Commentary: Taking a Step Back

Today's draft choices by the Browns bear the unmistakable stamp of Head Coach Butch Davis, according to Bernie's Insiders' Dave Carducci. From his post in Berea, Dave offers his thoughts about the Browns first three picks, and what they portend for the future.

BEREA - When Cleveland Browns president Carmen Policy said he believed coach Butch Davis would "rather risk being worse than we were last year than stand with the status quo and remain as good as we were in 2002", he wasn't kidding.

After tinkering with the roster he inherited in 2001 by adding a few high-priced free agents who never panned out and engineering two hit-and-miss drafts, Davis took his most dramatic steps toward rebuilding the Browns in his image Saturday.

Just don't count on those steps making the Browns a better football team in 2003.

Considering their obvious holes at linebacker and cornerback and admitted needs elsewhere on the offensive line, the Browns had a chance to select a player capable of upgrading a key position with the 21st overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

Davis watched highly-regarded prospects like Georgia linebacker Boss Bailey, Iowa guard Eric Steinbach and Stanford tackle Kwame Harris fall to 21 and passed them by.

Instead, he made a statement that set the tone for how the Browns would approach the day, selecting a different highly-regarded prospect in Notre Dame center Jeff Faine.

Nobody would have questioned the pick had the Browns not already had two candidates capable of at least adequately replacing four-year starter Dave Wohlabaugh at center - veteran Shaun O'Hara and last year's third-round pick, Melvin Fowler.

Faine has been labeled by most scouts as the best center to enter the draft in years, but how much better will he make the Browns in 2003?

Davis kept the bulk of the Browns' faithful scratching their collective heads with the day's final two picks.

In round two, the Browns picked up little-known linebacker Chaun Thompson, a player who admits to being "a little raw at linebacker" after just two seasons playing among the tumbleweeds of tiny West Texas A&M. The "Buffs", by the way, were 0-11 last season.

In round three, the Browns added a player Ourlads scouting service considered an "also-ran" in Marshall cornerback Chris Crocker.

Thompson and Crocker play positions of need, but can a player with two years experience at lineacker in the Division II Lone Star Confernece and a second-team All-Mid-American Conference cornerback be expected to help the Browns right away?

Probably not, but Davis isn't worried. He is thinking about the future, and that means possibly taking a step back from playoff contention in the coming season. The three picks fit a the mold Davis wants in his team for many years to come.

Davis' words describing Faine, Thompson and Crocker throughout Saturday were noticeably similar.

According to Davis, all three new Browns "play whistle-to-whistle", have earned the title "throwback", and more importantly are "hard workers" who could be called "football junkies."

Having players with those qualities meant more than making a pick that could maintain the status quo and keep the Browns on the edge of the playoff picture. The common characteristics, combined with what the Browns think are tremendous up-sides in talent, are what Davis is convinced will make the Browns a serious championship contender down the road.

Davis sees Faine as the anchor to the offensive line, who will bring the same leadership, attitude and consistent play year after year that Bruce Matthews brought to the old Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans.

Thompson gives new defensive coordinator Dave Campo a player similar to Dexter Coakley, who was a fixture at linebacker for him in Dallas during the last seven years. Coakley is another speed linebacker who also hails from a small school in Appalachian State. Thompson's bigger 240-pound frame, combined with his 4.54 speed could make him an even bigger prospect than Coakley.

Crocker is a bit more of a reach, but his 4.4 times and the flexibility to play both corner and safety make him an intriguing prospect.

Most so-called experts will probably rate the Browns' draft a failure based on the lack of immediate improvement. Davis said he did not consider any of the three picks a so-called "reach," but the reality is he took a few chance that may make the draft look like an "F" now.

That grade could be appealed at a later date.

The OBR Top Stories