Levine: Fans Should Feel Confident About Draft

Les looks at the reasons that Browns fans should have more faith in the new Browns regime

For the first time since the Browns returned in 1999, fans finally have a right to feel confident about what the team will do in next week's draft.  When the team returned, the scouting staff was made up of people who were sent there by the NFL, even before the ownership was named.  These people obviously weren't good enough to be working in meaningful capacities with existing teams, and they knew that their performances in the first draft wouldn't make or break their careers.

Just as Butch Davis had full control over the draft department for the past four years, Phil Savage is clearly in control now.  And unlike Davis, who had been away from the league for quite some time, Savage is clearly still in the loop.  And Romeo Crennel, at least at this point, has no problem with Savage calling the shots.

When the Browns returned to action in '99, most of the efforts of the front office dealt with hiring the first head coach.  Chris Palmer clearly was not the first choice, but that is what came about.  Al Lerner and Carmen Policy probably were mistaken in putting so much emphasis on getting a coach, that they overlooked the most important decision of hiring the right General Manager.  Dwight Clark supposedly was going to be learning the ropes, but he was thrust into the position when he wasn't ready.  Two years later, Butch Davis put total faith into Pete Garcia, another person who wasn't ready either.  Davis and Garcia might have had great success in predicting what high school players would be able to do at the college level, but they had little understanding of what these players could do at the pro level three or four years later.

Unlike Davis or Garcia, don't expect Savage to be stuck on picks from certain schools, conferences or geographical areas.  If it appears that way, it will only be a coincidence. 


According to Savage, the Browns have thoroughly studied their top 155 picks, and have them arranged in order of ‘best available player'.  It has been the GM's experience, that even after the draft gets past the 200th pick, some of those top 155 from his list will still be on the board.  The only way that the order will change is if a player at the same position was picked in the previous round.  Right now, if no trade is made, the Browns will get four picks of the first 103 players taken.  If Savage's experience holds true, that means they should be able to get four of their top 85-90 rated players in the first four rounds.


I think I speak for thousands of Browns fans who lost interest in the team over the past two years, but are ready to sign on again.  As a guy who attended his first Browns game two or three years before Jim Brown joined the team, I can tell you that it hasn't been fun covering this team as a member of the media, or as a season ticket holder watching this team for the past two years.  But that is no longer the case.  I am looking forward to seeing what Phil Savage will do in this draft, unlike previous years where I waited to see how they would screw things up. 

The football side of the organization appears totally committed to the Cleveland Browns, as opposed to some members of the previous regime who just wanted to be anywhere in the NFL, using the Browns as a way to add another line to a resume.

I don't pretend to have any inside information, and I don't know yet how to read what Savage and Crennel say or don't say, but my educated guess is that the Browns will take either Braylon Edwards of Michigan or Mike Williams of USC.  Either one would be fine with me.  Edwards has better breakaway speed, while Williams has good speed with a greater ability to take advantage of his 6'5" frame.  While the Browns have huge holes to fill on defense, I don't see any immediate impact defensive players to be taken with the third pick.  The offense needs playmakers, and Edwards or Williams, combined with a healthy Kellen Winslow, Jr., will make things a lot easier for QB Trent Dilfer, along with the addition of Reuben Droughns in the backfield.

‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen M-F from 6-7pm and 11pm-midnight on Adelphia Channel 15 in northeast Ohio.  E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com

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