Adkins: Draft Rankings Are Fool's Gold

While the draft pundits are saying one thing, league insiders are saying something completely different...

From its origins as a dull off-season activity conducted by telephone, the NFL draft of college football players has turned into the biggest non-playing event in the sports world.

Professional teams spend millions of dollars scouting players. Draft pundits across the world do all the research they can. The media descends. The NFL draft frenzy begins.

After surveying a great number of these web-based draft evaluation projects, I've concluded that there is a gigantic gap between how a professional organization views a player and how the draft pundits do. You can see it in many of the mock drafts found online at every turn. While many simply regurgitate information they've found by digging through the internet, YouTube, and games they've seen on TV, others such as Tony Pauline at and Dave-Te Thomas are utilized by NFL teams to provide a solid base of experience and a wealth of information. Thomas, who we've been happy to work with here, is a noted scout whose player reports are second to none in the industry.

Due to the vast array of draft-related websites, fans can join in the fray and determine what they believe to be the best players for their respective teams. The debate during and following the draft can be intense, since fans feel like they are in the middle of the action.

Contrary to the expectations of some, theCleveland Browns -- doing their due diligence prior to the draft -- had a plan. A complicated one, granted, but a plan that was set in motion due to a team (the New York Jets) having their draft approach solidly pointed in one direction -- acquiring USC QB Mark Sanchez.

Cleveland traded the fifth selection for the New York's 17th and 52nd selections, as well as three players, two of whom (Abram Elam, Kenyon Coleman) are expected to start for the Browns.

On paper, you see the Browns adding five players to the roster for the price of one player, albeit potential franchise quarterback. In Cleveland, though, their line of thinking did not lead them to believing this was the case.

In New York, however, the reaction to the Sanchez selection is, for the most part, jubilation; in Cleveland, the trade and the deals that followed allowed the organization to secure additional draft picks before a selection -- center Alex Mack -- came with much less fanfare.

While fans following each team have their opinions about which team got the better of the deal, the trade allowed both clubs come out ahead. New York received what they sought, and the Browns added the talent and depth needed on the roster thanks to the players and additional draft selections.

A flashy deal for the Jets, which fits into the scope of what New York is all about, while in Cleveland the trade fits the landscape of what former New York head coach and current Browns coach Eric Mangini wants to bring to the Browns.

As an observer, you might wonder -- with a deal of this magnitude and scope -- if the Browns could've gotten more for the fifth pick in the entire draft.

If one scours the web for reports and evaluations regarding the players the Browns acquired, the majority of pundits outside of league circles seen to come around with the following impressions:

- At #21 in the draft, center Alex Mack was a reach pick.

- At #36 in the draft, wide receiver Brian Robiskie was a reach pick.

- At #50 in the draft, wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was a reach pick.

- At #52 in the draft, outside linebacker David Veikune was a reach pick.

- At #104 in the draft, inside linebacker Kaluka Maivia was a reach pick.

- At #177 in the draft, defensive back Don Carey was a reach pick.

- At #191 in the draft, cornerback Coye Francies was a solid selection.

- At #195 in the draft, running back James Davis was a solid selection.

Classifying players as "reaches" has been a common practice for fans following the draft.

When a preferred player is bypassed, the terms "reach" or "better fit" start emerging almost immediately on message boards, chat rooms, and blogs. What looks good in the eyes of the pundit, however, may look much differently to a team evaluating players based on, among other things, how well a potential pick fits their particular scheme; a player's athletic and physical qualities; and the ability to absorb the vast amount of information a team such as the Browns will throw at a young rookie player.

Following along as the draft progressed, I myself got caught up in the moment. It's a yearly thing for this column as well as I watched players of interest to me get bypassed, even though I had insight on some of the players in question.

Having no issue with the Browns' first selection, I was anxiously watching the draft develop toward the selection at #36.

In my mind, I'm thinking "pass rusher" and see DE/OLB Connor Barwin on the board.

Quality and depth at CB would be nice too, and I'm eyeballing Alphonso Smith, as well as Darius Butler, still on the board.

Then again, how could I not notice DT Ron Brace was still on the board? Another large interior defensive lineman who could help the cause.

Knowing the Browns were concerned about the overall quality and depth at the receiver position, Brian Robiskie was a thought of mine. Sitting there, I couldn't come to grips with believing this defensive-minded head coach -- or is he really a bit more well-rounded than most want to acknowledge? -- going offense with his first two picks.

As it turns out, the Browns indeed went with Robiskie in their first step toward resolving a very pressing roster issue.

I wasn't shocked, however, the Browns selected Massaquoi with their next selection at #50. I had heard his workout was very impressive and the organization really liked the player. My only surprise was, again, this defensive-minded head coach went back to the offensive well yet again.

Offense? Really? Three Times?

It was after those first two selections, though, that I gained a much clearer perspective of Mangini and the Browns organization. For once, players were selected based on the evaluation and how the player fits into the scheme -- not selecting a player and making him fit into what may not be the best scenario.

I came to find out later that the Browns initially looked at Barwin as being as versatile as advertised, but came away unsure if he could develop into a legitimate pass-rushing OLB.

In the case of David Veikune, the organization saw a player that simply never quits from the snap to the whistle. Veikune plays the game with force and aggression, and the Browns see a player they can develop, while turning him loose with the thought that his quickness, strength and uncanny ability to hand-fight will create, potentially, instant pressure.

If one talks to people around the league, they will tell you much different things from the various internet and TV draft pundits. Within league circles, we gain a much different perception and appreciation for the selection:

- At #21 in the draft, center Alex Mack was a solid selection, Mack was considered to likely fall from 18-32.

- At #36 in the draft, wide receiver Brian Robiskie was a solid selection, Robiskie was 27-37.

- At #50 in the draft, wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was a solid selection. Massaquoi was 41-56.

- At #52 in the draft, outside linebacker David Veikune was a respectable pick. Veikune was 48-67.

- At #104 in the draft, inside linebacker Kaluka Maivia was a reach pick. Maivia was 114-132.

- At #177 in the draft, defensive back Don Carey was a respectable pick. Carey was 174-192

- At #191 in the draft, cornerback Coye Francies was a solid selection. Francies was 71-to-off the board.

- At #195 in the draft, running back James Davis was a respectable selection. Davis was 184-201.

In the case of Francies, numerous teams removed him from their respective draft boards or simply refused to bite on a talented player, who was kicked off his collegiate team due to a weapons charge. The charge was later dropped, but the damage had already been done.

Sitting back a day or so following the draft, it is too easy to applaud or criticize the Browns moves.

I have my own thoughts about the team's draft -- some very positive, and some questioning the team's approach.

I liked the draft-day deals; they accomplished what the Browns had set out to do -- add quality, talent and depth.

I still wonder about the #52, #104 and # 177 selections, although this Veikune kid is growing on me quickly -- but who am I?

Only time will tell if this year's batch of media and fan draft "expert" rankings, mock drafts, and so forth, were fool's gold or the real thing.

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