Cleveland Browns latest news and notes:
A lot has happened for the Cleveland Browns since the draft commenced last weekend. The team generated more buzz nationally than any other franchise – most of it good, but also some bad. Additionally, the younger athletes will get their first crack at donning the orange and brown and meeting their teammates for the first time (in person). Let’s take a look at the events surrounding the franchise since May 8th.
2014 NFL Draft: I really liked what Ray Farmer did with his first draft as general manager of the Cleveland Browns. The first day was a 10/10 for the team; they selected two tremendous athletes in Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, as well as securing additional selections in the first and fourth rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft – after a trade down with Buffalo.
The second day of the draft was slightly above average (I’d give it a 6/10). The team took Joel Bitonio (a tackle out of Nevada), Christian Kirksey (a linebacker from Iowa), and a running back from Towson – Terrance West. Bitonio and Kirksey could possibly start during their first NFL game; there were obviously others at the position available at the time – but I trust Farmer picked the right guy. West will begin as a complement to Ben Tate; perhaps he can be the workhorse down the road. I would have given the team a higher grade, but not securing another wide receiver when it was a need and multiple tremendous athletes were available cost them.
The final day just had one pick (following the trade of their seventh-round option) – cornerback Pierre Desir. The athlete from Lindenwood University could be a steal provided he outperforms expectations. He will start out in special teams and occasional passing downs but excelling in those will yield additional opportunities. It was a solid choice given the fourth-round selection (an 8/10) but that could potentially improve.
Josh Gordon (potential suspension): After missing the first two games of the 2013 season, Gordon has allegedly failed a drug test and therefore will be out at least for one year. Assuming this is the case (and it probably will be), the reigning leader in receiving yardage will not be able to help out the Browns. As a result, yards and touchdowns will have to be found among Greg Little, Jordan Cameron, Andrew Hawkins, or one of the undrafted rookies. It is a crushing blow; the Browns could somewhat weather the storm but everyone will be wondering what could have been.
Rookie Minicamp this weekend: Many, including national media (who will not be allowed to attend), are excited to see the new acquisitions on the field. Gilbert, Manziel, and the other picks will be allowed to work with others and generate expectations. I am certain that little will be taken away from these practices, but perhaps this draft class can further the process of transforming a perennial loser into a consistent winner.