The media storm that’s surrounded Johnny Football since his explosion onto the scene as a redshirt freshman at Texas A&M over 2 yrs ago has officially made its way to the windy shores of Lake Erie, home of the NFL’s epitome of infamy lately – the Cleveland Browns.
The team’s choice of the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner with the 22nd pick in last week’s draft sent the town into a frenzy that triggered Manziel’s #2 jerseys flying off the shelves in the Cleveland Browns team shop at a historical pace. As remarkable as it may seem, 31 other players were drafted in the initial round of the year’s draft, as well, though you wouldn’t know it after watching even one 60-minute bout of ESPN’s SportsCenter. In fact, the Browns actually drafted another player (gasp!) in the initial round, while the team scooped up Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with its #8 pick after moving back only five picks to get the Bills’first- and fourth-round picks in next year’s draft and then moving up one pick to take the player widely regarded while the draft’s top corner.
As elated while the fanbase was carrying out a dramatic and extremely productive Thursday night for the Browns, the excitement was quickly alleviated in typical Cleveland Browns fashion by the disappointing news that the NFL’s leading receiver in 2013 was likely not going to be suiting up for the team in 2014 because of Josh Gordon’s third failed drug test in two years.
Though no confirmation has been supplied by the team’s brass, multiple media outlets are reporting this case to be completely true and as dismal for Browns fans because it sounds.
In light of the news, many fans expected the team to follow up its intriguing first round with a similarly productive remaining draft, specifically by selecting 1 or 2 pass-catchers from the draft’s incredibly deep receiver class. Instead, Ray Farmer & Co. decided to “stick to the board,” inspite of the now glaring importance of another wideout.
“Sticking with the board” triggered the second-round choice of versatile offensive lineman Joel Bitonio, third-round selections of speedy outside linebacker Christian Kirksey and FCS record-breaking running back Terrance West, and fourth-round choice of sleeper candidate defensive back Pierre Desir.
Though most draftniks and fans alike would agree that they were all worthy draft choices, the team seemingly forgot one minor piece of information: the likely loss in its star wideout and most pivotal piece in the search for success through the upcoming 2014 season.
Ray Farmer isn’t worried, though.
“I’m not focused on the depth at wide receiver because we play games in September, and today there’s still lots of opportunity for us to get players and to create things happen,” said the first-year GM.
Fans who think the impending suspension of Gordon ensures that the sky will also be falling down this fall should take Farmer’s words to heart while also taking a closer look at the method by which the Browns conducted themselves within the last weekend. Moves, and lots of these, were made by the Browns, who ultimately acquired as many as five players regarded by many draft experts as potential future starters in the league (sorry, Christian, you are not merely one of them).
Sure, it would have been nice to see Sammy Watkins suited up in brown and orange next fall. But having a top-flight corner to accompany Joe Haden and Donte Whitner in a suddenly imposing Cleveland Browns secondary could do wonders for Mike Pettine in his pursuit of creating among the NFL’s premier defensive units.
Bitonio provides flexibility over the offensive line for new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in an effort to have the absolute most from the newly-acquired Ben Tate – combined with remaining crowded backfield – in Shanahan’s highly touted zone-blocking scheme. West, who spent his three-year collegiate career at FCS Towson, joins Tate for the reason that crowded backfield. He served together of Mel Kiper’s prospect man-crushes through the entire draft process carrying out a spectacular junior season in that your 5-11, 223-pound’back set the FCS records for rushing yards (2,509) and touchdowns within a season (41).
The choice of another small-school prospect in Lindenwood University’s Pierre Desir shows the team’s desire to fit the increasingly popular trend of seeking out taller defensive backs, whose recent success in the NFL has been led by famous brands Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Desir’s body type (6-1, 200 pounds) and athleticism fit the mold of the perfect modern NFL cornerback.
Choosing Kirksey makes a little sense in terms of providing depth and speed to a currently formidable Browns defensive front seven, though his selection in the third round was a tiny head-scratcher. This pick particularly highlights Pettine’s desires for speed up front and the capability for his linebackers to excel in pass coverage.
Overall, it seems that Farmer hit his first draft as a GM from the park – though an asterisk is required. Provided that he acts on his notion that there’s plenty of time to get a good receiver or two before the season begins, Farmer – not just Johnny – ought to be heralded as among the franchise’s premier assets.