A Glass Case of Emotion

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Cleveland Browns headquarters training camp

As the selections ticked by on Day 1 of the NFL Draft, Browns fans were treated with the lowest of lows, but ultimately left with the highest of highs—and some uncertainty in between.

In the span of four hours, Ray Farmer and the Browns played with every single emotion a Cleveland fan could have, whether pro-Watkins, pro-Manziel, pro-Mack, or any other player. It all began when Jacksonville passed on Sammy Watkins, the wide receiver out of Clemson, only for the Browns to trade down, once again ridding themselves of a possibly elite wide receiver for future assets. Forgiveness quickly arrived once I saw the deal included Buffalo’s 2015 first-round pick. But, the subsequent trade up from nine to eight, in what most fans presumed was a move for quarterback Johnny Manziel, and the selection of Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was the knockout blow to my JFF-in-Cleveland dreams. Between picks nine and twenty-one, I slowly recovered and began talking myself back into Teddy Bridgewater, the most common quarterback linked to the Browns. And then it happened.

I could lie and write about how I am just as excited for Justin Gilbert to wear orange and brown as Johnny Manziel. But, that simply is not the case. A few weeks ago, I gave in to to the Johnny Football hype in a way I never remember doing before. Maybe I feel this way because I am in the 18-24 demographic that his personality meshes with best.  Or maybe I believe in Manziel because he is a fearless, competitive leader who blends his unique style with elite athleticism, arm strength, and a quick release. But then again, could one of the main reason why myself and so many other believe in Manziel be that he is a complete and total mystery? Mel Kiper Jr., draft analyst extraordinaire, in his final rankings of the top 300 players in the draft, said of Manziel, “This is the most difficult evaluation of a QB I’ve ever done.” The  fascination of how he his personality fits in the NFL and how his playing style translates to the pro game captivates not just myself, but America as a country. On the ESPN broadcast, Manziel was mentioned 113 times by name, more than the top five draft pick combined, according to Deadspin.

Whether you love Manziel or not, taking someone of with his lineage of success and talents with the twenty-second pick is both rare and exciting. In the past few years, the quarterback position became so highly valued that NFL teams reached for anyone with a pulse that could played the position in college, leading to the infamous Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder selections at eight, ten, and twelve, respectively, in the 2011 NFL Draft. The amazing thing is that teams knew everything about each player, none of the three living up to expectations in college. But, because they looked the part, ran pro offenses, and did not have big personality issues, the Titans, Jaguars, and Vikings handed their new first round quarterback their respective team’s future. In recent years, the Browns have selected similar “safe” quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn, Colt Mccoy, Charlie Frye, and more. The difference between Manziel and the failed quarterbacks of Cleveland’s past is easy to find: Competitiveness, unique style, leadership, mobility, flamboyant personality, and mystique. Many of these traits are why Browns fans so badly wanted Colt Mccoy to get another chance, regardless of his lack of success.

QUOTECall me crazy, but I truly believe that of any situation that Johnny Manziel could land in, Cleveland is far and away the best. In college, he always had a stalwart left tackle in Luke Joekel and Jake Matthews protecting his blind side. With his frail frame, if Manziel was drafted by another team, he could suffer from the lack of experience feeling pressure from behind which could lead to possible injuries. Also, the Browns have Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon as Pro Bowl receiving threats. The additions of Ben Tate as a rushing/receiving threat out of the backfield and Andrew Hawkins in the slot combined with  Greg Little’s corpse, whatever Dion Lewis and Nate Burleson can add, and any weapons Ray Farmer drafts on Days 2 and 3 give Manziel the firepower he desires. Even if he needs to sit a year to adjust to the pro style/speed, Brian Hoyer is a competent NFL quarterback and will be a worthy competitor to Manziel. At offensive coordinator, Kyle Shannahan has experience building an successful offense for a unique talent. In Washington, he created the system that Robert Griffin III ran his rookie year and they ended the season 10-6 with a playoff berth. If Manziel fails, it will not be because Cleveland is the place quarterbacks go to die, but because he simply does not have the talent to play in the NFL. And therefore, I feel extremely confident in gambling the twenty-second pick on a player with such upside.

