You all know that my default position regarding the Browns and the new regime is one of complete skepticism. I'm not sure I really understand what they've been trying to do and I don't necessarily appreciate the attitude with which they've done it. That said, I approached this draft having disposed of most of my animosity toward the franchise and put to rest the majority of my personal grudges against its owner and head coach. I was ready to give the new regime the fresh start that they probably deserve. With that little preamble, allow me to give you my thoughts on the Browns 2009 draft.
1. Trading down from the #5 pick was a godsend. Truthfully, I don't even need to know anything about the players we acquired from the Jets. It was the right move. It would have been completely absurd for the Browns to pay #5 money to any of the guys that were on the board when they were picking. Not a single player in the top 10 of this year's draft is the type of sure thing pro-bowler that would warrant the type of money they're going to get. It's not worth butchering your cap situation to roll the dice on virtually the same calliber of player that you can get for a third of the money a handful of slots later. As you can tell, I absolutely loved the move back, even though I think based on traditional value charts, it should've cost the Jets a little bit more to move up twelve spots in round 1 (but maybe that's just because as a Browns fan, I'm used to paying high second rounders to move up one spot). Either way, it was a GREAT move.
2. I loved that the Browns kept moving back. It didn't matter that they were only getting 6th rounders in return; they were going to get the same quality of player for less money and pick up additional opportunities to take shots in the dark with late picks. No brainer.
3. With the 21st pick, the Browns select Alex Mack, C, California: Ok, I didn't see that one coming and I didn't necessarily love it. But, my reasoning is probably different than it is for a lot of other people out there. I don't have a problem with the Browns drafting a center in the first round. Truthfully, I think the importance of the center position is underestimated by most fans. Not only are you anchoring the point of attack, nowadays usually against a mammoth two gap tackle, but you're also making the line calls. I like the idea of having a massive, intelligent guy manning the middle of the Browns line. That said, here's what bothers me about Mack: He's not a great run blocker. If there's such a thing, it sounds like he's more of a finesse center. Now, when we're talking about our left tackle, the guy protecting our quarterback's blind side, I'll take agility and finesse at the expense of some run blocking power. At center though . . . I want a road grader. I'm not sure that Mack fits that bill. I love drafting offensive linemen in the first round but I would've rather seen them take Michael Oher. To me, getting a top flight right tackle would've given them a little bit more than a top flight center. I know Fraley is done but the same could be said of whichever miscellaneous journeyman we're going to have manning the right tackle position this year. I think the upgrade would've been more significant at RT, but, I realize that that's just a matter of opinion. Overall, I don't think any of us should have a real beef with the Mack pick.
4. With the 36th pick, the Browns select Brian Robiskie, WR, OSU: Inexcusable. Flat out inexcusable. I understand that with or without Braylon, we needed a receiver. That said, there were a lot of great players left on the board. Even if the Browns had decided they weren't going to take Maulagua (a decision with which I now agree with after reading scout after scout say he is an out of control alcoholic maniac), there were other players available there that offered more than Robiskie. This is especially true if the Browns knew they had another receiver on their board for the second round that they liked in Massaquoi. Why not take, say, Lesean McCoy (you realize our starting RB is finished, right?) or even a D-lineman or defensive back to bolster the defense? As for Robiskie himself, I have two thoughts: 1) People love to tout the fact that he was the most NFL ready receiver in the draft. Well, to me, that's code for the fact that he probably has the least room for growth of any receiver in the draft. He's going to remain exactly what he is right now: A smart receiver with good size and route running ability who is just too slow to get good separation. I don't see him filling a slot role because of his lack of speed and I'm not sure he will ever be effective on the outside because he can't get separation. 2) Say what you want about Robiskie's hands but I'll always remember him for dropping the biggest pass of his college career. I don't care what anybody else says: if he catches that TD pass in the Superdome, that game would've played out totally differently. This was just a really bad pick. I hated it.
