26 and hope to have solved their quarterback struggles by drafting Johnny Manziel in the first round. While I felt there were better options available for the Browns (specifically Teddy Bridgewater), Manziel does possess several desirable traits that teams look for in a franchise quarterback. Manziel is as competitive as they come. He has a plus arm and can make something out of nothing. He will likely challenge Brian Hoyer to be the week one starter and will ultimately be the team’s leader.

Round 1, Pick 8 – Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State

The Browns originally owned pick number four overall, however traded with the Buffalo Bills netting them the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft as well as Buffalo’s first and fourth round pick in next year’s draft. Then, the Browns traded up to pick number eight with the Minnesota Vikings (which also cost the Browns pick 145 overall) to select Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is a fast, physical cornerback who projects to be the teams number two corner opposite of Joe Haden. He also will act as an insurance policy should the Browns and Haden be unable to make a deal on a contract extension and could be an asset in the return game.

Manziel Gilbert
For my full breakdown of the Browns picks in the first round, click here.

The Browns addressed multiple needs on both sides of the ball. On the offensive side, they added quality players in West and Bitonio and star power in Manziel. On the defensive side, they brought in some much needed cornerback depth and a potential week one starter in Gilbert. Kirksey also figures to be a special teams contributor and a solid coverage linebacker. Ray Farmer also did a nice job setting up the Browns for the 2015 draft, where they now have ten selections (the two selections from the Bills and a 2015 6th round selection from Baltimore). It’s unfortunate that the actions of Josh Gordon could potentially cost the Browns their number one receiver, but credit Farmer and company for sticking to their plan and executing it, as they were reportedly aware of the situation before the draft. Cleveland has also reportedly been active in bringing in undrafted free agents. Click here for a list of Browns undrafted free agents and mini-camp invitees.

Buying In: The Highs and Lows of Draft Weekend

When I last was with you I was sitting on my front porch grinning from ear to ear after an incredible first round by our Cleveland Browns. Ray Farmer and company had ended up with the top rated cornerback, a potential franchise quarterback, and a first round pick next year from the team with the longest playoff drought in the NFL. When I wrote that you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried, I couldn’t have been any more serious and genuine. Things like “I wonder if there’s any place open that sells fireworks” and “How many season tickets can I afford” were running through my head. I’m not exactly sure what it’s like to be on cloud nine because, you know, I’m a Clevelander. But on that night, this city sure felt pretty darn close to what I imagine it to be.

I woke up Friday morning wondering if the previous night had actually happened. It felt like a dream. And then the news broke just as I was finishing up my draft diary and getting ready for another exciting and eventful night. The dream changed to a nightmare in an instant. The Browns were hit with the news that they were facing the 2014 season without the services of their most talented player. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Every ounce of excitement and hope that I had built up from the night before had been sucked away by whatever cosmic force is hell-bent on the continued misery of Cleveland sports fans everywhere.

I could barely muster enough energy to sit on the couch and stare at a television. One of my favorite sports related events of the entire year was, for all intents and purposes, ruined by the reports of the impending suspension of the only player who made the second half of the 2013 season watchable. I fought through the despair that had overtaken me and mustered enough strength and courage to watch the broadcast of the second and third rounds. I have to admit that it was difficult. I really had to dig deep and it certainly wasn’t the experience that I was expecting. But what can I say? That’s why they pay me the big bucks.

When the dust settled on Friday night the Browns had taken three more players, and they followed that up with one final selection in the fourth round on Saturday. And while I was, and still am, reeling from the Josh Gordon news, I have to separate that from what the Browns did in the Draft. Again, that’s why they pay me me the big bucks (I’m hoping that if I continue to say that it may actually happen).

If I’m separating what the Browns did in the Draft from the Gordon news, I have to say that I’m incredibly pleased with everything that happened the past few days. No, strike that. I’m ecstatic with everything that happened the past few days. Sure, it’s no secret that I tend to fall on the optimistic side of the sports spectrum. I don’t know how I’d live with the constant gut punches and suffocating misery if I didn’t at least try to have a positive outlook. That, and being a hopeless cynic about everything is unproductive, boring, and lazy. But no, my tendency for optimism has nothing to do with my reaction to the Browns Draft. I fully believe that Ray Farmer and company did a tremendous job. And I’ll tell you why.

