WFNY Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2011: #5 – The Browns Draft Day Trade

As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last three years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. We started with #10 – The Colt Concussion, next was #9 –Key Cavalier Wins. We broke down the Baron Davis Trade and talked some Tribe at #7. Yesterday, Kirk was on the Pat Shurmur hire for #6. Today we stick with the Browns theme.

#5 – The Browns Make a Blockbuster Draft Day Trade

Draft Day 2011 was huge for the Browns. You had a new, offensive minded head coach on board and a roster full of holes on both sides of the ball. The offense desperately needed playmakers and the defense was switching to a 4-3, which required entirely new personnel on the front seven.

The Browns, coming off a 5-11 season, owned the sixth pick in the draft. Most pundits had the Browns taking either Georgia WR A.J. Green if he were to somehow still be there, Alabama WR Julio Jones, or LSU CB Patrick Peterson. Green went #4 to the Bengals, Peterson #5 to the Cardinals, leaving the Browns with an interesting dilemma. Dare they take Jones this high? Well a few short minutes later, a deal came across the board to GM Tom Heckert that he couldn’t pass up on.

The Atlanta Falcons felt as if they were a Super Bowl contender and were one big play type threat away from making that big leap. So they went for it. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff and Heckert worked out a deal that would send the #6 pick to Atlanta, where his team would take Jones to pair with All-Pro wideout Roddy White. The Browns would pick up what they needed as well – more draft picks. They received the Falcons first round pick (#27), along with a second and a fourth in the same draft, and a first and a fourth in next year’s draft. Heckert smartly knew this team was more than one player away from making any noise, so he stockpiled picks in a big way.

The 2011 picks the Browns would receive would turn into three starters – DT Phil Taylor (1st), WR Greg Little (2nd), and FB Owen Marecic (4th). Add in Atlanta’s first and fourth rounders in 2012, and Heckert HAD to make this move.

Taylor has had some real nice moments as the starter next to Ahtyba Rubin in the interior of the Browns D-line and looks like a player (despite the horrific jumping offsides penalty Saturday). Little will end up being the team’s leading receiver for the season and enters week 17 with 61 catches for 702 yards and two TDs. Yes, he had a case of the dropsies at a point this year, but he looks as if he will be a solid #2 WR in this league. Marecic has suffered a pair of concussions, but has made the most of his run as the team’s starting fullback and special teams maven. (I for one still do not get why the Browns let Lawrence Vickers go. I was a huge fan of his and he LOVED playing in Cleveland. Evidently he didn’t fit Pat Shurmur’s West Coast style. Please with that).

The decision to pass on Jones may have been a tough one and the jury is still out if it will come back to haunt the Browns. When healthy this year, Jones has shown an innate ability to make the big play. While it took 61 catches for Little to get over the 700 yard mark, the Falcons rookie has done it with just 42 grabs and he has only played in 11 games compared to Little’s 15.

Regardless of what becomes of Jones, the Browns just had too many holes to fill to pass on this kind of deal. They will go into the 2012 Draft with two first rounders, including a more than likely top five pick, plus top fourth rounders. Heckert will need to continue to draft well to improve this roster.  Missing out on first rounders flat out cannot happen.

  • Wheel

    Question for all my fellow Browns fans:

    Has Phil Taylor’s performance this year been worthy of a first round pick?

  • Josh Stein

    Vickers DIDN’T fit Shurmur’s style. He’s competent at what he does…

  • jimkanicki

    @1 you mean: was taylor worth a first AND high 3rd round pick (which was either justin houston or demarco murray).

    answer is no.

  • jimkanicki

    btw, according to draft value chart, the delta between picks 26 and 21 is 100 points. that is a high 4th round pick, not a high 3rd round pick.

    taylor was a fairly bad move all around by heckert.

  • MrCleaveland

    1. Heckert had to make that trade. Had to. No-brainer.

    2. Once the trade was made, however, it’s not clear if he made the right choice with Taylor. We’ll see.

    3. As for Little, I hate using high picks on projects (as well as guys who aren’t going to play the position they played in college). I have no data, but it just seems that the return on investment for these types of picks is pretty low.

    4. I also hate trading up to get some fourth-rounder 10 spots earlier. That always strikes me as showing off and telling the rest of the league that you’re way smarter than they are. Savage like to do that. Again, no data, but it hasn’t seemed to pan out very well.

