Wednesday, April 28

Draft Weekend Recap, Part 2

It has been almost a week since the fanfare of the draft’s first round, and it’s time for draft talk to start winding down. In a way, it’s a little sad that we’ll have to wait another 9 or 10 months before it starts all over again, and we can start dissecting the meaning behind .05 seconds of a 40-yard dash and whether or not the next great NFL quarterback is ripe for the drafting.

Then again, the conclusion of the NFL’s signature off-season event means that we are that much closer to reading about mini camps and attending training camps, watching the NFL’s website get flooded with orders for fresh Browns jerseys to fulfill the fashion needs of those who used to spend their Sundays wearing number 10 apparel, and debating whether or not dentist’s offices actually exist in the city of Pittsburgh. As promised, here’s part two of my draft wrap, which is flush with miscellaneous topics that didn’t quite fit in part one.

A Method to the Madness
If you read my impressions of all the Browns’ picks, you probably got the impression that I liked their draft. I do like it, and although I don’t quite love it, we finally saw what should be the first of many drafts with some real purpose, and with very few questionable picks. Gone are the “out of left field” picks that provided no value (David Veikune) and/or didn’t fulfill a need (Travis Wilson).

Even the one pick that everyone is scratching their heads over – T.J. Ward – makes sense because of the Browns’ severe lack of secondary depth. I wonder if Tom Heckert isn’t getting a little too clever for his own good by bucking convention with Ward, but if Ward was the top guy on his board or at least the top guy at safety, then I applaud him for trusting the his team’s collective homework. If Ward comes through in a big way, then Heckert looks like a genius. Even if Ward stumbles or is only mediocre, hopefully we’ll only be talking about one hiccup in an otherwise very strong draft.

The point is that logic and reason are finally winning out in Berea over things like a preference for guys who were top recruits as seniors in high school (Butch Davis), a Boy Scoutish over-emphasis on flawless character (Mangini), or making picks by throwing darts while drunk and blindfolded (Dwight Clark). Yes, this new Browns management team is employing what is considered in these parts to be something of a novel approach.

Hidden Messages?
I suspect that I wasn’t alone in looking very carefully at the defensive players that the Browns selected to try and figure out whether they were guys who could play solely in Eric Mangini’s 3-4 defense. Basically, I wanted to see whether Team Walrus would tip their collective hand on whether or not they were internally committed to Mangini beyond this season alone. If a 3-4 lineman like Jared Odrick or a pass rusher like Jason Pierre-Paul was the pick, then it would be pretty clear that the 3-4 scheme, and likely Mangini, was here to stay.

Instead, three of the four picks on defense were invested in the secondary. The fourth and final pick on defense was Clifton Geathers, a 3-4 defensive end who, as a sixth rounder, has no guarantee of making the team. In other words, we know absolutely nothing more about Mike Holmgren’s long-term plans for Eric Mangini than we did before the draft, and while that certainly doesn’t mean that Mangini is on the hot seat in 2010, it also isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

“Just because you are a character, doesn’t mean you have character”
Character is something that always gets lots of attention heading into the draft. We constantly hear about players who rise and fall on draft boards due to “character issues,” and while each player is different, most teams have taken a fairly risk-averse approach to drafting, especially in the early rounds. The Dallas Cowboys are not one of those teams.

The Cowboys moved up to select receiver Dez Bryant with the 24th pick. Bryant was the most talented receiver in the draft, but slipped due to concerns about his maturity, most of which stemmed from his suspension for lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Deion Sanders.

Bryant is likely suffering not just from his own stupid mistake, but from the limited tolerance that commissioner Roger Goodell has shown for bad player behavior during his tenure. Maybe Bryant has his head on straight and maybe he doesn’t, but plenty of teams that needed a wide receiver passed on Bryant because they simply didn’t think he was worth that risk.

We constantly rolled our eyes at Eric Mangini’s emphasis on character, and his approach was definitely a little extreme. A chat with Michael Crabtree before last year’s draft essentially led Mangini to remove the Texas Tech wideout from the Browns’ draft board, and he seemed determined to craft a team of 53 choir boys, as impractical as that is in reality. In fact, Mangini seemed to have an aversion to star players that makes me much more comfortable with him just coaching the team – and he has proven to be a good coach – instead of assembling the roster.

While Mangini probably took his focus on character too far, it’s understandable why it is such a big concern for teams. Teams invest ludicrous amounts of money in first round draft picks, and as we’ve seen, it’s very difficult to win if you can’t hit on most of those early picks.

If a team’s first round pick busts, the team has wasted valuable time, an exorbitant amount of money, and a premium pick, not to mention that an executive and/or coach’s reputation and job security have also probably taken a substantial hit. So while talent should be the top determinant for where these guys are selected, it’s totally understandable why teams pass on players who are knuckleheads, whether the player is truly a high risk or not.

You would think that a player like Bryant would realize that heading into college, then toe the line, keep his nose clean, and say all the right things because not doing so could cost him millions of dollars. Then again – and Pacman Jones will likely back me up on this – sometimes you just have to make it rain.

On Timothy Richard Tebow…
The consensus heading into the draft was that Tim Tebow would be taken too high, and conventional wisdom sure knocked that one out of the park. Count Denver coach Josh McDaniels among the Tebow Kool-Aid drinkers, because he paid a high price to move back into the first round and nab God’s favorite quarterback.

