Swerb: Expect Creativity On Draft Day

Rich believes that this draft will see a smarter approach than in past years... including a trade-down to get more picks if the opportunity presents itself. <br><br><I>Views expressed by fan commentators may not necessarily reflect those of Bernie Kosar or the staff of Bernie's Insiders</I>


With just 30 wins against 66 defeats since their return to the league in 1999, Browns fans have become accustomed to the team selecting high in the NFL Draft.

This has not been a deep nor overly talented team over these past six campaigns. As a result, each season a good percentage of the fan base clamors for the team to deal down in the draft to acquire additional selections to help fill as many of weaknesses on team as possible.

However, the team has never been able to execute such a transaction.

Despite being as talent deprived as any team in football these past six seasons, the Browns have not pulled the trigger on a single deal that would see the team net an extra selection or two at the expense of moving down in one of the first three rounds. I find this mind boggling given the gaping holes this franchise has had heading into each and every Post-Betrayal draft weekend.

Why is this? I tend to blame rampant ineptitude in the teams front office. Put bluntly, Dwight Clark and Butch Davis were bumbling idiots who had absolutely no place essentially running an NFL front office.

Trading down is not as easy as it sounds. These types of trades are never made until draft day, when teams are actually on the clock. They require foresight, alot of legwork and seed planting leading up to draft weekend, and the ability to act quickly and decisively during periods of immense pressure and against a ticking clock.

We've not had the savvy leadership necessary to be able to get such deals done. Additionally, I think Butch Davis was terrified to take less value in a move down than the trendy "draft pick value charts" suggest. Butch was quoted on multiple occasions mentioning these charts, at one point even suggesting that the Jimmy Johnson regime he was a part of in Dallas were the ones that initially created them.

For those unaware of these charts I refer to, here is an example.

Though we've seen glimpses of this already in free agency, Browns fans will start to really see the difference between what we had in the front office and what we presently have once April 23rd rolls around. You can be assured we will see no panicked last second moves where we are bluffed out of a high second round selection. There will be no long snappers drafted in the 5th round. We will see players selected more for how they play the game, and how they fit into the scheme, as opposed to solely their 40 times and bench press reps. And there will be no blind loyalties to players that either played at, or were recruited to play at, certain universities.

And getting back the theme of this column, I expect multiple trades down from Phil Savage in this years draft. And I think it's very likely that one of these moves down will occur in round one.

Savage will be well prepared for April 23rd, and knows that he still has alot of holes to fill here. He knows that adding quality players through the draft is the most cap-friendly way to build a team, and will yield additional flexibility in free agency in future seasons as he attempts to build a team that will contend annually.

Despite the fact the dealing down is usually a pressure packed decision that requires on the fly thinking, it happens more than one would think. Twenty eight times alone in last years draft. And ELEVEN times in round one alone. The Bengals and 49ers moved down two times apiece in round one. Dallas traded down four times total last season, netting three additional picks, and a 2005 #1 pick from Buffalo. The Colts and Niners traded down three times apiece, and both added three additional selections. There were three other teams that traded down multiple times.

Trading down is only difficult if you insist equal value from those asinine draft pick value charts that Butch lived by. I hope Phil Savage pays no attention to that damn chart on draft weekend, and I'm pretty confident he won't. This draft is incredibly deep, and very shaky at the top. There will be quality players with very good pro potential still on the board early in day two, and most of the players being bandied about as top ten picks are far from locks to have Pro Bowl careers. This is a very different type of draft, and even if you are a believer in "sticking to the chart" when dealing picks, you'd be hard pressed to make the argument defending the legitimacy of the values on those charts for this draft.

Maybe I'm old school, maybe I'm out of touch, but no one can convince me that trading the #3 overall pick to say, Minnesota for #7 and their 2nd round pick would be a bad trade for this team despite the fact that "the chart" says we're getting robbed. Taking it a step further, I would even take Minnesota's 3rd round pick and #7 for #3 if it came down to it. My preference is that the Browns take one of the top defensive players off the board with their top pick this year, and that can be accomplished just as easily (and much cheaper) at #7 as it can at #3 in a draft laden with top tier skill position offensive players.

I mentioned Minnesota to simply illustrate my point, but they are a legitimate possibility to move up into our spot. Braylon Edwards is grading out as the bona fide #1 wideout and the Vikings just lost Randy Moss. Edwards will not be available when the Vikings are scheduled to select at #7.

Edwards is the most likely target for any team looking to move up to #3, and like a good general manager should, Savage is talking up Braylon and sending out the smokescreen that the Browns are ready to stand pat and make him theirs. Some other teams that may feel they are a Braylon Edwards away from a Super Bowl title are San Diego, Philadelphia ... maybe even a team like Washington.

In radio interviews and during a 90 minute press conference held on Tuesday,Savage repeatedly said he would take "the best player available" and that Edwards is a guy the team has looked long and hard at. At the same time, the team did not use one of their twenty official pre-draft visits on him.

This is courtesy of the official $ite ...

The Browns interviewed Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February, and Rees spent a day researching Edwards in Ann Arbor and Edwards' hometown of Detroit in January before Rees left the 49ers to come to Cleveland.

Edwards did not visit Berea; a planned meeting between Savage and Edwards fell through due to a last-minute conflict. Rather than reschedule, Savage elected to use one of the team's maximum 20 pre-draft visits on another player because he's confident the team knows everything there is to know about Edwards.

"(Edwards) is a guy that can play the ball down the field and score touchdowns," Savage said. "He had a fabulous career at Michigan."

Knowing also that Alex Smith or Ronnie Brown will likely also be available at #3, Savage was careful not to discount the team potentially going in those directions either. He mentioned that quarterback was a very serious option, and that the acquisition of Reuben Droughns would not preclude the team from considering Ronnie Brown or one of the drafts other top backs with that pick.

As Savage has mentioned, even if the team is unable to move down from #3, they have a top pick in each of the seven rounds of the draft, and should have multiple opportunities in almost every round to move back and add additional picks for this year or next.

And we finally have a man in charge that will position himself to take advantage of such opportunities, unlike his predecessors, whose deer in headlights approach to selecting players was only outdone by the sheer ineptitude of the selections themselves.

Rich Swerbinsky
swerb@berniesinsiders.com
 


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