5. With the 50th pick, the Browns select Mohammed Massaquoi: Massaquoi was a good college receiver and should make a solid #2/3 receiver in the pros. Plus, he has a fantastic reciever name that I sincerly enjoy saying out loud for no reason. This pick would've made a ton of sense had they not just taken a crappier version of the same guy 14 slots earlier. After taking Robiskie at 36, this pick made NO SENSE. With all of the holes on the roster, you're taking TWO possession receivers in the second round? That's maximizing the value of the picks? I'm sorry but I just don't get it. The Browns should've gone defense or running back with one of those two picks and I think down the line, this will prove to be a costly mistake. Second rounders are hard to obtain. You can't just keep burning them up by making redundant picks of "safe" players at a position that is far less important than others at which your team has gaping holes. Overall, a good player but a head-scratching pick given the circumstances.
6. With the 52nd pick, the Browns select David Veikune, DE, Hawaii: I'll be honest and say that I don't know the first thing about this guy. I know he was projected as about a 3rd rounder and it never makes me feel wonderful when the pundits are calling the pick a reach. I'll give the new regime the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe they're just smarter than we think and they know how to find guys to fit their system. Still, I just can't help but think that this is another case of a front office thinking they're smarter than everyone else. Then again, I've also lived through a regime that came to a consensus on using a second rounder on a guy that nobody had ever heard of who played on a winless college team called West Texas A&M. Excuse me for being skeptical on the whole idea of the small school diamond in the rough. Still, it's not fair to criticize a pick I know nothing about. We certainly needed a "hybrid" DE/LB (which essentially means you end up spending a high pick on a guy without knowing if he has any ability to play the position for which he's just been drafted) so I'll take a wait and see approach.
7. With the 104st pick, the Browns select Kaluke Maiave: The Browns add yet another Polynesian defender to take the sting out of the Maulaga miss! Seriously though, there is nothing wrong with this pick . . . other than the fact that between Maiave and Veikune, I'm not sure we found a single linebacker who is big and physical enough to play every down in the NFL. I have nothing against Maiave, but a 229 lb linebacker probably isn't the cure for what ails our run defense. Perhaps maybe we should've taken a linebacker with a bit better size instead of a crappy possession receiver at 36. Editor's note: My buddy DC started referring to this guy as "the third tenor," a nickname which I find to be very appropriate even though, truthfully, Clay Matthews Jr. is really the third USC tenor and this guy is . . . I don't know, the guy who served as Carreras's backup. Who knows, maybe he'll add some bulk to his frame and end up being a contributor. But hey, on the bright side for Maiave, he'll have virtually no competition at his position on the roster, so that's a positive!
8. I'll lump all of the sixth rounders together:
177 - Carey: Scouting report says he has tight hips. I have no idea what that means but if I had a scouting to english dictionary, it would probably say that "tight hips" translates to "nickel at best." I might've gone with Cedrick Peerman at this spot, the RB out of Virginia. Obviously it's a shot in the dark with anyone this late in the draft but Peerman graded out significantly higher than James Davis, who we ended up drafting later on.
191 - Coye Francies: The scouts like him and after all of the yawnworthy picks that came before him, I like the fact that he's a bit of a risk/reward pick . . . and by risk, I mean he was once brought up on weapons charges and kicked out of Oregon State. I'm glad we carried the "high character" theme all the way through the draft.
195 - James Davis: Well, we certainly needed a running back. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we needed one with all the explosiveness of a 30 year old Jamal Lewis. I'm doubtful Davis will be on the roster by this time next year. I really would've like to have seen this position addressed in round 2 with LeSean McCoy.
Overall Grade (because grades mean so much and are not in any way arbitrary): C+
If nothing else, the Browns were smart enough to trade out of the 5th spot and prevent the inevitable contract holdout/money hemmorhage that goes with it. In addition, between the trade with the Jets and the picks, the team probably added 4 starters. Unfortunately, the starters they added are probably the quality of players that you would expect to be starting for a 5-11 or 6-10 team. I guess you have to take baby steps when you're rebuilding and get your hands on as many solid guys as possible, but I'm still a little concerned that we came out of this draft without a single player that projects to be a major impact guy at any point in his career. They all seem to be solid but unspectacular . . . which is probably the way I'll remember this draft in general.