A slew of offseason personnel moves by the Cleveland Browns’ organization, along with the recent trade of All-Pro quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins, have forced mock draft prognosticators from across the spectrum back to square one.
On January 31, 2010 (on a website that shall remain nameless), I was so self-assured that the Cleveland Browns would draft Florida cornerback Joe Haden that I shouted it from the top of the highest mountain.
That was until Haden’s forty time more closely resembled the tortoise than the hare.
Furthermore, I declared that Tennessee safety Eric Berry falling to number seven in the draft was such an impossibility that anyone who thought otherwise must be smoking some kind of organic shrub.
To those who I have offended: I apologize and will gladly eat a steaming helping of crow if or when I am wrong. And I mean GLADLY!
Well, what has happened since January 31, 2010 has created such a whirlwind of speculation amongst Browns fans as to what President Mike Holmgren might do on draft day that local pubs have had to add additional bouncers to calm down arguments breaking out among patrons.
I can certainly understand what all the fuss is all about. After all, fellow Browns fans, the unfortunate truth is that the annual NFL draft has become our Super Bowl over the years.
Every time it is announced that some prospective future NFLer is contacted by the Browns for a personal meeting, the blogosphere goes into a tizzy declaring that said player is all but wearing orange and brown in 2010.
Well, I am hear to tell you that the Browns will not be drafting every player they have talked to, held a private workout for, and/or sent a representative to a “pro day” for.
It is called “due diligence,” and it is something that every football organization has been doing since Jay Berwanger’s name was called by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1936.
Granted, teams take greater precautions now than they ever did. But I caution you not to read too much into the Browns “interest” in a player expected to go 20th in the draft [when they currently hold the seventh position].
Clearly, Cleveland’s needs have changed drastically since January 31st.
They filled the second cornerback slot with Sheldon Brown; pairing him with Eric Wright.
They added a legitimate starting linebacker in Scott Fujita, yet dumped another in Kamerion Wimbley. They added additional depth at the position in Chris Gocong.
They added a starting tight end to the roster in Ben Watson, a veteran presence at right tackle in Tony Pashos, and a bruising running back in Peyton Hillis.
Lastly, the quarterback position has taken more plot twists than the most recent season of 24 .
The Browns have stockpiled enough draft choices to move up or down as they please.
That is why guessing as to which players the team has truly targeted has become so difficult. It is also why it should be no surprise that the Heckert/Holmgren/Mangini triumvirate would be working out players that at first glance would seem illogical, yet at closer inspection now seem logical.
The team needs to be prepared for every possible scenario.
What if St. Louis decides that they would rather have Ndamukong Suh instead of Sam Bradford? What if someone comes to their senses and drafts Eric Berry with one of the first six picks? What if some team above or below the Browns in the draft comes calling with an offer Holmgren cannot refuse?
And I am only talking about the first round here folks!
Aside: Speaking of being "ill-prepared”…there was a draft during the Bill Belichick Era whereby Belichick threw a fit in the war room when the player he targeted (Kyle Brady) was drafted ahead of the Browns. The word is that Belichick had no real backup plan for that scenario.
Instead of drafting any of the following future Pro Bowlers, Belichick panicked and traded down to draft the forgettable Craig Powell. These are the players he passed on: Warren Sapp, Mark Fields, Ruben Brown, Hugh Douglas, Luther Ellis, Ty Law, Korey Stringer, Derrick Brooks, Ken Dilger, Curtis Martin, Bobby Taylor (I'm not going to include Terrell Davis because "who knew?").
So what do we “know” about what the Browns plans are on April 22, 2010 through April 24, 2010?
The Browns have a laundry list of needs the size of Adam “Pacman” Jones’ rap sheet.
In no particular order (ok, maybe my particular order), Cleveland needs the following: playmaking safety, quarterback of the future, electric wide receiver, quarterback terror, additional offensive lineman, third cornerback, and an additional defensive lineman (possibly a running back).
What do we know about the teams in the first six slots in the draft?
We know that defensive tackles Suh and Gerald McCoy are gone before number seven. We also know that a number of the teams in the first six holes have needs at offensive tackle. Lastly, we know that the Washington Redskins are not drafting a quarterback at number four.
But that is all we “know.”
When this draft is over, there are going to be a couple people who proclaim that they "knew it all along.” Those people are lying to you.
I will go on record only as saying I want Eric Berry in the first round and Colt McCoy in the second; I do not want Tim Tebow; and I will not be unhappy if Sam Bradford were wearing a Browns uniform. But if we walk away from this draft with any number of other players, I will not be surprised.
If I were advising Jimmy Clausen right now, I would tell him to pass on his invitation to the green room and go fishing instead. Because the possibility exists that he could go No. 1 or No. 41.
If I were advising Cleveland Browns fans, I would tell you to hold off on pre-ordering any jersey’s with an incoming rookies’ name on the back.
As we prepare to sit down with our favorite snacks and beverages in front of our television sets on April 22, I am going to offer this last bit of advice:
Secure any loose items, fasten your seat belts, keep your hands, arms, and feet on the inside at all times, and please remain seated until the conclusion of the ride. This is going to be a wild one.