Tuesday, April 27

Draft Weekend Recap, Part 1

Draft weekend has come and gone, and as always it provided plenty of suspense and surprises. In part one of my recap, I will take a look at all of the Browns picks, and provide some thoughts on each.

I don’t presume to know enough to apply a letter grade to any of these gentlemen, so I’ll simply hit on some of their strengths and weaknesses, and look at how they might fit into the Browns’ plans as we prepare for the 2010 season. For your convenience, I’ve linked each player to his scouting report on DraftCountdown, and Scott Wright’s Top 255 Prospect List can be found here.

Truly “grading” picks is a little silly at this stage of the game, but I may talk a little about value, because that’s the only way we can really grade drafts at this point. Just like the fantasy drafts run by mere mortals like us, NFL teams want to get the most bang for their buck, and if they can get a player they want with a later pick that’s obviously ideal. In that regard, the Browns seem to have done alright (with one or two exceptions) which is more than we can say for some of the club’s awful drafts when they were run by a fellow whose name rhymes with “white shark.” Let’s get this party started.

Joe Haden (Round 1, #7) – CB, Florida

After Eric Berry went number five to the Chiefs, most of us were left wondering what the Browns’ backup plan would be. Haden was the early consensus pick for the Browns a couple months ago, but a slow 40 time at the combine dropped his stock. Florida’s Pro Day gave Haden an opportunity to improve his time, and by all accounts he did just that. That initial slow time is still a little worrisome, but if the Browns had questions about his speed, then they probably would have chosen Boise State’s Kyle Wilson, whom some within the organization supposedly preferred.

At the risk of exploring a tangent, let’s discuss the combine for a moment. If a guy comes out and runs a blisteringly fast time and plays a position that basically only requires him to run, then by all means, that’s important (read: Johnson, Chris). But when you’re talking about a player like Haden, there is three years of tape on him, and there’s so much more to playing corner than simply running 40 yards in a straight line in gym shorts, so I’m not going to sweat 1/10th of a second too much. The combine is an important tool because it lets teams see all of these guys up close on the same field, but some teams also get a little carried away and overvalue this glorified collection of track & field events.

It is a little ironic that we’ve come 360 degrees on Haden – after his poor combine we burnt plenty of calories trying to decrypt the Browns’ intentions, and they ended up taking Haden anyway.

This looks like a solid, if unspectacular pick. The Browns desperately needed to inject some talent into their secondary, and Haden was the top corner on most boards. I would have been happy with Jared Odrick, Rolando McClain, or Jimmy Clausen here, too.

Mostly, I’m glad the Browns passed on Texas safety Earl Thomas. Thomas climbed up lots of draft boards late, which spooks me. The pass-heavy nature of the Big 12 and the recent struggles of Texas DBs like Michael Huff left me very leery on Thomas. I was basically on the same page as our own Dave Kolonich, who penned a nice piece steering the Browns away from Thomas.

Seventh overall is a little high for a corner, and it’s the highest a cornerback has been taken since the Titans selected the ill-fated Pacman Jones back in 2005. The Browns clearly would have liked to move back a few slots, and I actually expected them to do just that, but the combination of skyrocketing rookie contracts and the perception that Russell Okung was the last of the “top tier” players available left the Browns without a trade partner. Some fans clamor for the Browns to move down and collect extra picks every year, and this should be Exhibit A as to why that’s not always a real option.

We won't know whether or not the Browns chose wisely for a few years, but I'm pleased with Haden. He might not be a lockdown corner in the mold of Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha, but then again, few are. If Haden can help shore up a woefully depleted Browns secondary and become a solid number one corner, then the pick will be deemed a success.

Needless to say, the secondary looks much better today than it did a month ago with the additions of Sheldon Brown, Haden, and freshly drafted safeties T.J. Ward and Larry Asante. Hopefully that means we'll see much less of the Hank Poteats and Mike Furreys of the world this season (knock on wood.) Check out some Joe Haden highlights here.

T.J. Ward (Round 2, #38) – S, Oregon

Boy, did I want to hear Jimmy Clausen’s name called here, and I expect that the Browns will regret passing on the polarizing Irish signal caller. Team Walrus pulled the trigger on Ward with some big names still on the board. Clausen is one, but another is USC safety Taylor Mays.

