- Pat McManamon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NFL folks are wont to say that drafts can't be judged the night of the draft, but instead three or four years down the line. At that point a team should have an idea of the quality of the players it selected.
In that light, this week we're evaluating the Cleveland Browns drafts of five, four and three years ago. The 2009 draft was run by Eric Mangini, and '10 and '11 by Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren. In 2010, Heckert was working with Mangini as the coach, in 2011 with Pat Shurmur.
The picks (round/overall pick): CB Joe Haden (1/7), S T.J. Ward (2/38), RB Montario Hardesty (2/59), QB Colt McCoy (3/85), OL Shawn Lauvao (3/92), DB Larry Asante (5/160), WR Carlton Mitchell (6/177), DE Clifton Geathers (6/186).
Mel Kiper then: “Haden is a fluid, physical cover corner who should start immediately who addresses a weakness.” ... “Cleveland clearly liked T.J. Ward, but could have gotten him later than No. 37.” ... Montario Hardesty could be a really good back, but he's also been hurt and again, it didn't seem necessary to trade up for him.” ... Colt McCoy was “a great value pick ... whom I thought they could have grabbed at No. 38.” “Carlton Mitchell ... could be a late sleeper.” --- From Kiper's ESPN Insider evaluation the night of the draft.
Starters remaining: One, Haden.
Others to note: Ward will start in Denver, Lauvao is penciled in as a starter in Washington; both left Cleveland via free agency this offseason.
Evaluation: One starter from eight picks is not optimal. At all. The case could be made that had the Browns retained Ward and Lauvao, they'd have three starters, but the case could also be made that elephants can fly. The present Browns regime did not believe in the two players enough to try to keep them. This reality in part illustrates the problems the Browns have had in trying to build a winning team: Coaching and front office changes lead to new personnel evaluations which lead to jettisoning high picks from the previous regimes. The one remaining player on the roster from the '10 draft is Haden, who is everything a seventh overall pick should be. He's learned from mistakes, and grown up in front of Cleveland's eyes. He now is a leader who happened to make the Forbes list of the top 100 paid athletes thanks to his new contract extension. But after Haden, there are busts galore. I consider late-round picks bonuses, but the Browns got nothing from the three guys taken in Rounds 5-6. In Rounds 2-3, Hardesty and McCoy were busts; Hardesty could never stay healthy (a problem he had in college) and McCoy is now slated to be a career backup after going 6-15 as a starter in Cleveland. Ward played well for the Browns, and seemed to be growing every season. But the team essentially let him go in favor of Donte Whitner. Lauvao could turn out to be a strong player in the long run; he signed with Washington after many in Cleveland could not wait for him to go. For the Browns, Haden is the only morsel left from this class, and though he's a very good player who could be on the verge of being great, that's not nearly enough from a draft class.
Grade then: C, per Kiper.
Grade now: D+. It would be lower if Haden were not so good.