Looking at the big picture, if I am even able even act rationally for just a moment and put down my JFF temporary tattoos, the moves the Browns made make complete sense in every way. With the fourth-overall pick, Cleveland passed on Sammy Watkins, but in the process, gained an extremely valuable future first-round pick to move down just five spots. The wide receiver draft class is extremely deep, and even though Watkins is a great talent, selecting someone at a position not nearly as deep, such as cornerback, was seen as a better value.

Unfortaunatly, the Browns had to trade up one spot, from nine to eight, to select cornerback Justin Gilbert. It may seem seems indefensible, but as I am not inside the war room, I do not have the intel Ray Farmer and Co. may have received. Possibly, another team (the Lions?) were trying to trade up to the eighth pick in order to jump the Browns and select Justin Gilbert, the sole player Cleveland targeted with their trade down in the first place. At the same time, looking at the move from the outside, sacrificing a mid-round pick to move up one spot and select a corner ahead of a team unlikely to one seems at the very least, questionable.

The selection of Justin Gilbert, although at the time giving possibly irrational Manziel-to-Cleveland fans heart attacks (yep, that was me), was a very solid selection. We all just watched Richard Sherman and the Seattle secondary completely dismantle the record-breaking Denver Broncos offense in the Super Bowl. Combining with Joe Haden, Gilbert has the physical tools and playmaking ability to play lock down coverage on the opposing number two receiver. This will allow the smaller in stature Buster Skrine play against slot receivers along with second year cornerback Leon Mcfadden. Not only is Gilbert a good player, but he is a great value. In the first round, nine defensive backs were selected, including five cornerbacks. But, on days two and three of the draft, talented cornerbacks will be extremely difficult to find. Unlike some positions such as running back or wide receiver, the cornerback class is very top-heavy, with the most talented defensive backs only available in the first round. Had the Browns decided to stay at 26 and select a cornerback, Bradley Roby would likely have been the top on the Browns’ draft boards, not a pick that would have inspired much confidence in Cleveland fans familiar with him at the Ohio State University. With Haden as a franchise player, Mike Pettine desired a physical, athletic cornerback to play opposite him to improve the increasingly prevalent pass-heavy offenses in the NFL.

Since I thoroughly covered my feelings on Manziel above, I’ll just skip over my commentary on him and quickly compliment the Browns on moving up to take him at twenty-two. If you truly believe that a quarterback could be a franchise quarterback, show some conviction and move up to take him. A third round pick to move up a few picks will be well worth the price if Manziel ever reaches his potential.

In all the pre-draft analysis, mock drafts, leaked info, no one could ever imagine that the Browns would leave the first day of the draft with their top-rated cornerback, top-rated quarterback, an extra 2015 first found pick, and seven more pick in the next two days. Heck, check out what I wrote about my dream scenario of Day 1:

A realistic dream scenario involves Ray Farmer calculatedly rolling the dice on Johnny Manziel at No. 4 and selecting a falling Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard at cornerback or Odell Beckham at wide receiver with the No. 26 pick. This scenario would allow my dreams of Johnny Manziel in orange and brown to be realized while still landing a stud cornerback or a bona fide number two receiver.

You can only imagine how happy I am about the first day. Not only was my dream scenario fullfiled, but the Browns even acquired a 2015 first round pick from the Bills. Had the Browns never had the opportunity to select Johnny Manziel, Ray Farmer may have never lived this draft down from some fans’ perspectives. But, he managed to give the people what they want, in Manziel, what the team needs, in Gilbert, and a future asset, the first round pick from Buffalo. All in all, the draft lived up to its hype and Ray Farmer and the Browns came out smelling roses.

How will they follow that up? After what happened in the first round, I would be a fool to even try and guess. But with Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine, Alex Schiener, and Jimmy Haslem at the helm, I feel supremely confident in the direction they are taking the Cleveland Browns.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’ve gotten numb to whoever is making the call not selecting the player or players I like so I wasn’t bitterly disappointed when I watched Sammy Watkins land in Buffalo. In fact I expected it. What I didn’t expect was Farmer in his first professional draft to be as active as he was even though he did have ten draft picks. It was a much needed change of pace. I’m hoping we see more today because we’re getting to the point where teams can really help themselves.

  • Toddyus

    Something to consider:
    Every asset Farmer had coming into the draft was bequeathed to him from the previous management team.

    If this draft were run by Banner and Lombardi, how do you think their first round would have compared to Farmer’s?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The previous regime under Tom Heckert left Banner and the invisible man in a pretty good position too. What did they do?

