Well, we’ve survived another NFL Draft. We knew the Cleveland Browns didn’t have a first-round pick, though some wondered if Browns GM John Dorsey would trade into the first round. He didn’t and so the Browns’ draft really didn’t start until Friday.
I talked last week about the importance of this draft. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get too much into my personal feelings on the players picked. WFNY had Joe Gilbert and Kyle Kelly writing about these picks all weekend, and Michael Bode gave us his grades yesterday (although I will admit I liked these picks quite a bit more than Bode did). I’m not really in the player projection business and I can’t tell you if any of these guys are going to be good players or not.1. Instead, I’m going to talk a little bit more about the big picture and strategy we saw from Dorsey and his staff.
Going into this draft, I think everyone would agree the Browns were mostly set in talent at the “skill positions” on offense. They could have used a TE probably, but there was no need for QB, RB, or WR. On defense, the starters are somewhat set, but the team looked paper thin on that side of the ball. Defensive depth, particularly at LB and in the secondary stood out as primary needs, although OL could use some help as well.
I know this isn’t new to anyone following the Browns or who read WFNY’s pre-draft coverage, but it’s important to set the table here. And it’s important to think about so many drafts in the past. Or even to look at the approach of many other team’s drafts. Again, I’m not talking about the actual players picked. I can understand that teams have so much more information on players than we do. It’s fine with me if they do their homework and like a player more than I do. I’m referring to the draft strategy. How does a team go about filling out their roster with the draft?
I’m used to the Browns making questionable moves in the draft. Trading down when I’ve felt like they shouldn’t, trading up for positions that weren’t a pressing need, ignoring needs early in the draft for a big name and then addressing needs in later rounds, etc. It hasn’t always been clear that a plan was in place. All weekend long I saw plenty of picks and trades that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I watched analysts scratch their heads as they tried to figure out the teams’ plans were.
With Dorsey and the Browns, I didn’t feel that way at all. I didn’t feel that way last year, either. I thought about writing about this last year, but I didn’t want to overreact to one draft. But now that we are two drafts into John Dorsey’s tenure, I feel comfortable saying that whether I agree with the specific players he picks or not, I truly appreciate that I can see the vision and the plan. I understand what the Browns are trying to do, and I haven’t felt this way in a very, very long time.
When round two started and the run on DBs started, I didn’t know for sure that DB was his top target, but I got worried that the Browns were going to miss out on the impact DBs. Dorsey recognized there was a risk that their guy2, Greedy Williams, might not make it to them. Especially with DBs flying off the board. So Dorsey swung a pretty harmless trade to move up a few slots and make sure they landed him. Then with their next pick, they took their favorite LB available in Sione Takitaki. Day two of the draft, day one for the Browns, saw them address what I felt were their two biggest needs.
The last day of the draft the Browns went S, LB, K, OG, and CB. With their first four picks, they took two DBs and two LBs, instantly upgrading depth at their thinnest position. With their last picks, they addressed OL finally and then added one more CB. The only head scratcher was picking a kicker in the fifth round, but honestly, if Austin Seibert works out, I don’t even hate this pick. Kickers clearly cost the Browns dearly last season. While picking a kicker that high isn’t something I would do, I at least can see why they did it.
None of this is to say John Dorsey is infallible and can do no wrong. I’m not saying this was a perfect draft or that the Browns couldn’t have done better. I’m just saying that the plan is right there for us. It’s clear what Dorsey wanted to do with this draft and they executed on that vision. I’m fine with anyone criticizing the picks, that’s part of the fun of the draft. My only point here is that the Browns feel like they are actually building a team for once. And as someone tired of the team spinning its wheels endlessly, I can appreciate drafts like these last two drafts.