April 15, 2005

In The Dark

The new Browns management team of Phil Savage and Coach Romeo Crennel aren't giving any clues as to what they'll do next Saturday with the 3rd pick in the NFL Draft. This mock draft is accompanied by some speculation about the Browns decision, but I hope it's off base. The conventional wisdom nationally seems to be that the team will select one of the two top quarterbacks, Aaron Rogers or Alex Smith, if either one is still available at #3.

Trying to dissect Savage and Crennel's collective thought process is fast becoming sport. The fact that the team allowed both Jeff Garcia and Kelly Holcomb to escape C-Town, while signing 33-year-old Seahawks backup Trent Dilfer to compete for a starting job next year suggests that drafting a quarterback early on April 23rd is exactly what the team is preparing to do.

Fans and writers closer to home who are still stinging from the Couch debacle, and who realize how many other holes this team has, are doubting that the team will pull the trigger on a QB with the 3rd pick in this draft. In fact, in Terry Pluto's case I would call it more like begging the team to go a different direction. He's right. Addressing the quarterback position can wait until a later round, if not until 2006.

Although I hope that Savage and Crennel will do what they feel they need to do for this team without regard to what fan reaction is likely to be, they must sense that a pick at any other position in the first round will take the heat off of them by an order of magnitude. The point may be moot anyway, because Miami needs a QB as much as they need a running back, and many people feel Nick Saban will take Alex Smith as soon as the 49ers grab Rodgers.

We do know that the team has looked extensively at Michigan WR Braylon Edwards as well as the two QB's. Savage joked the other day about "going to the Wishbone" when it was noted that the best players available on many scouts' boards when the Browns pick comes up are likely to be the running backs Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson and Cadillac Williams. With Drohns and Suggs already on board, that is clearly not our primary area of need.

But if Savage has made anything clear in the pre-Draft discussion, it is that he goes by "the board" with almost no exceptions. He rates the players before the draft, and then follows his ratings on draft day without deviating from the rankings. He doesn't care where all the "experts" have players rated, nor does he pay a lot of attention to what specific position needs the team has. Presumably this will be even more the case here with the Browns, where there are talent shortages all over the place.

All the talk in the past few weeks has been about how difficult it will be to trade down from the top five spots in this draft due to the absence of true "blue-chip" players. But we do know that both Minnesota(7th) and Washington(9th) are dying to get either Edwards or USC's Mike Williams, and at least one of them is likely to be disappointed unless they move up. We also know what a patient man Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is. That's who I'd have on my speed-dial next Saturday morning if I'm Phil Savage.

As far as my own semi-educated opinions on personnel, I'll break it down into two categories. If we stay at #3, I'd prefer, in approximate order of preference, Antrell Rolle, Shawne Merriman, Pacman Jones, Braylon Edwards, or Mike Williams.

If we are able to trade down, to perhaps as far as picks 12-15, I'd go for Merriman if he lasts that long, or to one of the OT's, Alex Barron or Jamaal Brown. I also would like Erasmus James or Mark Clayton if we're picking lower in the round. We also know that the team has had "The Freak", Matt Jones in for a personal workout this past week. Maybe they're thinking pick #34 for him?

In any event, I'll be catching it from a distance. Come Saturday 4/23, I'll be in the Horseshoe watching the Buckeyes Spring Game. Last year OSU cooperated with those of us who have divided loyalties by posting the NFL first round picks on the scoreboard as they were selected. But it's not a tough call to make. Watch a four-hour first round on ESPN or watch Teddy Ginn Jr. live and in person?

Posted by dan at April 15, 2005 11:02 AM