For a 5-11 team with a league low 17 draft picks on their roster and a team embarking on a transition to a 4-3 defensive scheme, the Browns entered this year's draft with a lot of needs. The trade down with Atlanta afforded Heckert an opportunity to not simply replenish the roster with bodies but in netting picks in round 1, 2, 4 and 4, the Browns gained the near equivalent of another draft with the kind of talent found at the top of the draft and high draft picks successful teams have as starters.
An aggressive move by Heckert arguably accelerates the Browns rebuilding process by a year amidst an impatient fan base and some who may have seen the dismissal of Mangini and conversion to a 4-3 defense as a familiar pattern of the kind of roster churn that churns little more than fan impatience amidst stagnation and ongoing losses followed by yet another head coach and the ongoing replay of Groundhog Day which has been Browns football since 1999.
Atlanta's need to win now and the Browns need to lay a winning foundation made for a perfect storm.
Though Heckert's move up to #21 in round one and in surrendering a third round pick to land Phil Taylor diluted this effort and effectively reduced the Browns second round pick gained from Atlanta at #27 as a modest move up of a few slots from their own early third round pick and for a player who may have been available in round three.
Should Little pan out and establish himself as the number one receiver his kind of talent suggests he can be, the Browns will have received the kind of player and wide receiver Browns fans who swiveled their attention in the direction of AJ Green and Julio Jones craved prior to the draft.
And the best of all possible worlds as the Browns had picks available for a Groundhog Day of another sort and to repeat last year's draft success in spending a #1 and #2 pick on the same unit. Last year, Heckert's choice of Haden and an aggressive TJ Ward along with former Philadelphia Eagle Sheldon Brown helped lay a foundation to rebuild the Browns secondary and put Heckert's stamp on defense.
Draft picks Phil Taylor and an aggressive Jabaal Sheard project to help establish the Browns defensive front and also help supports fan understanding of Heckert's team vision.
While the Big Show has garnered the biggest attention by Browns fans accustomed to wind socks and hungry for leadership, this year's draft suggests a developing vision by Heckert inclusive of team needs driven by the WCO and a 4-3 defense. And a kind of toughness difficult to ascribe to teams led by Holmgren.
There are question marks in any draft and lingering questions that remain.
Are we seeing a young GM bring the same draft vision established in Philadelphia or is Heckert maturing and allowing of other influences? A division in which winning programs established at Pittsburgh and Baltimore have also established toughness, for one. A departed head coach who brought in a decidedly defensive mindset and head coaching toughness that produced a team that ranked amongst league leaders--- and winning programs.
Other questions may be answered sooner.
The Browns still need a third tackle to rotate in the middle and cutting Shaun Rogers may not have been a helpful move on that score.
But the first look following this year's draft is a well deserved look at a glass half full, an encouraging look to the upcoming season if there is one, and an encouraging look forward to next year's draft and the prospect of possibly targeting a #1 and #2 pick on linebackers and the Heckert method and draft school.
And an extra #1 pick delivered in this year's perfect storm. ...
Big Draft Day Move Lands Little In Return
The big question with Little may not simply be what kind of player he is but also what kind of person. Little not only took gifts from an agent to the tune of several thousand dollars but lied about it. Repeatedly.
Moves like this may have some fans holding their breath.
Moves seen on this highlight reel are equally breathtaking:
The reel's highlight arguably appears three minutes into the video when Little blocks and drives a cornerback 10 yards off the line of scrimmage before crushing him to the ground and leaving him limp.
Little yells something at him as he walks away.
Little brings toughness and runs like the running back he was until his junior year in college. Little doesn't run away from contact. Little makes contact and drives for extra yards while also using his athleticism to run around players on the field.
Little projects to make for a great target for Colt McCoy and a great compliment to the Browns running game and Peyton Hillis and while this season may be in question, a hungry player with a year off from the game may make for a willing participant in unofficial workouts led by Colt.
A perfect storm.