Cleveland Browns 2014 Draft: Aggregating Grades from Around the Web
It is the most inexact and inconclusive thing that we do in sports journalism. We grade each team’s draft immediately after it happens, with the selections having never stepped on an NFL field.
It will take three seasons to find out how the Cleveland Browns actually did, but in the short term, the experts seem to feel they did very well.
Readers love to see the arbitrary grades that each team receives just 24 hours after all the selections are made. If you want to know just how inexact this science is, look at FoxSports.com’s 2011 draft grade for the San Francisco 49ers.
It gave the 49ers a C+ grade in a draft where they selected Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, starting center Daniel Kilgore and a starting cornerback in Chris Culliver. I think that grade should be more in the A+ range for the production they have gotten from those guys.
Despite the lofty projections, you still love to see the grades, so here they are. I rounded up five of the most respected names out there and compiled their grades for the Browns’ draft. Enjoy.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: B-
The man with the hair was a fan of the Browns' overall draft, but like many others, questioned why they did not select a wide receiver. ESPN’s Mel Kiper (subscription required) gave the Browns a very good grade and applauded quite a few of the Browns’ selections.
Kiper was effusive in his praise for the way general manager Ray Farmer may have changed the direction of the franchise in one draft.
"The Browns have potentially changed the face of their franchise, but [Johnny] Manziel could use somebody to throw the football to," he wrote.
The wide receiver comment will be a common theme throughout these grades. Apparently, it does not bother Farmer anywhere near as much because he told the media that only time will tell how that position shakes out.
"There's plenty of opportunity for us to address what everyone would believe is a need, but in our opinion there's plenty of opportunity to add players, to change the roster and really make a difference," he said.
Should Farmer have probably selected a receiver? Yes, he should have. However, one thing you cannot do is force a higher value on a player just because of need. That is how you end up drafting busts.
SI.com’s Chris Burke: B-
One of the most jubilant reviews of the Browns’ draft came from Chris Burke of SI.com. He captured how most Browns fans felt on Thursday night, saying that it was one of the most exciting stretches since the team returned in 1999:
The first day of the draft may have been among the most exciting stretches in franchise history, what with a trade down and then two trades up, netting the Browns CB Justin Gilbert and QB Johnny Manziel. There was talent found after that, as well, namely versatile OL Joel Bitonio and CB Pierre Desir — the latter a remarkable value at No. 127 overall. RB Terrance West is a sleeper.
While that first sentence may seem sad to people on the outside, those in Cleveland agree wholeheartedly. Thursday night was a roller coaster of emotions that concluded with the Browns drafting their franchise quarterback in Johnny Manziel.
He also applauded the selection of running back Terrance West from Towson. West looks like a giant walking bicep at 5’9” and 225 pounds. His arms are so big they look like thighs.
That is not what can make him good in the NFL, however. He is a powerful back with a fast first step who will be a nice complement and insurance policy for Ben Tate.
CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco: B-
As you can tell, there is a running theme with these draft grades. It is not just that they are all giving the Browns a B—like Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com did—but also there are similarities in their analysis.
Prisco echoes the Kiper and Burke’s sentiments that drafting Manziel was a home run, but not selecting a wide receiver was a head-scratcher:
I loved the move to go up and get Johnny Manziel in the first, but why pass on receiver with the Josh Gordon situation? I don't get that at all. They took a corner with their first first-round pick Justin Gilbert instead of a receiver. That drops the grade for me. They did get a 2015 first-round pick from Buffalo.
I think Prisco answered his own question in the final sentence of his blurb. The Browns received a 2015 first-round pick for trading down from fourth to ninth. In doing so, they acquired what will probably be a top-10 selection next season.
At the time, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans was still available. If he had fallen to No. 9, I think the Browns would have nabbed him.
Instead, he was taken seventh and the Browns traded up to make sure they got the best cornerback on the board.
If the receiver position is a huge problem in 2014, then they will have two first-round picks next season to address the issue. As much as fans do not want to hear it, teams cannot fix all their problems in one offseason.
CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang: C
This was easily the lowest grade I could find for the Browns’ draft.
Rob Rang of CBSSports.com was flabbergasted that they did not address the receiver position despite Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reporting that the team had been aware of the Josh Gordon situation for weeks:
Unfortunately, Manziel won't have a dynamic pass-catcher in Cleveland like Mike Evans to bail him out as the reported suspension of wideout Josh Gordon was met with an inexplicable ignoring of the position throughout the draft by the Browns.
He goes on to talk about the talent that the Browns acquired and how impressive it is in a vacuum. His only issue with the draft was not selecting a wide receiver.
I think by trading back and acquiring another first-round pick in 2015, Ray Farmer did a masterful job of bolstering his team now while preparing for a real run in the future. The reality of the situation is that, even with Josh Gordon, the Browns were probably not challenging for a Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback.
Things will change in 2015, however, because not only will Johnny Manziel have a year under his belt, but the Browns will be able to add two more weapons in the first round.
Rang still feels Cleveland fans will be wondering what could have been.
"But five games into the 2014 season, long-suffering Browns fans may be wondering what if the Browns had just selected Sammy Watkins (or Evans) at No. 4 overall rather than trading back," he wrote.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal: Winners
There were some experts who opted to not assign letter grades and instead just say who won and lost in the NFL draft. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com was one of those guys.
Not only did he name the Browns a winner, but he defended Ray Farmer for sticking to his draft board despite news of Josh Gordon’s suspension.
Thursday was beyond any wild best-case scenario dreams that Browns fans could think up. They drafted cornerback Justin Gilbert, snagged Johnny Manziel at No. 22, and picked up Buffalo's 2015 first-round pick in the process. This is not any first-round pick Cleveland picked up, either. The Bills haven't won more than six games since 2008 and haven't made the playoffs since 1999. The Browns could wind up back in the top five picks again.
Yes, the news of Josh Gordon's potential suspension is a huge downer, but the team had no control over that. General manager Ray Farmer stuck to his board and decided not to fill the team's receiver need in the middle rounds. Third-round running back Terrance West adds a fun complement to their backfield.
I could not agree with Rosenthal more. It is easy to sit back and say Farmer should have pulled the trigger on a receiver because he knew about the Gordon suspension now, but we have to remember this is after months of draft preparation.
Even if they knew about Gordon’s suspension for two weeks, it still would have been after they had their draft board set. I, too, applaud Farmer for sticking to his guns and player ratings.
It does not mean that he did not like any receivers in the draft. In fact, I’m sure there were a few that he loved. It just means that everywhere they selected, they had players rated higher than any receiver on the board.
It takes confidence and guts to stick to your research under the pressure of that news during the draft. I think it’s amazing that Farmer was able to do it in just his first draft.