  • Harv 21

    Do players ever improve from their rookie years to their second and third, or do we essentially know everything necessary to evaluate them after 16 games? Don’t understand us. One day after the draft we say “it’ll take 2-3 years to see how this went.” Six months later, done, we know everything. End of their rookie seasons Colt was a steal in the 3rd round, Kameron Wimbley an elite pass rusher, Braylon a future dominant receiver.

    For years the Steelers stashed linemen for a few years and let them learn before plugging them in. There are things linemen learn – techniques, countermoves, what sort of conditioning is required. Don’t think anyone already knows exactly what Taylor will be.

  • gillis22

    Agreed. You can’t talk bad about Taylor just yet. Sure he hasn’t had a stellar year this year and has made a few mistakes. I expect him to come back next year with a little chip on his shoulder and really step up his game and become a force for the browns in the middle along with Rubin. Those two players both have good attitudes, are young,compassion, high motor, and have promising futures!

  • jimkanicki

    im not saying phil taylor is bad or good. it does appear that he’s inconsistent and you can follow that thread to out of shape and/or head not where it should be.

    but i am saying that his talent appears to have been overvalued by our GM. this doesnt seem a controversial statement to me.

  • gillis22

    I trust in Heckert, he seems to be bringing in good players. Listen tho taylor is a rookie he’s gonna be inconsistent he’s learning how to play in the NFL. He should be a force next year and I hope he proves ppl wrong Heckert saw good in him if not he wouldn’t of picked him. He is a nose tackle as well so he’s not gonna have huge stats either he’s had a decent year this year I’d say.

  • Wheel

    I think Taylor is a fine SECOND round pick, but feel Heckert overreached for him as e did Mondasty. Despite an up and down season, I think Taylor has shown enough to give us hope. I don’t think we have enough results in Heckert to trust in him. This next draft will be his litmus test. Finally, if Heckert thought this team was fine going into the season without dabbling in the free agent market, then I question his evaluation of talent.

  • Ezzie

    Sorry – I love this site and the fans here, but this keeps happening and the below rant came out after seeing the above comments:

    It’s so frustrating to consistently see the rush to judgment by people about every Browns coach and player.

    I understand that unlike the Steelers and Ravens, where guys get to develop out of the limelight as backups and situational players, that there’s less of a rush just by nature – but why does the fact that our guys are starting mean we have to overanalyze every imperfection and flaw immediately and therefore dismiss them as no good?

    People always wonder why the Browns are no good, and most of them are smart enough to realize it’s because we have never fully built any approach out to success – and yet when anyone tries to, we go crazy with impatience and drive them out of town right away. It happened with Belichik, it happened with Mangini, and it’s happening again with Holmgren and Shurmur. It’s happening with Colt McCoy, Phil Taylor, Greg Little…

    I mean, really – Taylor is ranked 6th in all of the NFL among DTs according to AdvancedNFLStats ( – as a ROOKIE! – but he’s “maybe average” according to Browns fans. Greg Little has 702 yards on 61 receptions despite being a rookie #1 WR on a team with no other offensive threats and despite not starting for four games. Colt McCoy has a 14/11 TD/INT ratio in his first full season in a new offense with predictable play-calling, no supporting running game, gaps in his protection, and no real WRs besides aforementioned rookie Little, and has about a 60% completion rate on a team leading the league in drops, and has gotten the crap beaten out of him because of OL injuries.

    What the heck is wrong with us as fans that we can’t wait for 3 freaking years before passing judgment on our players and coaches?!

  • jimkanicki

    that’s a great link ezzie thanks for that. i didnt realize taylor at #6 was that much better than rubin at #13. i wouldnt have made that judgement myself…

    but as long as we’re doing stats, check who’s #3 at RB.

    and that is my point. heckert reached and it looks like a mistake.

    taylor might turn out to be a good DT. he just wasn’t worth trading up for. and the browns at 30th against the rush, again.

    it’s not me man. it’s not a rush to judgment thing by silly browns fans. imo, there’s more ‘heckert is smart’ talk happening here and that’s why you see so much from me on this subject. i think the guy gets a pass from too many. put it this way, have you read anything from PD questioning the taylor trade-up? anyways, sorry if i’m going overboard on this. i promise to cool it if/when i see more critical reviews on heckert in more places.

