Often criticized for a passive approach to team-building, the Cleveland Browns entered Thursday night’s NFL Draft with a plan in place. With a fan base seemingly relegated to a feeling of pre-draft disappointment, Tom Heckert and his staff would not let his players get away from him, even if the cost would wind up being a little more than originally expected.
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hot after Alabama’s Trent Richardson, and Heckert not willing to gamble on the potential loss of a franchise running back, we became aware of the trade which would allow the Browns to move up to secure their guy. Richardson, clad in a light brown suit and a Brown tie — one which would later look pretty sharp with his orange and brown hat — caught wind of the trade live on the red carpet of Radio City Music Hall. As it was, the Browns offense received a considerable shot in the arm before the clock struck 8pm.
Knowing that their jobs were not done, the Browns front office then set their sites on the wide receiver position. Allegedly, their primary endeavor was to trade back into the teens to draft Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, a player whom the Arizona Cardinals had pegged as their selection with the 13th pick. From there, the focus turned to Baylor’s Kendall Wright, their final first-round graded play-maker. A potential trade would be discussed, but nothing would be consummated. Wright was selected two picks ahead of the Browns who sat at No. 22.
Sensing that offensive linemen were falling and that the next tier of wide receivers would be available on Friday evening, the Browns — once again unwilling to gamble and lose out — opted to select the quarterback of their future in Brandon Weeden. Certainly, this pick may have been a lot earlier than many expected, but as Tom Heckert said, it simply wasn’t worth the risk.
“When you’re talking about a quarterback, we just didn’t think it was worth taking a risk,” Heckert said. “With a quarterback, we just wanted to make sure we got him and there were some teams that were interested behind us, so we decided to go ahead and get him. A couple guys got picked and it really wasn’t even an afterthought for us. As soon as a couple guys went, we knew we were going to take him and we really didn’t think about moving down.”
Weeden’s merits can be debated. He’s nearing 29-years of age, played in a spread offense and has been criticised for lack of experience against an NFL-level pass rush. Also rumored is the fact that the front office was told to address the quarterback position and to address it soon.
It’s rumored that the Browns had Weeden higher on their draft boards than Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill who would be drafted eighth-overall by the Miami Dolphins. Agreeing with the front office’s analysis of the quarterback, however, is different from any debate regarding where he was selected. With the second and third rounds waiting in the wings, and several players of interest still available, Heckert’s willingness to secure players rather than wish upon their availability should be commended. If anyone knows anything about poor luck when it comes to sport, it should be fans of the Cleveland Browns — wagering on such has proven to be fruitless many times over.
For months, thoughts were that the Browns would move down and merely take the best remaining player on their draft boards. Already having 13 selections at their disposal, the team was rumored to be looking for additional ones.
The free agency period came and went with the Browns having little to show. After all, re-signing players and adding lower-tier defensive linemen while other teams throw contracts around like rag dolls is far from the sexy, headline-making course of action.
But once New York City played host to dozens of prospects and the War Room seats in Berea, Ohio were fully accounted for, sitting on hands was no longer an option. As the Browns head into Friday night, two of their needs have been addressed. How the team attacks the others remains to be seen; do not count out more trades as the top end of the second round is shaping up to provide a ton of value. If anything became evident, however, it’s that Tom Heckert and Company came to play.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)