I have nothing against Tim Tebow other than the fact that he contributed to the Buckeyes’ loss in the 2007 National Championship (alright, so I have a little against him). By all accounts, Tebow seems like a terrific human being. Tebow is a hard worker with a great attitude and an incredible winning record at the collegiate level. Sure, he’s probably a hair too pious for the two of us to hang out on Saturday nights, but when you draft Tebow, you know he’s not going to run over a Miami crane operator while he’s driving drunk and/or high. The term “top notch intangibles” probably isn’t strong enough to describe Tebow.

Intangibles are definitely important, and at no position are they more important than quarterback. That said, intangibles can’t be the sole reason for drafting a player, especially in the first round. Better pro prospects than Tebow went late on day three or weren’t even drafted at all, leading me to believe that McDaniels was the ghost writer of the borderline-homoerotic article about Tebow in GQ last September. Congratulations Broncos fans, you just traded a second, third, and fourth round pick to move up and blow a first rounder on a mascot. The good news? Between Tebow and Brady Quinn, you’re now 1/6th of the way to a hell of a quarterback photo calendar. You’re welcome, ladies.

On Jimmy Clausen…
Before the draft I would have offered anyone astronomical odds that Jimmy Clausen was drafted before Tim Tebow, so I’m glad I didn’t put that bet on the table. It blows me away that Clausen dropped to them middle of the second round, and as a result T.J. Ward and/or Colt McCoy are going to have to be awfully impressive to make me forget about the Browns passing on Clausen. As I wrote last Thursday, I would have been comfortable taking Clausen with the 7th pick, let alone the 38th pick.

Clausen’s fall was fueled by two things: Brady Quinn’s struggles in the pros, and the general perception of him as cocky and arrogant. The Quinn thing is in no way his fault, and I think the character question marks are totally overblown. Selfish divas don’t play the majority of the season with torn tendons in their feet. Maybe Clausen doesn’t have Tebow’s flawless intangibles, but I really don’t think his attitude is going to be an issue at the next level, and unlike Tebow, he has the physical tools be a quality NFL quarterback.

Clausen’s slide led him to fall into the open arms of the Carolina Panthers, a team with a strong running game and an opportunity at quarterback. Heading into the draft I didn’t think Clausen was that far behind Sam Bradford as a pro prospect, and that combined with his great situation in Carolina has landed me squarely in the camp that believes Clausen will have a better career in the NFL than Bradford.

The Ozzie Nuisance
You have to hand it to Ozzie Newsome – the guy knows how to run a draft. The Ravens moved back into the second round as Josh McDaniels got down on one knee and slipped a ring on Tim Tebow’s finger, amassed more picks in doing so, and still added top quality depth to an already strong defense with Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle and Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody.

Kindle fell due to health concerns, as some think he may need microfracture surgery in the future. Taking Kindle was calculated risk for the Ravens; if Kindle stays healthy, it’s a potential home run pick because Kindle was one of the most talented linebackers in this draft class, and if he flames out due to injury, his upside was probably worth the risk in the second round.

Cody provides the Ravens with a pure nose tackle for the 3-4 defense to complement Haloti Ngata, who haunts the Browns twice each season for passing on him in the 2006 Draft. If Cody can keep his weight under control, then it just got that much tougher to run on the Ravens.

You have to admire Newsome’s approach; he drafts talent over need, waits for the inevitable fall of a very gifted player, and makes sure he gets said player for a great value pick, moving up or down if necessary. The approach is so simple that you wonder why more teams don’t adopt it, but then again, it takes extraordinary discipline to walk away from the first round without necessarily having filled an immediate need. Newsome’s patience and long-term perspective are what have made him one of the best on draft day, especially in the early rounds.

Prime Time Permanence
You can definitely count me among the millions of NFL Draft junkies out there, and like many others, I was lukewarm at best about the new three-day format that was kicked off with a prime time Thursday night broadcast.

It isn’t that I have better things do on a Thursday night, because the draft will always take precedence over whatever’s going on in my life besides something like the birth of my first child (and who am I kidding – the draft would still probably be the top priority). What I didn’t like about the new format was that it made it tougher to really blow things out for a draft party because Thursday night is a school night, as opposed to plunking yourself in front of a television at your favorite watering hole on a Saturday and surviving solely on beer and cheeseburgers for the balance of the day.

After one year of the new format, count me among the converted. The new format gives us the first round on a night when there’s probably a solid Tribe game, or an NBA or NHL playoff game on the tube to complement the draft, because let’s be honest – watching the draft alone can get a little slow at times.

With the old format which put the first three rounds on Saturday, fans were often left running on fumes by the time the second half of round two arrived. Now, round two kicks off Friday night at 6:00, giving fans a day to catch a second wind and recharge their batteries for a round that usually features more surprises than the first. Not only that, but because the draft starts at 6:00 on Friday, you can either hunker down for both rounds, or hit the town by 8:00 or so with a great chance that you’ve seen your team make at least one additional pick. Rounds four through seven take place on Saturday morning/afternoon, but only the real draft degenerates watch those rounds anyway (raises hand).

After just one year, I’m totally on board with this great new setup, and a ratings bump means that it’s likely here to stay. Only one more year until we get to do it all over again. Who do you think the Browns will take with the 32nd pick?

1 comment:

Andy said...

Bye bye, Tebow photo