The Browns used the assets that they had, selectively maneuvered around the rounds, and ended up with talented prospects that also happened to address positions of need. They chose quality over quantity and managed to add that quality to parts of the roster that really needed it. Think about it this way. Every single player that the Browns took has a legitimate shot to contribute this season. In a meaningful way. Seriously, think about that for a minute. This Browns draft class has the potential to provide an immediate impact in a way that no Browns draft class has since the team was in its infancy stages as an expansion franchise over a decade ago.

Let’s break it down. They secured two guys on the defensive side who could be day one starters and upgrades at their positions. Those being Justin Gilbert and Christian Kirksey. Gilbert, the top rated corner by many Draft prognosticators, will almost certainly step in and start opposite of Joe Haden right away. He will allow Mike Pettine to fully implement his defensive system. One that requires solid corners that have to be able to hold their own on the outside in man coverage. The selection of Gilbert will also allow Buster Skrine to slide inside. Following a disastrous 2012 season, Skrine actually had a pretty solid 2013 campaign. Moving him to the nickel corner spot and sliding him inside to cover the opposing teams’ slot receiver will accentuate his skill set and maximize his value to the Browns. In addition to improving the secondary, the Browns also found a potential replace for Craig Robertson at inside linebacker. Robertson, by all accounts, was among the worst starting defensive players in the entire NFL last season. I still have traumatic flashbacks to him getting embarrassed in pass coverage on third downs. Whether Christian Kirksey ends up as great player remains to be seen. But I can’t imagine any way that he is worse than what we had at that position last season.

On the other side of the ball, the Browns ended up with what will most likely be immediate contributors on the offensive line and in the backfield. Joel Bitonio, an offensive lineman from Nevada, was taken with the Browns second round pick. I’ll wholeheartedly admit that my first reaction to the selection was “who?”. But as I found out a little bit about Bitonio and listened to his conference call with the hard hitting Browns press corps, I have to say that I started to fall in love with the pick. He seems to be a versatile lineman with a nasty streak. A talented player who will fit in perfectly with the zone blocking scheme that Kyle Shanahan is going to implement. He’ll be an instant starter on the offensive line, and a pretty good one if I had to bet. The Browns also traded back up into the end of the third round to take running back Terrance West from Towson. West was a productive college player and should immediately compliment free agent acquisition Ben Tate. Last season the running back position in Cleveland was a black hole of unproductivity. The addition of West, along with Tate, will instantly turn that around.

Aside from all of those picks, the Browns also ended up with a young quarterback. You may have heard something about this. They traded up in the first round and took a little known player from Texas A&M. All joking aside, the selection of Johnny Manziel is the thing that puts this draft over the top for me. Whether you love him or hate him, the Browns went up and got a guy that has a chance to be the answer at quarterback that we have been waiting for the past two decades. I can guarantee you that, at some point, I’ll have a 2,500 word article on why Johnny is going to be a phenomenal pick and super star quarterback for the Browns. Right now, let me just analyze this within the context of an overall Draft strategy. The team identified a player that they felt could be the quarterback of the future and they went up and got that player. No matter who the player was, that’s what you have to do in today’s NFL when you don’t have a definite answer at the most important position in all of professional sports. If they had done the same thing for Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater I would have the same opinion of the move. Maybe not the player, but definitely the move. In my mind, every other pick by the Browns is just gravy. This draft is about getting Johnny Manziel and I absolutely love the pick.

I know that there are many people who were somewhere between perplexed and furious that the Browns didn’t take a wide receiver in this draft. And I know that that decision is being used as a reason why the draft was a horrible failure and Ray Farmer is the latest incarnation of Dwight Clark or Butch Davis or Phil Savage or Eric Mangini or Tom Heckert or Mike Holmgren or Mike Lombardi or Joe Banner. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as the Browns having a legitimate structure, legitimate talent in the front office and on the coaching staff, and a legitimate plan on how to carry out the Draft. They stuck with their plan and their board. Something that they put months and months of work into formulating. And they used the assets they had to bring in talented guys that fit within their system in order to improve the talent on the roster and change the putrid culture that has encompassed this franchise for years.

I thought about this as I sat on the porch Thursday night and listened to Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine recap their first round. They sounded like people who knew what they were doing. People who actually had an effective plan at how to build a team and organization. It really seemed like the Browns finally had a competent General Manager and Head Coach in place. That they had people at the two most important organizational positions who had a plan and were able to work together. And as I sat there, rocking back and forth, I truly felt that this team that I irrationally love was about to turn the corner. That a lifetime of misery and dysfunction was finally coming to an end. Nothing should let that enthusiasm be dampened. I don’t care who might get suspended. The Browns are on the right track. They did a great job. And it’s ok to let yourself believe that. It’s ok to buy in. I certainly am.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of ClevelandBrowns.com

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Browns' 2014 Draft so far

Hey! Look at us, Cleveland Browns’ fans! We’re being talked about nationally and it’s not as the punchline for a joke. Get used to it Brownies, cuz it’s JFF time. MONEY HAND-SIGNALS/GESTURES FOR DAYS.

