Draft: The Latest is the Least

Veteran Browns reporter Frank Derry takes a look at the Cleveland Browns draft class within its historical context, and compares it with some of the draft classes in the Browns past.

They say it takes three or four years to truly evaluate a draft class. In the case of the Browns' Class of 2004, you'd better make that four or five. Maybe even six or seven.

Certainly you won't be able to draw any firm conclusions from its production in year one. In fact, this year's class is likely to contribute less in its first year than any draft class in the history of the Cleveland Browns.

ANY!, I say. Bar none. And that includes the pitiful Class of '87 that featured Mike Junkin, Gregg Rakoczy and Jeff Jaeger as three of the team's first four picks. At least running back Tim Manoa, the team's first of two third-round draft choices that year, came through as the team's second-leading rusher in 1987.

Making matters worse this year is the fact that several of the players that teams acquired with the draft picks traded by the Browns on draft day are having very, very good rookie seasons. More on that later.

We already know the total production of the guys – first-rounder Kellen Winslow Jr. and second-rounder Sean Jones --  who were actually chosen by head coach Butch Davis in anticipation of their contributing this year. Injuries will prevent either from playing again until 2005.

The rest of the Class of 2004, all four members, have contributed virtually nothing the first quarter of the season and don't expect to markedly increase those numbers over the final 12 weeks.

Let's take a close look at this year's class:

No. 1 Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.: two games, five receptions, 50 yards, no touchdowns, one assist on a successful on-side kick. (That last one is not an official stat, but one I threw in to try and help poor Kellen earn part of the $5.3675 million incentive bonus he is likely to lose because he chose to play on special teams.)

No. 2 Safety Sean Jones: no games, no tackles, no interceptions, no assists of any kind. (Sorry, Sean, but try as I might, I just can't see anyone giving you a bonus for that one tipped pass you had in that seven-on-seven drill in mini-camp!)

No. 4 Quarterback Luke McCown: one game, one pass, one incompletion, no yardage, no interceptions. (That last stat is very important because it allowed him to have a 39.6 rating as opposed to a 0.0 in his NFL debut against the Cowboys.) If Jeff Garcia continues to struggle, McCown might indeed see some playing time this year, although probably only if backup Kelly Holcomb gets injured. Luke is regarded by some as potentially the team's future starting quarterback, but that is at least two years away.

No. 5 Defensive tackle Amon Gordon: no games, no tackles, no assists, no nothing. He currently is listed on the depth chart as the backup to Michael Myers. Thanks to the way the defensive lineman are falling, Gordon finally saw some action yesterday, but has yet to register a tackle or an assist.

No. 6 Offensive tackle Kirk Chambers: no games, no key blocks, no nothing. Currently listed as the backup left tackle to Ross Verba, he has been on the inactive list for each of the first four games. Obviously, he is not yet ready to protect the quarterback's back side, front side or even his sideburns, thus Chambers' chances of contributing this year will only happen in case of an emergency.

No. 7 Running back Adimchinobe Echemandu: no games, no carries, no yards, no receptions, no touchdowns. And there's no chance of his getting any of the above this year because he was placed on the non-football injury list in August due to a foot problem, thus he is ineligible to be considered for play until week seven. Unless there are disastrous injuries to the team's top four running backs, his chances of playing this year are practically nil . Just for your information, he was born in Nigeria and you pronounce his name Adim-CHA-no-BEE EH-cha-MON-doo. This might prove important because one day he might very well be the answer to a trivia question of some sort.

Make no mistake, there is very, very little chance any member of the Class of 2004 will make any type of meaningful contribution this season.

If that isn't bad enough, think about this: the Browns traded their first and second round draft choices to the Detroit Lions for the opportunity to move up one spot in the first round to guarantee themselves the opportunity to select Winslow.

The Lions used that first round pick to choose wide receiver Roy Williams. In three games (the Lions had their bye week Oct. 3), Williams had 17 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns.

Detroit then used the second-round draft pick acquired from the Browns to select linebacker Teddy Lehman, who immediately moved in as their starting strong-side linebacker and is fifth on the team in tackles with 17.

Of course, if not for the injuries, Winslow and Jones might have similar stats for the Browns. Unfortunately, we'll never know.

Taking it a step further, the Indianapolis Colts received the Browns' third, fifth and sixth round draft choices in exchange for the second-rounder the Browns used to pick Jones.

The Colts converted the third round draft choice into tight end Ben Hartsock, who has seen limited action as a special-teamer.

They used the fifth-rounder to pick offensive tackle Jake Scott, who is listed as the team's second-string right tackle. He has been active for all of the Colts' games, but has seen no action.

Finally, the sixth-rounder the Colts received was used to select cornerback Von Hutchins, who has already become a key member of their special teams. Through their first three games, Hutchins led the Colts with five tackles. He also has seen limited action as the backup right cornerback.

So what does all of this mean?

That the Browns' Class of 2004 has a lot of work to do if it wants to make the draft-day moves of head coach Butch Davis look good.

But being the patient person I am, I'll give the guys a few years to prove themselves. I wonder if impatient Browns fans will do the same?


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