Fan Commentary: The Winslow Blunder?

Sobodawg takes a look back at the 2004 draft, and offers a different take on the value of a tight end who will "revolutionize" the position. Did rule changes already change the position beyond recognition?

Go back in time with me if you will, approximately 10 months ago. Imagine the setting.

A bar full of Browns fans eagerly waiting to hear what name would be called for their beloved team. Detroit is on the clock. Commisioner Tagliabue  announces, "There has been a trade." The crowd in the bar waits in silent anticipation.

"The Browns have traded with the Detroit Lions and have selected Kellen Winslow Jr. of Miami". The bar erupts. Those who like the pick certainly made it known.

Then came the bad news.

Personally I was in the restroom standing at a urinal when I overheard on the loudspeaker the Browns had just traded away their second round pick just to move up on spot. The once exuberant crowd had quickly turned sullen, in utter shock.

Was Butch Davis so desperate he would trade a valuable second rounder just to move up one spot? As disbelief turned to reality, we all found out Davis was that incompetent.

Kellen Winslow Jr. was now the highest drafted tight end of all time. After the selection at the press conference we all heard comments by Butch and staff like: 

Davis introduced Winslow early Saturday evening as "a guy that needs no introduction."

"This is a three-down player," Davis said. "You can mismatch him in the backfield. You can flex him out and try to mismatch him against linebackers. There's a lot of versatility that Kellen Winslow brings to your offense."

"He's a very talented guy, very versatile," new Browns' offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said. "We can do a lot of things with him. He's going to create problems for defenses."

"We just picked a heck of a football player," Browns Head Coach Butch Davis said. "And I am fired up."

By the end of the season, Butch was no longer fired up about Winslow; he was just fired. Okay okay he "resigned", but I do not know how many of you actually believe it was of his own free will. I certainly do not.

After the draft, those of us who did not like the pick to begin with started to find ways to justify the pick. I know personally, I made myself look at the bright side. 

Winslow was destined for greatness, was he not?

Kellen was the highest tight end selected in recent memory. He was supposed to be the "sure thing".  He was number one on a few NFL boards. He would present mismatch problems and no team could cover him one on one.  BOTTOM LINE,  Junior was coming into the league to revolutionize the position. This was EXACTLY the line of thinking all Browns fans had or were force fed about Winslow. 

All of this was well and good until August when the NFL season was about to hit full bore. In August the NFL made sure to inform all teams of their new "point of emphasis" calls in rule changes. The most significant was the strict enforcement of the five yard chuck rule. 

All the while, Cleveland made Winslow Jr. the top paid at his position even before he took one step on an NFL field.

Fast forward to today.  Luck be a Browns fan, Winslow did not revolutionize the position, he did not even play an entire season (or even half a season).  It was that simple "point of emphasis" on an existing rule which revolutionized the position to our dismay.

Take a look at the top tight end stats from this year [from nfl.com]:

Player

Team

G

Rec

Yds

Yds/G

TDs

Tony Gonzalez

KC

16

102

1258

78.6

7

Jason Witten

DAL

16

87

980

61.2

6

Eric Johnson

SF

16

82

825

51.6

2

Antonio Gates

SD

15

81

964

64.3

13

Randy McMichael

MIA

16

73

791

49.4

4

Jermaine Wiggins

MIN

14

71

705

50.4

4

Jeremy Shockey

NYG

15

61

666

44.4

6

Alge Crumpler

ATL

14

48

774

55.3

6

Freddie Jones

ARI

16

45

426

26.6

2

Stephen Alexander

DET

16

41

377

23.6

1

The first two points which have to be brought up are the two position records which were set this year. Tony Gonzalez broke the reception record and Antonio Gates broke the touchdown record for the position.

Did I happen to mention Junior was the highest tight end selected in recent memory?

When looking at the stats provided above, I do not think to myself, "Tight end is becoming more valuable in the NFL, so the Winslow pick was even better than I expected!"

No, my take is the exact opposite. Not looking at the stats but the names themselves who put up the stats, I see the position overall as being devalued.

Of the top ten in the list, only two were former first-rounders; neither going number six overall.  Even a couple undrafted players are number three and four on the list respectively. It is not WHO is putting up the stats, but the position which has seen an increase in productivity overall.

Let us go back one more time. Exactly who was on the board when the Cleveland Browns would have selected in the second round? How about the number two rated tight end in the draft, Ben Troupe? Troupe had a solid year finishing with 33 catches, 362 yards receiving, and a touchdown. 

Going into this past year's draft, EVERY Browns' fan realized the offensive line had to be addressed. How about a Justin Smiley who started nine games for San Francisco at guard? Maybe even Jake Grove who started eight games at guard himself.  Of course most of us just like to think Butch Davis would have selected Sean Jones anyhow, the player the Browns traded back into the late second round to acquire, to keep one self sane.  

Could Butch Davis have had the foresight to see the rule change coming? No.

The point is Winslow will never be able to live up to the expectations of his draft status because of the evolution of the position.

Am I advocating he will not be a very good pro? No, most certainly not.  But again, Junior was brought with hopes of revolutionizing a position.  Unless Kellen starts to AVERAGE one hundred catches and ten touchdowns per season, Winslow  will never be the player Butch Davis or Cleveland fans' envisioned. 


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