Friday, January 22, 2016

The Browns' Horrible 2014 NFL Draft

Ray Farmer should have gone into the 2014 draft with his eyes open, but he did not.

        One of the reasons Ray Farmer was a failure was that he completely fouled up the 2014 NFL draft.   The 2014 draft was the deepest in NFL history because there was a record number of underclassmen in that draft (headlined by Sophomore Johnny Manziel).  By the same token, there would be fewer upperclassmen in the 2015 draft.   As a consequence, the 2014 7th round had guys in who would probably be the equivalent of fourth or fifth rounders  in 2015.
         So what did Ray Farmer do?  He wound up with only six guys from the 2014 draft, and took twelve in 2015.     
       The metric should have been to accumulate as many draft picks as possible for 2014!  This is what Joe Banner did, as he traded Trent Richardson for a number one pick in 2014.  This and other moves set up the Browns with 10 draft picks going into the draft. 
     But on his first Draft Day, Ray Farmer got hustled. As a result, instead of 10 good players, he wound up with only six. He foolishly traded extra picks to move up for both Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel in the first round.  Both players have talent, but off-the-field instabilities threaten their NFL careers.  Evidently the Browns did not bother to compile personality profiles on their top guys.   

     Farmer  then picked  Joel Bitonio, a starting guard, in the second round; Chris Kirksey (an occasional starter at linebacker) in the third round.  Then he took Terrance West who had a good rookie year but showed up out of shape to summer camp in 2015 and was cut; plus reserve cornerback Pierre Desir in the fourth round. That was it.  One starter, one occasional starter, two question marks, and a reserve from 10 draft picks in the richest draft in NFL history. 
   Browns fans, as well as owner Jimmy Haslam III, rejoiced in the pick of sophomore Johnny Manziel in the first round, though this reviewer saw Johnny as the fifth most talented quarterback in the draft.
   Many fans were upset that Farmer did not take a wide receiver.   On this point, however, I'll side with Farmer.  He did sign free agents Mile Austin, Andrew Hawkins and Nate Burleson. Though Burleson wound up being hurt and got cut, Farmer did have two new wide receivers, plus holdover Josh Gordon, who had made the Pro Bowl despite a nasty weed habit.  They also wound up with an undrafted free agent in Taylor Gabriel. So just how many wide receivers do the Cleveland Browns actually have to have?
     Farmer's 2015 draft was much better though still not great.  They wound up with one full-time starting player in  Danny Shelton starting at nose tackle, though struggling much of the time.  Fellow first rounder Cameron Erving, who thinks he can play all five O-Line positions, got blasted at guard.     But they had some decent performances from 2nd Round (#51): OLB Nate Orchard; 3rd Round (#77): RB Duke Johnson, 3rd Round (#96): DT Xavier Cooper; 4th Round (#115): S Ibraheim Campbell.   But 4th Round (#123): WR Vince Mayle was cut. 
     The Browns got significant playing time from 6th Round (#189): CB Charles Gaines and 6th Round (#195): FB Malcolm Johnson and 7th Round (#219): ILB Hayes Pullard.
   However 6th Round (#198) TE Randall Telfer was injured, and the Browns drafted 7th Round (#241): CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu AFTER he suffered a likely career-ending knee  joint location. This is NOT the same as a dislocated kneecap, and indeed to my knowledge no one has ever recovered enough from that injury to play in the NFL. In all, nine players contributed, though none really starred in his first year. Moreover, it should be pointed out that with the Browns at the bottom of most categories on both Offense and Defense, starting for the Browns is not all that difficult of a task.  
     It's possible that some of the new Browns will emerge in 2016 and if so the 2015 draft could eventually be recognized as a good one.   Still, 2014 was blown so badly that it might be very difficult to recover from it.  

Duke Johnson was the Browns'  best rookie though he did not make nfl dot com's All-Rookie team.  

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