Hype, like many other things, flows downhill. When there aren't first, second, or third-round picks around to get excited about, it's only natural to head down to the fourth round. Martin Rucker, fourth round pick from Missouri, already has more to live up to than some of his immediate predecessors.
Anyone remember all the articles written about Antonio Perkins a few years ago? No? That's because there weren't many.
But Martin Rucker already has fans and some in the media talking about his inevitable success.
Rucker is a tall and rather quick pass-catching tight end who played in the spread offensive set while at Missouri. In this type of receiver-friendly offense, Rucker thrived and elevated his pro potential due to his ability to create space and go after the ball. In the red-zone, Rucker has displayed promising potential due to his size (close to 6' 5" and 250-lbs).
When the Cleveland Browns traded a 2009 third-round draft selection to secure the selection of the tight end, many media and fans immediately questioned the motive of the move. It was hard not to comment on the fact that that starting tight-end Kellen Winslow Jr. was recovering from another procedure on his knee and backup Steve Heiden had recent back surgery.
Winslow's knee is not a concern at the immediate time, of course, and Heiden is expected to fully recover in short order. But that didn't stop the notion of Rucker-as-backup-plan from getting embedded in the minds of the Cleveland brain trust. Adding to the equation was Winslow's known desire to have his contract renegotiated.
Don't think for a split-second that cool and calculating general manager Phil Savage hasn't played out all the potential angles in making such a move for Rucker.
"(Martin) Rucker is a long, lengthy receiver that fits the mold of player we can line-up in different spots. In our offense here, we like having players at the position which can be spread-out," a Browns team source tells the Orange and Brown Report. "In Rucker, we view him as a player with good receiving skills, and the size and quickness to potentially be an asset in the passing game."
At this point, however, Martin Rucker is not deemed a replacement for the talented Winslow or the reliable Heiden. Rather, the rookie from Missouri is another in a long list of players who will simply have the opportunity to suit up and bring his talent to the pro game.
"To think that this kid is coming in here to take Kellen's spot is preposterious. Kellen is the best receiving tight end in the game and he creates many mismatches for us offensively. If anything, Rucker can come in and learn from Kellen and contribute in some capacity," the team source continued. "In the event something would happen to Kellen, then hopefully this rookie can help us at some point, but let me clearly state he was not selected with the express belief of stepping in to replace Kellen. It is a belief within (the Browns) organization that we add quality and depth whenever possible, within reason and this is a case where we could."
In a perfect world, Rucker waltzes into camp and electrifies the staff with his physical tools and coachability. Let's not forget that this is a young man who must earn his dues and make it happen in the weight room and practice field. He has to do that before he can be expected to be the next tight end of the Cleveland Browns.
"Many people will wonder why such excitement about a fourth round draft selection. With us, we are looking at enhancing our offense, adding as many weapons as we can for the unit, which will only make the job of the opposition tougher as time goes on," the team source said. "The scope of this offense is a such that Rucker could get on the field in due time and create difficulties for a defense... lining up with or opposite Kellen (Winslow)."
The organization hopes Rucker will add quality depth to the offense and special teams. Walking into Cleveland as a rookie, Rucker is not expected to compete for a starting role, nor is the talented receiver going to be pressured in becoming the next Winslow.
"The young man (Rucker) has receiving skills, he can go after the ball and make the tough catch. But, let's remember this is a young man walking into his first pro-camp. Today, he is just another player, in-time he could develop into something special and if this is the case, then we have quality and depth at the position," the source concluded.
And for the time being, there is only one Kellen Winslow Jr., and he is an important part of the success of the Cleveland Browns.
Fans and the media should simply let Martin Rucker simply be Martin Rucker... a fourth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns a player the organization hopes to develop into becoming a viable option at the position. More extravagant hopes at this point aren't fair to a young man who needs to adjust to how the best players in the world play the game.