Late Thursday night, after the opening round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Cleveland fans were toasting Ray Farmer and Sonny Weaver alike.
Sonny, of course, is Kevin Costner’s character in the movie Draft Day. He made a couple bold draft trades as the fictional Browns general manager, all the while squabbling with the team owner and the head coach and the salary cap expert.
Farmer, the nonfictional equivalent, also was bold in his first draft as Cleveland’s GM, trading down and picking up a 2015 opening-round pick from Buffalo, then moving back up to get his new coach’s first choice in cornerback Justin Gilbert, then bouncing around again later in the round to set the Cuyahoga River ablaze with excitement by snagging Johnny Football.
Alas, we should all know by now that the Browns are not a Hollywood movie. They tend to be more of a trailer park reality series, sort of Honey Boo Boo meets Honey Badger.
Hopefully, the homeless gent who persuaded owner Jimmy Haslam to draft quarterback Johnny Manziel is not the same one who peddled a bag of weed to premier receiver Josh Gordon. But it would fit this only-the-Browns script.
Cleveland fans hadn’t even slept off their hangovers from Thursday night before hearing reports that Gordon had flunked another drug test — if reports are accurate and appeals fail he is facing a year-long ban from the NFL — and that No. 2 receiver Nate Burleson had suffered a broken arm. He’s expected back by the start of camp, but temper that optimistic thought with this being his second forearm fracture in less than a year.
OK, stuff happens. But, Browns fans, wouldn’t it be cool if it happened to some other team for a change?
Interestingly, it turns out Farmer and the Browns’ brass knew about Gordon’s situation well in advance of Thursday night’s opening salvos of the draft. And that casts a new light on the proceedings.
Why did Buffalo give away much of the 2015 draft — its first-round and fourth-round picks — to the Browns in order to move up five spots? That’s how badly the Bills wanted the top receiver in the draft, Sammy Watkins of Clemson.
Knowing the state of its receiving corps, even with Buffalo offering lucrative future picks on a silver platter, should Cleveland not have been equally and wildly interested in Watkins or Mike Evans of Texas A&M?
In fact, though, the Browns didn’t appear to react. Even in subsequent rounds, after Gordon and Burleson became public knowledge, Cleveland followed by selecting a guard from Nevada, a linebacker from Iowa, a running back from Towson State, and another cornerback, this one being the first NFL draft pick ever from Lindenwood (Mo.) University. They traded their pick in the seventh round.
“We organize the players, we rank them, we stack them, and we stick to it,” Farmer said. “We believe that you do the work for a reason. You take the best players available.”
As an explanation for his lack of attention to sudden needs at receiver, Farmer pointed out,
“We play games in September,” and said there will be plenty of opportunity “whether it’s trades, [late] drafts, players that get cut, or we acquire somebody from the street.”
That latter thought begs for a punch line, but we’ll pass. That’s what Johnny Football will be doing. We’ll have to wait to see who is around to catch it.
While the Browns were screaming with look-at-us moves and picks, the Detroit Lions were whispering by taking North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick and moving up a few slots in the second round to nab Brigham Young outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
In later rounds, Detroit kept its emphasis on defense, which was smart.
Ebron may or may not have been a bit of a reach so early, considering the Lions’ depth at the position. Van Noy was a good value pick for a team seeking a better pass rush. Nothing is shouting here, but GM Martin Mayhew’s approach seemed quietly sound.
HITS AND MISSES:
¦ St. Louis had two of the first 13 picks and parlayed those into the top offensive tackle (Greg Robinson, Auburn) and defensive tackle (Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh) in the draft. You can’t do much better than that.
¦ Contrast Jacksonville’s approach to Cleveland’s. The Jags got the quarterback they wanted, Blake Bortles, early and then added two good receivers (Marqise Lee, something of a steal at No. 39, and Penn State’s Allen Robinson) in the second round.
¦ Oakland snagged OLB/?DE Khalil Mack of the MAC’s Buffalo and patiently waited for Fresno State’s Derek Carr to fall in the second round, a good value spot for a well-regarded quarterback. Matt Schaub is a band-aid for the present; Carr should be the future.
¦ New England’s surprise pick of Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo late in the second round may not have maximized Tom Brady’s here-and-now needs. But consider that Brady will be 37 when next season starts; the same age Brett Favre was when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers.
¦ The Colts would have liked to turn back the clock to that Trent Richardson trade with Cleveland, especially if being shut out of the first round cost them an offensive lineman they badly needed. But it did not. Somehow, 59 picks into the draft, Toledoan Jack Mewhort was still there for the taking. It seems a perfect marriage.