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 and quantity of the players it selected.
In that light, this week we’ll evaluate 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.
Previously: 2009, 2010
The picks (round/overall pick): DT Phil Taylor (1/21), LB Jabaal Sheard (2/37), WR Greg Little (2/59), TE Jordan Cameron (4/102), FB Owen Marecic (4/124), CB Buster Skrine (5/127), OG Jason Pinkston (5/150), S Eric Hagg (7/248).
Mel Kiper then: “You would think Cleveland trading down and piling up picks for this year and into the next two years would be good enough, but once the picks started, Browns fans should have been even more pleased.” ... “Phil Taylor may have been a bit of a reach, but he’s the best clogger in the draft and those guys aren’t easy to find.” ... “The Sheard pick made a lot of sense, and Little is a really good value as a potential big, down-the-field threat for Colt McCoy.” -- From Kiper’s evaluation immediately after the draft.
Starters remaining: Four -- Taylor, Sheard, Cameron and Skrine.
Others to note: Pinkston has started and is a capable guard. Little was released this offseason and is with the Raiders.
Evaluation: Even with Greg Little, this draft showed Heckert at his best. He took aggressive, physical, competitive guys, and could have three Pro Bowl players from the group before careers end. The one mistake was Little (#Blot), but even Kiper at the time thought Little would be a player. The lesson: Evaluations only reveal the physical side, not the entire picture. Heckert traded down and gave up Julio Jones to take Taylor, which can be used against him (in a court of law). Still, Taylor is a very strong presence on the Browns defense. He sometimes has stamina issues, but he also has plays when he completely dominates the interior of the line. He’s played well in the 3-4 and 4-3 and is hard to argue against. Sheard has grown each season, and if he keeps growing could become a Pro Bowl player this season; new coach Mike Pettine loves him. As tough as it is to see Little taken in the second round, it’s every bit as encouraging to see Cameron taken in the fourth. He is a standout. Skrine started last season and has to hold off the challenge of first-round pick Justin Gilbert; either way, Skrine will be on the field a lot, as the starter or as the nickel back. To call this draft anything but a success would be foolish. Though there are names like Marecic and Little on the list, it’s rare for a team hit on every single pick. The Browns got quality and quantity in this draft from Heckert.
Grade then: B-plus, per Kiper.
Grade now: B-plus. You go, Mel!