Hello and welcome back,
In case you didn't catch the first episode of the show, you can view it by clicking here. At stated before this is a weekly column where I interview a guest columnist and ask their opinions, as well as your own, about the topic(s) of that week.
This week we're talking about the aftermath and the results of the 2011 NFL Draft, including the picks, the changes that we would've made, and much, much more.
I'd like to thank Brandon Sommers for agreeing to participate and be a part of the discussion. However, this is a group effort so if you feel like we're wrong, or you have an opinion of your own to share don't by shy about posting a comment or addressing a question to either Brandon or I (or both!)
Thanks a lot for reading, and lets dive right on in.
What is your opinion of the Browns’ 2011 Draft?
Brandon Sommers: I think that the front office stayed very true to itself in this draft. The approach was very similar to last year’s draft. They identified and addressed the most pressing needs in the early rounds and then just drafted guys they thought could be good football players in the later rounds. They also showed that they aren’t shy about trading up to get a guy if they want him.
I didn’t agree with every move, but the first round trade in and of itself was enough to secure an A for the whole draft. The first three rounds were pristine. Day three left me scratching my head a little, but not enough to get upset. I give the draft an A- overall.
Jake D: I largely agree, I think it was a good thing that Heckert stuck to his gun and drafted based on who he wanted and he thought would fit the personnel the best. I also am hugely thankful that they did not reach to get any of these guys, like the Denver Broncos did.
Overall, I think they drafted for talent, and every single guy that they drafted has the ability to start in this league. The picks of Sheard, Little, Taylor, Marecic and Hagg especially were key pieces and I believe that Buster Skrine has all the physical tools necessary to succeed he just needs some technical adjustments and experience at the professional level.
What undrafted free agent should the Browns set their sights on?
Brandon: I’ve identified 17 UFA’s that I feel the Browns should take a look at. It’s hard to single out just one, but if I have to then it has to be Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich. I just don’t see any way that a team could not want this guy. His production was down last year, but he wasn’t even a whole year removed from chemotherapy. Give him a year or two and he’s gonna look like a second round pick. I guarantee Bill Belichick will be taking a look at him.
Jake: Yeah, I think Mark Herzlich should be the top option on the UFA market, and I think a lot of teams want him. I guess my two favorites of the group are DeAndre McDaniel of Clemson and Terrence Tolliver of LSU. Both of those guys for whatever reason were overlooked by teams when they both had 3rd or 4th round grades going into the draft. This UFA class is immensely talented and it will be interesting to see where the chips fall once a new CBA is in place.
If you could take back, change, re-do, etc. any pick or trade of the Browns’ draft which one would it be and why?
Brandon: I would completely redo day three. I don’t know why on earth we took Jordan Cameron. I would’ve taken Sam Acho or Christian Ballard there. I don’t hate the Marecic pick, but I would’ve at least waited another round for that. I would’ve taken Marcus Cannon there. I would’ve stuck with the Skrine pick I suppose, but I wouldn’t have traded up for Pinkston who is a notoriously lazy creampuff. I would’ve kept the two sixth round picks and taken Quan Sturdivant and Dwayne Harris.
Jake: I don't really think I would change anything. I think we had a solid draft and that we picked players that, while not necessarily "green sticker" guys, will add to the overall talent of the team. And that's what really matters.
Realistically, how close are the Browns to playoff contention?
Brandon: With their schedule, the Browns could challenge for a wild card birth this season, but I think the end of their schedule against Pittsburgh and Baltimore will probably kill their run if they make one.
I don’t think it will be next season either. It’s gonna take another good draft and a year for all those players to get some experience. After that, I feel like the Browns should be ready to at least challenge for a division crown in the year 2013. By then Pittsburgh and Baltimore will have lost several of their most important players to age. They’ll still be solid teams, but you can’t just replace a Ray Lewis or Troy Polamalu.
Jake: Since the draft largely ignored the "sexy picks" and focused on building a solid foundation for a good team, it will be a couple years. While we are definitely in the middle of a short transition, it should be noted that this is far from the 12+ year renovation that the fans have been used to since 1999.
Holmgren and Heckert have a definite plan for this team, and I believe if coaches' Shurmur and Jauron do their jobs to the best of their abilities, we'll at least be in the talkings for the wildcard consistently by 2013.
What role do you think free agency will play in shaping the depth chart next season?
Brandon: I don’t see the Browns shelling out a lot of money on high-priced free agents whenever free agency starts. I think they’ll bring in some veterans for depth for a year to help lead the youth on this roster. They may add one key starting piece, and I if they do I would expect that to be a defensive end, but otherwise I think they’ll be signing veteran back-ups exclusively.
Jake: I agree, Holmgren has already said they're not going to "go crazy" in free agency. I see them signing a defensive end and maybe a middle linebacker and everything else they're going to try to find talent in coming drafts for those spots. In terms of a foundation, I think Heckert is doing what he's done best.
An interesting article I read said that 17 of the Eagles 22 starters were either drafted or signed as undrafted free agents by Heckert. That's insane! This guy has built a young, talented, successful team in only about four or five years. I see bright things in the Browns future.