The Cleveland Browns came storming out of the NFL Draft gate with a flashy trade and a daring quarterback selection. And the "bit between their teeth" draft picks lasted all weekend.
After being mired in mediocrity for the past two years and frustrated at every turn in attempts to create free-agency fireworks, the new regime pushed their chips onto the table with (one must say it) courageous abandon.
Foxnews.com’s D.B. Mitchell summed it up:
Is it risky? Absolutely, but in a stacked division with the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns had to be bold to put themselves in a position to do anything of importance for the next five years.
The team then proceeded to immediately make a move that would help both of their brand new offensive leaders: they drafted Right Tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
Heckert and Holmgren then added the following pieces (one hopes) to their “turn around season” puzzle:
- DT John Hughes
- WR Travis Benjamin
- LB James-Michael Johnson
- G Ryan Miller
All of Cleveland’s last four picks were compensatory, covering rounds six and seven. While somewhat disheartening to fans, being in the sad position of owning these picks may result in, at the least, a bigger talent pool and, at the best, a starter or two if this gambling strategy hits the jackpot.
Clearly, Cleveland either plans to run Trent Richardson fifty times per game or they think there is extreme rookie free agent depth in the ball-catching category. Perhaps visions of multiple Victor Cruzes running free on the streets of America? The Browns need to get a grip here.
The Browns didn’t even flirt with a WR until the fourth round. So much for coveting Justin Blackmon.
Picks 204 and 205, (round six Nos. 33 and 34)
33—Emmanuel Acho, LB. Former Texas Longhorn at 6'1" and 238 lbs. Grade: A
In the event that readers aren’t up to this five-minute video, Mr. Acho has a nice sidestep move and terrific focus on the ball carrier. He is efficient off of blocks and has enough football speed to chase down receivers.
Acho finished with 136 tackles and five forced fumbles. He plays to the whistle with second and third effort, is a good tackler and should contribute almost immediately on special teams.
Emmanuel is the brother of former Longhorn DE and current Cardinal LB Sam Acho. Their entire family goes back to Nigeria every year to help support the community where their father was born.
The elder Acho is a doctor and the family facilitates medical care and supplies. The story is in the attached video, which is four minutes but absolutely worth your time.
From a character point of view, this is a home run. We'll see if he contributes to the LBing corps.
34—Billy Winn, DT. Former Boise State Bronco at 6'4" 294 lbs. Grade: B+
Winn played successfully on the line for several years in college. Nfl.com projected him at the top of the second round so this could be a terrific value.
Best comment is from the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “His consistency and ferociousness stays in your memory after watching him play.”
Well, that's a good thing, right?
The major concern is adapting to the speed of the pro game. He is an all-around player with no one outstanding feature, which may be why he was still available in the sixth.
His two-minute video illustrates that speed might well be an issue, but determination will not.
Picks 245 and 247 (round seven Nos. 38 and 40)
245—Trevin Wade, CB out of Arizona. (Second Team, All-Pac 12.) Grade: C (even a seventh round pick should have some kind of clear immediate contribution projection.)
The former Wildcat has good instincts and is marginally big enough to defend today’s bigger WRs at 5’10” and 192 pounds. He shone last season as the top cover corner for his team and is reputed to have excellent football smarts. Mr. Wade has a number of pick sixes on his resume.
But his speed (4.59 forty) is only impressive against college players and will not get him any return specialist work.
Nevertheless, some scouts were impressed with Wades smooth moves and indicated that he might be an underrated prospect. Several had him in the top 100.
So, this young man may well be a steal at No. 245. Many mock drafts placed him fourth or fifth round, so if he pans out this is a big win for the Browns.
247—FB/TE Brad Smelley, Alabama. Grade B (no, I will not make the obvious name joke)
Hmmm. Could the fact that he is accustomed to playing with Trent Richardson have anything to do with this pick?
The Washington Post reports that Smelley says Richardson put in a good word. Second day on the team, and he’s “assisting” with personnel!
At 6’1” and 233 lbs., Smelley started football life as a quarterback (didn’t they all), but grew into the H-back/F-back role. Now that he can catch, he’s suddenly a tight end. Whatever.
Lindy’s Sports Pro Football Draft guide unceremoniously calls the kid “an ordinary athlete.” But the guide then goes on to credit him with toughness, great work ethic and all of the other things that get a young man a NFL paycheck—even if it’s not a big one.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "Brad Smelley will make this football team. He's got great hands."
He is apparently quite the red zone threat: 34 receptions and four touchdowns. AFC North defenders—take note.
Whether fans are going to accept Smelley counting as a wide receiver pick is doubtful.
With one, sole, potentially legitimate ball catcher in Greg Little, the Browns went into the offseason knowing that a great many of their offense’s problems had everything to do with the WRs’ almost total lack of separation, combined with an epidemic of drop-it is.
Cleveland proceeded to sign no WRs in free agency and drafted one small catcher who may be a deep threat if he is everything that he is heralded to be and if he stays healthy.
That’s a gamble that may turn H & H’s next public appearance into their greatest risk yet.