 

 

You asked for a splash and Ray Farmer dumped a kiddie pool full of Goldschlager on our heads. I gotta admit, I feel a little bit like one of those feral children right now–we’ve been kept out in the wilderness so long, cut off from human contact and relevancy in the NFL that I’m not sure what to do with this new-found notoriety. The Cleveland Browns needed a shot in the arm and Farmer and company did just that–and the Cleveland public has responded justly with reports of more than 2,300 new season ticket sales since Manziel’s been drafted and a line out the door of the Browns’ team shop all day yesterday to buy his $150 jersey. And, oh yeah, they drafted that Justin Gilbert guy who’s supposedly going to help on defense.

So, there I was enjoying my Friday, looking forward to the weekend and wondering how many beers I was going to drain into my face…and, oh….what’s that? I must have heard you wrong…you said Josh Gordon reportedly failed another drug test for MARIJUANA and is facing a year-long banishment from the NFL? And that the Browns’ front office reportedly knew about the failed test for at least the past week?

So, ok…(deep breaths)…we can still do this, we’ll just take one of those flashy wide receivers still available at the start of the second round and develop him and keep him away from Gordon’s Purple Drank and WE CAN STILL DO THIS. Come Saturday morning we still haven’t drafted any wide receivers, leaving us with potentially Nate Burleson (more on him in a second), Andrew Hawkins and Greg Little as the only WR targets for Manziel and Hoyer. (Buries head in hands and weeps)

 

 

WELP. We didn’t even get a full 24 HOURS to enjoy the post-Manziel draft glow before the old Norse god that this city must have angered in a previous dimension swung his hammer and punished us yet again. Being a Cleveland Browns fan is no longer just an exercise in patience or frustration, an ordeal that garners sympathy in public conversation when talking about our favorite teams in the NFL. The struggle in this city is very real. Somebody did something wrong and we are all paying for it. I sat and looked at the ESPN.com story about Gordon’s suspension and questioned everything–was I part of the problem, the “curse”? What can I do to help? Are we really just this screwed? Where is the beef?

I tried to get myself out this existential funk by watching the second and third round of the draft last night. We chose an offensive tackle out of Nevada, Joel Bitonio, with the 35th pick of the 2014 NFL DRAFT. I guess that’s a good move, Mitchell Schwartz sucked last year for the most part, Lauvao is toast and that guy we signed from Seattle, McQuistan, was only playing part-time last year. Then with the Browns’ third round pick they choose a linebacker, Christian Kirksey, out of Iowa. Kirksey is on the smaller side, 6′ 1″, 233-lbs, but Coach Pettine seems to value speed over size. Another boost for the defense, but still no wide receivers. The Browns were supposed to be done for the night, but Farmer’s wheeling and dealing apparently weren’t finished yet as they traded up for the 30th pick in the third round, snagging running back Terrance West out of Towson University. A bruising runner who will add some insurance to the backfield if Ben Tate’s propensity for injury flares up again, West should hopefully spell the end of Willis McGahee’s time in Berea.

So since the Browns traded up for Terrance West, they are only left with two picks this weekend–the 27th pick of the fourth round and the third pick of the seventh round. They have got to take a wide receiver at some point, though pickings are slim. Brandon Coleman, out of Rutgers, is a big, athletic receiver that is still on the board. Jared Abbrederis, out of Wisconsin, is projected to go somewhere in the 4th or 5th round and might be worth a look by Farmer. It should be noted that nothing about Gordon’s suspension has been confirmed, it’s all just been “anonymous NFL sources” telling ESPN and others that Gordon is facing suspension. Regardless, the Browns still need to take somebody that Johnny or Brian can throw the ball to.

Back to Burleson–it was revealed yesterday that he had surgery to fix the same arm that he broke and missed most of the 2013 season during the “Great Pizza Save of 2013.” It means Burleson will be out most of the summer but should be back for the start of training camp. Can anything like the past 48 hours in terms of professional football, the draft and WTF is going on with our players happen anywhere else but in Cleveland? Johnny Freakin’ Football–welcome to the North Coast.