Browns Looking Green on Draft Day

DawgLB51 (gotta love that handle) takes a look at the Browns 2002 draft round-by-round in this 2002 Commentate-Off Entry.

They say it takes at least three years to evaluate the talent level of an NFL draft. Three years. Who wants to wait that long? Certainly not me. Since the return of the Cleveland Browns I have been an avid participant in the drafting process. I've done research on the players. Studied the stats. Watched all the college bowl games and compared each and every mock draft. The only problem, the Browns haven't actually asked me for my opinion. Not yet at least.

 

Well, now's my chance. The 2002 NFL Draft for the Cleveland Browns was quite different than the previous two. Okay, okay. I know they still drafted a wide receiver in the second round. Some things never change, but the main difference was this year the Browns didn't have the luxury of a top-three pick. This year they had to do their homework.

 

The Browns were not picking first or third overall this time. Instead they had the sixteenth pick of the first round and that was by virtue of winning a coin-flip with the Atlanta Falcons. More on that later. The pre-draft day hype was all about running backs. One running back in particular, T.J. Duckett was the pick "du jour" for the Browns. Everybody said so. Guess again.

 

Now I have a confession to make. With each year of the "new" Browns draft I have had an opinion on who should've been picked by the team. Almost every time I've been wrong. Instead of drafting QB Tim Couch I was in favor of QB Akili Smith. I'm not too proud to admit I was definitely wrong about that one. Thankfully. The next season again I favored LB LaVar Arrington over DE Courtney Brown. I felt you needed an impact type linebacker in the mold of Lawrence Taylor to dominate on defense. The jury is still out on that one. Arrington has become a starter for the Washington Redskins and Brown has had flashes of brilliance between injury-marred seasons. But, I have a good feeling about Courtney this year if he can stay healthy.

 

The point is this year I was all in favor of landing a big running back like Duckett out of Michigan State. I had visions of him running over defenses in the late snow-filled days of winter down by Lake Erie. Only time will tell if he's the next Jerome Bettis or Ron Dayne. Fortunately he's not our problem. Ironically, he was taken by the Atlanta Falcons with the seventeenth pick of the first round. Again, the Browns brain trust went with the "other guy" and made RB William Green from Boston College our first round pick. Would the Falcons have taken Green if they won that coin toss?

 

Now if history keeps repeating itself, at least in my own little world, the Browns more than likely made the right choice. Since I wanted Duckett and they wanted Green. But, we need more than "hunches" to evaluate this crop of talent. We need facts.

 

FIRST ROUND:

 

William Green is a big, strong runner in the mold of Emmitt Smith. At least that's what Butch Davis is hoping. "The knock on Emmitt was that he was a high 4.5, low 4.6 guy" in the 40 yard dash, says Davis. "All he's done is make a lot of 10 and 20 yard runs and he's on his way to more yards than almost anyone in the history of the game." Green was said to be too slow to warrant a high first round selection with his 4.6 time in the 40, but is known for his superior "game-day" speed.

 

The only true measure of a football player is what he does on the field. Plain and simple. You can talk all you want about 40 times and IQ tests. Green put up the numbers in college, on the field. He was the second leading rusher in the nation last season with 1,559 yards and 15 touchdowns. He played for a major college program at Boston College against some of the top teams in the nation.

 

Green's off the field troubles have been well documented by now. He lost both parents to AID's related deaths. He was suspended twice for alleged marijuana use. He even has a medical condition called ulcerative colitus, which may or may not be a concern. Apparently it wasn't at BC. Why should it by now?

 

In my humble opinion drafting William Green alone in this draft makes the Browns a much better football team. As excited as I am about Green I think the other picks were more hit than miss too.

 

SECOND ROUND:

 

Offensive weapons. That is what you get by drafting a wide receiver in the second round three years in a row. Too many perhaps. WR Andre Davis of Virginia Tech however is not another Dennis Northcutt clone. He's bigger at 6-1, 194. He's a burner. A speedy  4.42 time in the 40-yard dash proves it and he might just be the deep threat the Browns have been missing since their return to the league. What intrigues me the most about Davis is his ability to return punts and kickoffs. He returned four punts for touchdowns in his career at VT tying a school record. The Browns special teams are in desperate need of a game breaker. Don't be surprised if Davis is lining up in the slot next to Kevin Johnson by mid-season. Can you say goodbye Dennis Northcutt?

 

THIRD ROUND:

 

When the Browns traded LB Wali Rainer to the Jacksonville Jaguars nobody was surprised, except maybe Wali. What did surprise is they also sent the 79th pick to Jacksonville to get C Melvin Fowler with the 76th overall selection. Fowler played both center and guard at the University of Maryland. He's a 6-3, 300 All-American. The nice thing about Fowler is he never allowed a quarterback sack in his last three seasons. That's over 30 games. You want to bet Tim Couch isn't happy about that? The offensive line has been neglected for too long. The game of football is won "in the trenches" and the Browns have already addressed this need on the defensive side of the ball. It was time to give the offense a boost. "We are ecstatic to have him," said coach Davis. "He's an extremely versatile player, very smart." This kid will be starting at either guard or center by season's end if you ask me.

 

FOURTH, FIFTH & SEVENTH ROUNDS:

 

The Browns had three selections in the fourth round of the draft. Butch Davis was looking to add depth to the special teams. With the addition of three linebackers: Kevin Bentley,  Ben Taylor and Andra Davis the Browns should have plenty of youth and speed to spare. Special teams require strong, open-field tacklers, according to coach Davis. Linebackers are ideal in that regard. "They bring the skill level to special teams that really gives them an advantage," Davis said. Both Bentley and Taylor are smaller, outside type players. Andra Davis is a more of an inside type player many projected to go as high as the third round. Coach describes Andra as a "big, thick, physical, aggressive tackler." In other words, your typical middle linebacker. Look for all three of these players to contribute immediately to the special teams unit.

 

Offensive Coordinator, Bruce Arians has been looking for a play making tight end to make his offense go. He may have found his man in TE Darnell Sanders, Ohio State. Although Sanders left OSU after his junior season, only caught 42 passes in three years and didn't start until his second year, he is a big target, 6-5, 267 with good hands. Coach Davis likes his potential. "He has a huge upside. He has very, very good hands." Sanders will have to beat out incumbent TE Rickey Dudley for the job. Given that Dudley can't seem to stay healthy, it's a good bet Sanders will get his shot sooner than later.

 

The final selection by the Browns was nothing short of "classic" Butch Davis. He chose OT Joaquin Gonzalez from the University of Miami. It seems Davis always has his eyes set on his former players. Gonzalez is the third such player taken by Davis on draft day over the past two seasons. The others are RB James Jackson and WR Andre King. Normally seventh round picks are long shots to even make the club. I think Gonzalez will not only make the team, I think he'll eventually become a valuable addition to the offensive line. Gonzalez is not a pure athlete, but rather a tactician with a strong work ethic and intelligence. He's not ready to contribute now, but give him a chance. Coach Davis saw something in this former walk-on. I think Browns fans will too.

 

BOTTOM LINE:

 

The Cleveland Browns are beginning to take shape under the guidance of Butch Davis. Given that three-year timetable I'd say coach Davis and the Browns are on the right track. If William Green can develop into the back many think he can be and the remainder of the picks fall into place the Browns could be looking at their first playoff run since returning to the league. Of course, if that coin-flip had gone the other way…

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