  • Wheel

    Kanicki, I agree about Heckert getting a pass on this site. While I think he is a definite improvement over Mangini’ and his disastrous draft of 2009, I don’t think he is the genius many perceive him to be. Look critically at the 2010 draft, and tell me how many are on the Browns roster? I hope Taylor turns into a stud DT. But everytime I see Julio Jones scoring TD’s, I can’t help but think the Browns passed on the very thing they desperately need. I hope that in 2012, Heckert not only gets it right in the first round, but also finds the diamonds in the rough that will bring the Browns back to respectability. And Ezzie, regarding “patience”? The name of this website says it all when it comes to Cleveland fans and ‘patience.’

  • jimkanicki

    wheel, we’re on the same page re: heckert. but i was for the five for one draft picks trade.. we had lots of holes.

    taylor-overpaid for him, but at least DT was a hole.
    little-looks like good pick to me.
    marecic-FB was not a hole. yes he is a starter. but he’s a starter because he was drafted; he was actually outplayed by clutts in training camp.

    i’ll give heckert a friendly C on that deal so far.

    but i see no reason to expect special magic from heckert in the draft. the only real sleepers he’s uncovered in the draft are lesean mccoy and brent celek. (im withholding on desean jackson because he might be unravelling.)

    heres a good link to the eagles draft. heckert got director of personnel in 2003, so im starting in 2004 in reviewing his drafts.

  • Ezzie

    Jim – How is that a mistake? Taking a guy who is – as a rookie – performing near the top of the league at his position is fantastic. I could agree on Marecic primarily because they could have easily kept Vickers, but why would they have taken a Demarco Murray when they had Hillis and Hardesty, and figured they could get someone like a Brandon Jackson on the FA market (and they did)?

    And comparing Heckert to most GMs over the same period, he’s doing fantastic. Look how many of his late picks are still in the league, and early picks are doing well for the most part. That’s drafting quality. It’s nice to get that lucky sleeper once a decade, but that’s not the job of a GM – it’s to draft quality players, period. He does that.

    Sad to look at the same chart for the Browns, btw.

  • Ezzie

    As for vs. the rush – it’s interesting, but if you look at the Browns’ D, it’s built much more as a pass defense, i.e. a play with the lead D. Assuming they’ll be addressing the CB2 and RDE positions this offseason, everyone they have is pretty much great against the pass, and if (and obviously this is the big if) they have a lead, they would seem to be impossible to score on while having a D-line that tees off on opposing QBs. It’s also interesting that the Browns are actually really solid in short-yardage situations. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how having a better RDE and CB2 impact the ability of Ward and even Usama Young/Adams from the FS position to support the run, as will the growth of Taylor and Sheard.

    And obviously most important will be seeing how having an offense that a) lets the D rest and b) can get them a lead will impact them.

  • jimkanicki

    thanks for the reply, ezz, and apologies in advance for so many posts on this thread.

    how is it a mistake?
    (imo) it’s a mistake because you made the deal to get lots of picks because you have lots of holes to plug. and then you turn around and give away one of the picks that wouldve plugged a hole. i’ll cop that the demarco murray example may be unfair because they prob werent looking RB high in the 3rd round. but the guy the chiefs took with the pick – justin houston – is exactly someone we could use — big, athletic, OLB. furthermore, if taylor was gone at #27, there were plenty of ‘hole pluggers’ still on the board. (i wouldve loved gabe carimi there.)

    late picks still in the league.
    enh. i just dont see difference makers below round 2, celek excepted. wouldnt be surprised to see him at the league average for this. but… if he’s so good with his late picks… why’d he give up to 5s for hardesty?

    rush D
    im sure having ward back will help and having gocong out at the start hurt. but taylor was specifically drafted as a run-stopper and you gotta admit he hasnt impacted the statistical performance year-to-year (and against a very soft non-division schedule).

    if shurmur had ever presided over a successful ball-control offense, i’d have more basis hope, but it is what it is, so i share your blind hope. it -does- look like seneca is running the offense better than colt, so there’s a glimmer. it’d sure be nice to come out of this with griffin (and then get his target kendall wright in the 2nd round). but unfortunately, several teams could use him and it shapes up as a bidding war to get him. giving up the 5th, 24th and (maybe) a pick next year to move three slots is .. hard to get my head around.

  • 5KMD

    So I don’t even see Cameron Hayward’s name on that list that Ezzie gave us. The steelers sure did reach on that first round pick. I bet Kevin Colbert’s on the hot seat now.