Terry Pluto mentioned that some teams (I assume this includes the Browns) are worried that Mays may become too heavy to play safety at the next level. That seems like a legitimate concern considering that the guy is already a beefy 235 pounds. Even so, the Browns passed on several safety prospects who graded higher than Ward (Major Wright, Morgan Burnett), and there was good reason for the Browns to believe that Ward would be available for selection with one of their picks in the third round. This was probably the biggest “reach” of the Browns’ draft, and reaches are fine when they pan out. In other words, T.J. Ward better make an impact considering who else was available with that pick, otherwise Tom Heckert’s going to have some explaining to do.

I like Ward’s size (5’10”, 210 lbs. – very similar to a Steelers safety with a recognizable hairdo), and if you watch some of his highlights, you’ll see some downright violent hits. This guy could be a real thumper in run support and make opposing receivers listen for footsteps when they go over the middle. Ward also has had some knee and ankle issues in the past, and his coverage skills are a concern.

If he can stay healthy and get his coverage issues worked out, it’s fair to expect Ward to push Abe Elam and/or Mike Adams for playing time. It will be interesting to see if the Browns move Sheldon Brown to safety, where many have surmised he may fit best, or if they keep him at corner as the nickel back after Eric Wright and Joe Haden. That decision may have a big effect on how much playing time Ward sees initially.

As many have pointed out, if the Browns had taken Colt McCoy with this pick and waited to pick up Ward in the third round, it might have made fans more comfortable. While that is true, it doesn’t make Ward any more of a value pick. This looks like a risk/reward pick to me, and I probably would have gone in another direction and tried to nab Ward with one of those third rounders.

Montario Hardesty (Round 2, #59) – RB, Tennessee

The Browns traded two fifth round picks to move up 12 spots and get back into the second round to select Hardesty. I am by no means Mr. College Football, but I remember seeing bits and pieces of two or three Tennessee games, and I remember that Hardesty stood out. In addition to becoming one of the most fun names to say on roster, Hardesty looks like a really well-rounded back in his highlights, and am especially impressed with his receiving skills.

Hardesty will probably make an impact right away, and at about 6’ and 225 pounds, should provide a little thunder to complement Jerome Harrison’s lightning. Newcomer Peyton Hillis can help in that department too. If Hardesty can do a good job blocking, he may become the third down back in addition to proving relief to Harrison, and that’s where his receiving abilities might really come in handy.

Like Ward, Hardesty has had injury problems. However, that’s what you’re often looking at with second and third round running backs – players with first round talent who have one or two significant warts. Ray Rice was too small. Jamaal Charles had ball control issues. Hardesty’s warts are his injury history and a lack of true top-end speed.

I like this pick. Hardesty could have been available when the Browns made their first pick in the third round, but they liked him enough to move up for him. They must have liked him for good reasons, and he looks like a guy who can come in and contribute right away.

Colt McCoy (Round 3, #85), - QB, Texas

Rarely is a third round pick the headliner of your draft, but rarely is a third round pick the winningest quarterback in Division I history. Plenty of folks had McCoy pegged to head to the Browns in round two, but he fell into their lap with their second (they traded the first) third round pick. When Mack Brown strode onstage to announce the pick, well, let’s just say it was a bit of a spoiler.

I was not a fan of taking McCoy at the top of the second round, but the middle-late third round is a good spot for him. This is a good pick, not a great pick. McCoy fell this far for a reason, and we need to be cautious before anointing him the heir to Bernie Kosar.

We all know that McCoy is accurate, mobile, and gutsy with top intangibles. We also know that the knocks on McCoy are his size, arm strength, and numbers-friendly system. McCoy will have the luxury of learning from the example of Jake Delhomme, who has questionable skills at this point in his career, but is by all accounts a consummate professional and all-around great guy.

I would have preferred to nab Jimmy Clausen in round two, who I view as having more upside, but McCoy in the third round isn’t a bad fallback option. For what it’s worth, I’d much rather have a beer with Colt McCoy than Jimmy Clausen, and emotionally, it will be far easier to root for McCoy than it would have been to root for Clausen. (If Clausen starts making Pro Bowls and McCoy is a career backup, that might change.)

McCoy started for four seasons and clearly knows how to play the quarterback position. He is smart, a good leader, and hardworking. It remains to be seen whether or not he can start at the next level, but his floor should be a solid backup. I like backups who are smart, accurate, and well-prepared, and we can expect McCoy to be all three of those things. I also like a backup who gives cameramen an excuse to show his foxy lady friend (blond on the right) in the stands between plays.

