Owl: My Take on the Draft

The mysterious Owl offers his thoughts from his perch in the Berea woods, providing some thoughts about the ups and downs of the Browns 2005 draft. Also, the Owl has some advice for the team on the handling of the suddenly front-and-center Reuben Droughns situation...

Phil Savage wasn't given much time to savor his first draft as Browns general manager, one that got two thumbs up from most draft reviewers around the country.

Now, he is being tested in a manner that is much tougher than deciding which player to pick.

Reuben Droughns, the running back acquired from the Denver Broncos for Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers, wants a new contract from the Browns even though he has never gained a yard with the Browns. He is under contract he signed with Denver for $950,000 this season and $1 million next year. When a player is traded, so is the contract.

Droughns wants a raise because he gained 1,240 yards with the Broncos last year. The contract is below what a 1,000-yard back should make, but until last season he totaled 97 yards in three years. A payload 950,000 clams is pretty good for a guy that hadn't had a 100-yard career before 2004, not to mention no 100-yard games.

Simply put, Savage cannot give in to Droughns, no matter how much Droughns moans. If he does, players will line up at his door, wanting the same privilege. Lee Suggs signed a five-year deal, against his better judgment, as a fourth-round draft choice in 2003. Suggs finished the 2004 season with three straight 100-yard games.

If anybody in a Browns uniform has a right to squawk, it's Suggs. And Kellen Winslow Jr. would be right behind him. Winslow's agent, Kevin Poston, worked a bad rookie deal for his client last year. There was no provision linking some bonus money Winslow was likely to have earned last season with the possibility of injury. The Browns are not obligated to right Poston's wrong, but if they take care of Droughns they would have to do something for Winslow.

Any time any player had a better season than expected, that player would have a right to expect a new contract if Droughns gets what he wants.

Droughns, meanwhile, is not handling his end of the deal well at all. He left the team's voluntary workout sessions more than two weeks ago and returned to Denver. If he is trying to make an impression on the Browns, he's succeeding, but not in the right way.

But enough about the negative. Let's talk about the draft with the first day of rookie minicamp a day away. Savage has to be applauded for sticking to his game plan for the draft. He got Braylon Edwards, the player he had No. 1 on his draft board, immediately giving the Browns a weapon they never had in their first six years - a stud receiver.

A week ago, I took the stance that Savage should have taken a running back with the first pick. I still believe that would have been a better move. Now, with Droughns ready to be a headache, it looks like taking Cadillac Williams or Cedric Benson (Ron Brown had already been drafted by the Dolphins) really would have been the wiser choice.

Still, Droughns will end up playing for the Browns, even if he doesn't get the money he wants, and Lee Suggs can carry the ball. Time will show if Benson or Williams end up helping their new teams more than Edwards helps the Browns. I wanted a running back, but I won't quibble with the pick.

I like what Savage did for the secondary by taking safety Brodney Pool in the second round and cornerback Antonio Perkins in the fourth. Pool was projected as a first-round choice in many mock drafts and was ranked second at his position in many of them, behind only Thomas Davis of Georgia. Some, in fact, had Pool rated first because they project Davis as a linebacker.

Pool will have to work his way into the starting lineup and it might not happen until late in the season.

Perkins will press Dennis Northcutt as a punt returner and he will have the chance to play nickel back. The Browns need a backup corner to replace Lewis Sanders.

And how can fans not feel good about Charlie Frye being part of the Browns? Savage resisted reaching for him in the second round. He got him in the third and will be given time to develop. Trent Dilfer is solid as the starter.

But let's be honest. If Butch Davis had waited until the seventh round to draft an offensive lineman, fans would be furious.

The Droughns blip on the radar screen and ignoring the offensive line in the draft (again) notwithstanding, things are looking up for the Browns.



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