Greetham: A Good Sign?

Fred Greetham takes a look at the Browns unexpected good fortune in Indy...

Traditionally, March 1st is the ‘new' beginning of the NFL calendar year. For Browns fans, the first move by the Browns could be one in which they did nothing and yet it could pay big dividends.

Early Friday morning in Indianapolis, General Manager Phil Savage and Tampa Bay GM Bruce Allen got together for a coin toss to determine who would draft third in this year's draft. Allen called heads and the coin landed tails, thus giving the Browns the third pick in this year's NFL draft.

By the way, the Browns are pretty good at coins flips as they are 2-0 in that department since 1999. In 2002, they were tied with Atlanta for the 16th spot in the draft and they won the flip. They ended up taking William Green, while the Falcons took T.J. Duckett.

This might not seem like much, but one draft slot can mean much, especially when it is as high a spot as the No. 3 position. One only needs to go back a couple of years ago when the Browns moved up one spot from six to five in order to draft Kellen Winslow. The Lions received another second-round selection for the Browns to move up just one spot.

Tampa Bay is rumored to be interested in wide receiver Calvin Johnson or a quarterback such as Brady Quinn and just getting the slot ahead of the Bucs could allow the Browns to add another first day draft pick. Besides Tampa Bay, there are many other teams that might be willing to pay a high price to get in the top five of this year's draft.

It's a given the Browns needs are many. As they head into free agency, most would concur the Browns biggest priorities are on the offensive and defensive  line, cornerback, quarterback and possibly even at running back. With free agency starting next week, some of the holes might be filled.

A Nate Clements at cornerback or an Eric Steinbach on the offensive line would significantly take away the urgency to draft a cornerback at No. 3 or left tackle Joe Thomas there. Free agency could help the Browns immediately. Savage said earlier this week the Browns might draft two offensive linemen even if they sign two in free agency. Those were welcome words to Browns fans if they follow through with the idea.

The general consensus heading into the combine is there are four or five ‘blue-chip' players at the top of this year's draft charts. Most experts are listing DeMarcus Russell, Adrian Peterson, Quinn, Thomas and Johnson as the cream of this year's crop.

Depending on what the Browns are able to do in free agency, the team should be able to take virtually their choice of a stud player, who can fill a big need for them. If they can find a trade partner, they could get that extra first day pick and still get one of the top-tier players. 

With that being said, drafting third doesn't always work out well for the Browns. They have drafted third overall four times in their history. They drafted third twice as the old Browns (1970 and 1982) and twice since the team returned in 1999 (2001 and 2005). Just the fact the Browns are preparing to draft third overall for the third time in nine years points to the fact the team has evaluated talent poorly overall since 1999.

In the previous 50 years they were third just twice. From 1946-1995, the Browns selected quarterback Mike Phipps with the third pick in 1970 after trading Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield to the Dolphins.  In 1982, the team selected Chip Banks from USC.

In the recent era, the 2001 draft produced Gerard Warren and the 2005 draft produced Braylon Edwards. Warren didn't work out and the jury is still out on Edwards. Suffice to say, the Browns are at best about 50 percent on No. 3 picks.

 So Browns fans, let's look to the bright side as the NFL season is off to a good start.

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