The Cleveland Browns entered the 2013 draft with everybody guessing.
By Saturday evening, as the rafters came down and staging areas were disassembled in Radio City Music Hall, they left all the draftniks and media big fish lukewarm, at best.
Browns CEO Joe Banner, GM Michael Lombardi, coach Rob Chudzinski and director of player personnel Ray Farmer combined to form the team's drafting committee.
Each draft decision, Banner promised, would be a consensus.
Here's a look at the Browns' 2013 draft haul:
- R1: Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
- R2: Josh Gordon, WR, Baylor (2012 Supplemental pick)
- R3: Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State University
- R4: Switch picks with Miami for WR Davone Bess, trade with Pittsburgh for 2014 third-round pick
- R5: Switch picks with Miami, trade with Indianapolis for 2014 fourth-round pick
- R6: Jamoris Slaughter, Safety, Notre Dame
- R7: Armonty Bryant, DE, East Central (Oklahoma)
- R7: Garrett Gilkey, OL, Chadron State
Let's take a look at what some outsiders had to say about those decisions:
The man with the outlandish pompadour, ESPN's resident draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., broke down his draft grades by three metrics: Overall talent acquired, effectiveness addressing needs and efficiency maneuvering on the draft board.
He gave the Browns a C in addressing needs, a B- for value and a C+ overall.
Here's what he had to say about Mingo, "Mingo adds depth at outside linebacker, but he's going to need some developmental work because he played with his hand on the ground at LSU."
And here's what he had to say about McFadden, "As I look at the depth chart, I don't see a reason why McFadden can't break camp as the starter across from Joe Haden. That's not a small deal because it also maximizes Buster Skrine, who will be able to spend more time in the slot, where he's much better."
On Kiper's grading scale, C, he says, stands for average.
Kiper starts a trend that shows up repeatedly in analysis of the Browns' 2013 draft. He makes this outrageous claim: "The lack of a second-round pick really hurt the Browns..."
Oh really, Mel? Well, the Browns didn't lack a second-round pick. They already used it.
And with their 2nd round pick they got Baylor WR Josh Gordon a year early—Josh Gordon, who would've sat at the top of this wide receiver draft class.
I give Kiper's analysis an "incomplete."
ESPN's resident AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley acknowledges what Kiper did not: the parts of the draft where the Browns got value without necessarily drafting a player between April 24 and April 26.
"When looking at the players the Browns drafted over these three days, I would give the Browns a C-minus. When you look at the big picture, the Browns deserve a solid B," Hensley writes.
This is fair.
Look at the draft overall: The Browns got who they think is an elite pass-rusher. They got a high-ceilling wide receiver prospect a year early who set multiple rookie records his first season.
They got a cornerback who can play on an island and compete for the spot opposite star corner Joe Haden. They got a proven slot receiver from Miami without having to give up a pick.
They turned moving back in the fourth-round to trade for Bess this year, into a third-round pick next year. Then they got a fourth-round pick next year for this year's fifth, securing themselves six picks in the first four rounds in 2014.
They got more competition at the free safety position. They beefed up their trenches with some late-round meat.
All this together deserves at least a B.
Hot off the brief respite of reason and relatively drilled-down analysis presented by Jamison Hensley, CBS Sports' Pete Prisco presents us with lovely juxtaposition.
"Taking Barkevious Mingo in the first round is questionable. They had two outside rushers and had some other bigger needs. He's a good player, but not a great fit."
This flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that Mingo's talents actually are a better fit for Browns DC Ray Horton's new downhill 3-4 system than they were in LSU's 4-3.
Horton's scheme should maximize Mingo's talents.
As for having "other bigger needs," it was one bigger need, a cornerback, which the Browns filled post-haste in the Third Round with McFadden.
And Prisco calls McFadden the Browns' best pick.
"McFadden is a tad undersized, but he is a solid cover corner who fits a need," Prisco wrote.
Pete likes to have it both ways.
WalterFootball presents perhaps the ultimate out-of-touch analysis of what's actually going on in Cleveland.
"I guess 2012 tape doesn't matter for the Browns. Barkevious Mingo was awful this past season and flat out quit in some games," he wrote.
Mingo didn't play his best in 2012, but a lot of that had to do with other teams scheming first for him and sending both a tackle and a tight end in his direction.
To call him "awful" is mere inflammatory shtick and to accuse him of quitting makes me question how much LSU football WalterFootball actually watched.
"You also have to wonder what the Browns are going to do at quarterback."
Do you? Let's see if you can keep up: The 2013 QB draft class was weak. The Browns brought in FA QB Jason Campbell to push last year's first-round pick Brandon Weeden.
If Weeden fails, the team has stockpiled picks in the 2014 draft to give them room to move around for a QB in a much stronger class. If your head is hurting, WalterFootball, you can just stop wondering now.
In a poll on Cleveland.com, Browns fans were almost evenly split.
With 5,665 votes, "I'm not sure. How can you tell now?" was leading with 25.83 percent.
That's the most reasonable answer out there. Nobody knows until we see how this all shakes out. That's the inherent problem with immediate draft grades, in any case.
In a close second was, "Pretty good. Some moves give them a chance to improve," which got 24.73 percent.
This is how I tend to think—cautious optimism. I can't say what will work out and what won't. But I think they've given themselves a good shot at making some strides, both this year and next.
In third with 24.04 percent of the vote was, "Not too good. Unless there are surprises, they didn't get much help."
After five double-digit loss seasons in a row, nobody can blame any Browns fan for having plenty of doubts at this point.
So no surprise, in fourth with 16.49 percent of the vote was, "Lousy. Lots of losing in the past, lots of losing in the future."
Finally, with 9 percent of the vote, we have our optimists: "Great. Smart decisions that will help in 2013 and beyond."
Barkeep, get this man a shot.