  • Toddyus

    I wasn’t a fan of Lombanner.

    However, just for fun, if I’m playing devil’s advocate, I’d say they wisely avoided reaching for a QB in a weak QB draft, leveraged two lower round picks into two of this year’s higher round picks, and jettisoned a busted RB for a king’s ransom.

    I’d also say they followed a reasonable balance between best guy available and need when they picked Mingo, even if his first year performance didn’t live up to that billing.

  • mgbode

    I agree with what you said. The counterpoint argument to it is that not one of their drafted players was a starter last year or demonstrated that they are a definitive starter moving forward.

  • mgbode

    I agree with what you said. The counterpoint argument to it is that none of their drafted players were starters nor demonstrated that they will be definitive starters moving forward (and we even made a pick this year – Gilbert – that pretty much ensures one of their picks – McFadden – will not be a starter).

  • Toddyus

    All true, but we can’t say that definitively about this year’s draftees (so far) either.

    Bear in mind, I love the guts we saw last night and sincerely doubt we would have seen the same from the previous regime.

    I’m not in any way defending or advocating for them, I just thought it would be an interesting question to ponder.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Josh Gordon faces season long suspension – uh oh!

  • vespo09

    Just saw a report that Gordon failed a drug test and is facing a year suspension. This happened over the winter. If it’s true, I don’t understand why we didn’t take Watkins.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    All the positivity and all the second guessing about passing on Watkins may start soon after ESPN reported that Josh Gordon may be facing a year long suspension after another failed drug test. Please let ESPN be wrong!

  • mgbode

    if true, then I want Jordan Matthews. clean-cut guy and let’s not take chances on the history of Marquise Lee.

  • mgbode

    getting #9 + 1st in ’15 is still a good deal. better not pass on a WR at 35 though.

  • http://www.centsports.com/?opcode=487541 c3j1v62

    Why can’t we have nice things. Gordon…

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Makes sense will be interesting to see what they do now. According to Mortenson the front office knew about Gordon two weeks ago. The coaching staff did not until 90 minutes ago when ESPN reported it. If this is true this would seem to be a problem too.

    So much for all those good feelings.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I suppose you just know RGB will be reminding us about Sammy.

  • RGB
  • RGB
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I got three words for ya: Lets go Patriots!

  • AScoutingLife

    Consider this: in last years draft Banner and Lombardi did not select a single player good enough to start. Not one, on a team with multiple holes to fill. While they may have left us stocked with draft picks the evidence shows that those two preening jackasses would have squandered every one of them through their inability to judge talent.

  • Toddyus

    I agree.

  • thorsmjollnir

    Probably because the combination of Gilbert and whoever we get next year with Buffalo’s first pick and fourth pick will be a better value than Watkins.

  • Pat Leonard

    I will admit, I have loved Farmer’s picks so far, but it’s a little disconcerting to see how easily he blew through his extra picks this year. He won’t always have 10 picks to use at his discretion, and in this draft it certainly felt like some of these move up scenarios were probably unnecessary. I am of course jaded because in my mind I would have loved Justin Gilbert or Kyle Fuller equally, so no need to blow a pick to move up.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    ill bet the bottom three of farmer’s draft — kirksey desir west — triple the snap counts of the bottom four of banners — mcfadden (247) slaughter (0) bryant (187) gilkey (97).

    remember, banner managed to fill zero holes in last years draft and plugged zero holes. farmer has two probable starters, possibly three, as well as a top (most think the top) qb as well as an addition early first in 2015.

    sorry pat, it’s not you. but it blows my mind that this draft is receiving more criticism than banner’s did last year.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    no they reached for a non need edge rusher and passed on gained an extra second round pick (kiko alonzo).

    that’s not reasonable balance. that’s painful imbecility.

  • Pat Leonard

    I feel you mayor. As I said, I do really like the picks. As long as the QB position solidifies, I’m not too worried about receiver. I think Kirksey is going to surprise and fill in perfectly for that other ILB spot. The thought of turning into a run-heavy and defense-heavy team isn’t too exciting, but a team like tha tjust won the Superbowl so…

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    just finishing reading a great post on kirksey from sbnation’s hawkeyes site and i’m now on all on kirksey.

  • Pat Leonard

    I like Christian Kirksey’s activity… seems like a high motor guy with good positional awareness who loves to hit people. I think the Browns have solved their hole at ILB.

  • Jared Kalinowski