7 min

Thoughts about the Browns' 2014 draft picks

(My May 2014 comment at ToledoTalk.com)

After the Browns chose Johnny Manziel, his jersey went on sale at NFL.com , and apparently, some crazed fans ordered it. I'm not that goofy.

I grew up in eastern Ohio. Geographically, we were closer to Pittsburgh than Cleveland. The area had a mix of Browns and Steelers fans. Obviously, the Steelers fans had a lot more to gloat about. Fights occurred on the school playground between Browns and Steelers fans. I rooted for Cleveland, so I still have a soft spot for the Browns. For some reason, I still have VHS recordings of Browns games from the late 1980s with nothing to play the tapes.

Last month, the movie Draft Day came out, starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. The movie was about the Cleveland Browns. I have not seen the movie, but it's possible that the real first round draft yesterday may be more interesting.

The NFL is the only sport that I follow, and for the past few years, I've been listening to AM 850 WKNR when I can. It's basically the all-Browns sports station. Celebrity chef and Clevelander Michael Symon occasionally calls in to give his Browns' thoughts. Bernie Kosar also calls in at times. Some of the WKNR talk show hosts were in the "Draft Day" movie.

Since we don't get ESPN on TV, I listened to the first round of the NFL draft by dialing up WKNR over the Internet. As an NFL geek, listening to last night's draft was fascinating.

The local WKNR sports radio chaps broadcast the draft from the Rocksino. The crowd started buzzing when the Browns traded up with Philadelphia to move from #26 to #22. And then the place went crazy when the Browns selected Johnny.

Even if Johnny turns out to be a bust, it's damn good theatre in the short term for the lowly Browns. At least in college, he played well against good competition. Manziel did not pad his stats only against weak teams.

Drew Brees is only 6-feet tall. Russell Wilson is only 5-feet 11-inches tall. Both are mobile QBs with strong, accurate arms. Manziel's height is around 5-feet 11-inches. I don't consider his size an issue.

The bare minimum requirements for a good NFL QB are arm strength and accuracy, and for the most part, those things cannot be taught.

Obviously, other traits then factor in, such as reading defenses, making decisions, etc. But without the arm strength and accuracy, it's tough to be a good starter in the NFL.

So if Manziel's arm strength does not match the likes of Flacco, Roethlisberger, Dalton, Rivers, Luck, Brady, Peyton, Rogers, etc., then Manziel will be a 2nd or 3rd string QB.

I think the problem with RGIII was the number of designed running plays that he ran in his rookie year. When I saw the Redskins play in 2012, I was amazed at how many times he kept the ball on designed running plays. I couldn't believe that the Redskins coaching staff subjected their first round QB to that kind of punishment even if RGIII is good at running. I don't see how that's sustainable in the NFL. And I think that's why RGIII got banged up in his rookie season, and why he was somewhat ineffective last year.

[Current offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was the OC with the Redskins and RGIII. Hopefully, he does try to design running plays with Manziel.]

A mobile QB is a good asset. Elway and Steve Young were mobile QBs, but they rarely ran designed running plays. Wilson and Kaepernick will occasionally run a designed running play, but it's not as often as people think. They are good at scrambling when under pressure on pass plays and then running for yardage if they have too. But Wilson and Kaepernick are always thinking pass first.

Even a big QB like Cam Newton can get worn down from running the ball too much. In the Panthers-49ers playoff game this past season, Newton ran the ball often in that game, and he took a pounding. Late in that game, it was obvious that he was beaten down.

QBs scrambling and running are good if they slide or go out of bounds. But taking on linebackers and defensive backs is silly.

Anyway, with Johnny Football, I look forward to the Browns' first pre-season game.

New Browns GM Ray Farmer was certainly active in last night's first round. The Browns had two first round picks, and they made three trades, moving to different spots.

The Browns' first pick was at #4, but they traded down. I would have taken wide receiver Sammy Watkins at #4. He would have been a good complement to Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon.

Instead after a couple trades, the Browns selected cornerback Justin Gilbert with the #8 pick. Mike Pettine, the Browns' new head coach, was a defensive coordinator, so maybe he influenced this pick.

I like Jerod Cherry's assessment of Gilbert. Jerod played safety in the NFL, and he was on the three Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots teams. He's a talk show host for WKNR. Jerod said that Gilbert does not tackle players. He body slams them. That's encouraging.

Gilbert may be the best defensive back in the draft, but the NFL rules are frustratingly slanted to favor the offense, especially quarterbacks and wide receivers.

The refs allow receivers to push more than defensive backs. The newer so-called safety rules that are designed to protect QBs and WRs get called incorrectly at times, penalizing the defense. And besides, top-notch QBs complete passes to receivers who are not open.

The Browns may now have two "shutdown corners," but that won't bother QBs like Rothlisberger and Flacco. If those guys throw a couple picks in a game against Cleveland, they won't slow down. They'll keep firing. It only takes one key play or one bad call late in the game to win.

Last season, the Browns best CB was Joe Haden. He's one of the better CBs in the league. He made the Pro Bowl last year. But he got schooled by the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars late in that game, and the Jags scored the game-winning TD. When the Browns blew the Patriots game last season, the refs made a terrible pass interference call against Haden at the end of that game that allowed the Pats to score their game-winning TD from the one-yard line.

Haden is a fine player to have on the team, and Gilbert is expected to be an excellent player too, but when a perennially bad team like Cleveland has a top-10 pick, then I think the choice should be either QB or WR. If the NFL continues to tinker with the rules, the league is more likely to favor those two positions over defensive backs.

By trading down from the #4 spot last night, however, the Browns received the Buffalo Bills' first round pick next year. So Cleveland will have two first round picks again in 2015. I still would have stayed at #4 and taken one of the top WRs.

If Manziel does become good enough to start for the Browns, then it would have been interesting to have Manziel, Watkins, and Gordon on the field.

Cleveland will probably draft a WR today or sometime this weekend. The NFL is year-round. I think that I'll listen to a CD of NFL Films theme songs and then try to tackle an oak tree.

I wish the Toledo Symphony would perform a night of NFL Films music. Big brass and big percussion. Here are a couple good ones:

"Up She Rises" (also known as Drunken Sailor)

"Classic Battle"

#sports - #football - #nfl - #browns - #blog_jr

By JR - 1290 words
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