  • Tim

    The one thing the Browns really need is a playmaker in offense who can change outcomes of games. That’s Julio Jones and we passed on him. Phil Taylor is supposed to stuff the run. Anyone check out or run defense stats? They suck.

    Julio > Taylor + Little

    And what’s the point if we use a first round pick next year for a big time WR? We already would have had one with Jones.

  • HenryDawg

    Tim, depending on what we do with the extra pick this year or how the draft plays out, I would look at it more like this:

    Luck + Taylor + Little + Sheard > Julio


    Griffin III + K. Wright + Taylor + Little + Sheard > Julio

    These are just two possible scenarios. We could, like many are suggesting take Richardson with the 5th pick, in which case I will smash my own face in and no longer care.

  • Paulo


  • Foghorn Leghorn

    @JimKanicki – I dont think its very fair to pick out one or two guys in the 3rd round who were breakout rookies as evidence that Heckert is doing a sub-par job. Who knew DeMarco Murray would have a great rookie season? Did you? Cause I’d love to see if you drafted him for your fantasy team…

    The somewhat weak fantasy comparison aside, my point is that you have to look at the big picture and compare teams’ collective picks, not individual picks in individual rounds. In that regard, Heckert has a pretty good track record. He’s getting us starting players and I think he has made great improvements to the D in only 2 years. I am with you that we need to be critical, but I think that can be said about EVERY GM. With Heckert, my two biggest gripes would have to be the Hardesty pick and last years 4th round. Obviously they cant all be winners, but at least both of those werent colossal disasters.

  • jimkanicki

    thanks for asking foghorn.

    1. on taylor, i knew we had a lot of holes, knew the purpose of the deal was to plug as many as possible, and knew there is talent at the top of round 3. i felt the move was suspect at the time. as for demarco murray, i knew he was the starting oklahoma RB who ran 4.41 in the combine.
    2. his draft record IS average. ive linked to it. you tell me the homeruns he’s hit. you like that jeremy maclin pick? really? i see mccoy in the 2nd round. also see him giving 3 picks to draft a RB with two knee surgeries in college.
    2a. the only two positions that were NOT in need of upgrade coming out of last year were TE and FB. what does he do? drafts a TE who doesnt get off the bench and FB who wouldve been cut had he not been his draft pick. (and signs ‘blocking back’ at big numbers on top of that.)
    3. on other acquisitions, his big free agent signing is a RT who’s played 10? out of 32 games.
    4. on non moves, he didnt replace a starting LG and OLB who were injured in preseason and while having 30MM in cap space. turns out a 5th round rookie as starter wasnt excellent; turns out depth at OLB was an issue. he didnt go after benched alex smith last year, he didnt go after pissed off steve smith last year. pretty sure we needed QBs and WRs last year too.

    do i really have to go on?

    “you have to look at the big picture and compare teams’ collective picks, not individual picks in individual rounds.”
    i think you should apply this rule to your own critical analysis. if you think not signing a FA o-lineman and linebacker while drafting TE and FB fits in with the big picture needs of the team, then i guess you’re happy. when i look at the big picture and see his moves, i find them questionable.

  • Wheel

    Kanicki, that is dead on. For me, questioning Heckert is part of a larger forum on questioning Holmgrem. I was happy to be rid of Mangini, and drank the “in Holmgren we trust” kool aid. Three years into this thing, I think it’s now fair to question Holmgren’s decisions, in particular who he’s appointed to run the team. As Kanicki points out, Heckert’s moves (or lack of) are questionable. Holmgren’s hiring of Shurmur – well, nuff said. I’m not advocating blowing the whole thing up again. But on the heels of this very disappointing season, Holmgren and his gang are not inspiring confidence that makes me feel they are the ones to turn this around.

  • Tim

    Henry Dawg

    No, one of those pics is originally ours and has no relation to the trade. Only the late first rounder. And we wouldn’t need a WR if we already got one.

  • Henry Dawg


    I’m talking about the entire potential result of the trade in the first two rounds. But if you want to nitpick, are you just going to ignore the net of having Luck + Little (who probably has the same upside if not more than Julio) if things fall into place?

    Maybe you’re not seeing that the extra pick gives us more trade firepower to move up to Luck.

  • Craig

    A. Jeffrey + P. Taylor + G. Little + 2 4ths > Julio. Jeffrey could be Julio. Anyone know why Alshon fell down draft charts?

  • Young1_7

    How many draft pick do the browns have??