If McCoy can become an above-average starter for the Browns, then he was a huge steal. But if he only ever becomes a good backup, or even if he fizzles entirely, all that was risked was a third round pick, and that makes him a good gamble in the third round. The fact that the Browns didn’t have to invest a premium pick or premium dollars in McCoy also means that they won’t hesitate to cut bait if it becomes clear that he isn’t the answer.

You have likely seen plenty of Colt McCoy, but if you want more, check out highlights and such here. After watching more Colt McCoy footage this weekend than I’d care to admit, I have come up with a pro comparison: Jeff Garcia. (When I say Jeff Garcia, I am omitting his year on the North Coast.) Like Garcia, McCoy is mobile, accurate, and has great instincts, but has limited arm strength. Garcia was an extremely productive pro and maximized his limited physical gifts in the west coast offense. Here’s hoping that Colt McCoy can do the same.

Shawn Lauvao (Round 3, #92) – G, Arizona State

With the exceptions of first rounders Jeff Faine, Joe Thomas, and Alex Mack, the Browns have been notoriously stingy when it comes to drafting linemen. Not surprisingly, their offensive line has been consistently mediocre to lousy. I hope that using a third round pick on Shawn Lauvao, who should compete with Floyd Womack for the starting right guard spot, represents a long-overdue paradigm shift.

Investing a one of your top three or four picks in a lineman on a regular basis can help a team build a line from within, instead of having to overpay for linemen in free agency. Not only are free agent linemen pricey, but they also have years of wear and tear on their bodies. Joints, particularly the knees, don’t really respond well to carrying around 300-plus pounds of girth, so it’s better to draft these guys early before they start breaking down.

Larry Asante (Round 5, #160) – S, Nebraska

I don’t know much about Asante, but this seems like a solid pick. Scott Wright graded Asante’s value as nearly identical to T.J. Ward, so the optimist in me says that Asante is a good bargain in the fifth round. The Cleveland fan in me resumes banging his head against the wall over the T.J. Ward pick. Asante will compete with guys like Nick Sorensen and Ray Ventrone for a roster spot as a depth DB and special teamer.

Carlton Mitchell (Round 6, #177) – WR, South Florida

I suspected the Browns would grab a receiver at some point, but I thought that they’d probably fill that need with one of their third round picks. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Browns snap up Mitchell, whom many graded as a third round value. If I remember correctly Todd McShay called him the best remaining player at the time of the pick.

Mitchell has size at 6’3” and 215 pounds, blocks well, and hopefully can provide the Browns with something that resembles a deep threat. Plus, if he finds the end zone, we all know what dance he’ll bust out.

Clifton Geathers (Round 6, #186) – DE, South Carolina

Geathers gives the Browns another solid value in the sixth round (#123 on Scott Wright’s big board), and can potentially give the Browns a defensive lineman who doesn’t need the assistance of one Keith Hernandez.

Check back tomorrow for part two, which will include commentary on other teams, the new TV format, and Tim Tebow jokes.


Bucko said...

What is with you and Notre Dame QB's? Who are you going to route for if ND joins the Big 10? I don't see Clausen being much better than Brady Quinn. Just like Charlie Weis he is over-rated. Also, be careful with the Tebow jokes. I think he'll have a better NFL career than Clausen. Tebow is physically gifted and he has an amazing work ethic.

Figgs said...

Overall I liked the draft. I like the Haden pick, I could care less about his 40 time. If I heard people talk about how he always got beat downfield because he was too slow then I would be concerned, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The only reason I don't love the pick is because of the Brown signing, I hope we move Sheldon to saftey.

The Ward pick is a big question mark, he better have a better career than Mays, that's all I'm saying.

I liked McCoy a lot more than you did, and was thrilled to see him fall to us in the 3rd. And holy shit, his girlfriend is smoking.

There were a few other RBs there that I liked when we picked Hardesty, but I think it was a solid pick.

I love the Mitchell pick. We needed a big guy to stretch the field, and it looks like we got it.

Obviously we're not gonna know a whole lot about the guys drafted after the second round, but we drafted the positions that we needed and seemed to get decent value. We just have to trust in this new regime and wait and see.

Nick said...

Bucko, if a team ever wins a playoff game with Tim Tebow at the helm, I'll buy you a beer. He's not an NFL quarterback. There were at least eight quarterbacks in this draft who I'd rather have than Tebow; he's inaccurate, has no experience in a pro style system and has all kinds of mechanical problems.

I liked our draft too, Figgs. Especially day three. Ward is really the only big question mark.